This year we have had quite a discussion among staff and some pastors surroundin...
One of the questions I have been asking participants in our pastor learning communities is, “What can you do personally this summer to be ready for the fall?” I ask this question because on the one hand, I pray that in the fall will begin to settle into the new normal. On the other hand, many are coming out of this long season with much less energy and excitement for ministry than we had prior to the pandemic. I believe that summer vacation will be important for all of us. However, vacation alone isn’t going to rejuvenate us for ministry.
Many have participated in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality groups that we have offered and found them very helpful. Some have also brought EHS into their congregations, which is exciting! If you have not participated in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality yet, I would encourage you to look into reading the book and doing the workbook on your own or with a group this summer as a way to replenish.
Another book I would commend to you is The Burnout Fix by Jacinta Jimenez. This book does a great job of helping to unpack the definition of burnout. Jimenez says that yes, exhaustion contributes to burnout, but true burnout also includes increased cynicism and decreased efficacy.
Increased cynicism is a cycle where we wonder if what we do is really making a difference. We unintentionally look for evidence to prove we aren’t making a difference, which of course then leads to greater cynicism. I think cynicism is natural in this season of COVID. I hear more and more pastors share about how COVID has revealed the lack of discipleship among members of their congregations. This discouraging news naturally makes us question if what we are doing has or is really making a difference. Add onto decreased discipleship some of the gloom and doom projections that are made about the future of Christianity and it is natural to become cynical.
Decreased efficacy also has a couple of specific facets. First, it simply takes longer to do some of the things we normally do. For example, it takes longer to prepare messages, write meeting agendas or organize training materials. Second, our creativity bandwidth is lower, so we don’t engage in creative ministry endeavors with the same level of engagement that we used to.
The good news is that there is a burnout fix! Though not written from a Christian perspective, one can certainly extrapolate Christian principles or modify some of the activities mentioned in the book to be explicitly Christian. The book is written to both help those who are in a season of burnout to come out of it, as well as to help people establish rhythms to prevent burnout.
I have a few hopes in sharing these insights about burnout with you today. First, I want us to be aware of our potential burnout. Burnout is certainly on the rise in our culture, so it is helpful if we can have a pulse on our own burnout potential. Second, I don’t want us to stigmatize burnout and thus make us think we have to hide ways in which we are experiencing burnout. Part of the reason I also wanted to share this in a newsletter for a wider audience than just pastors is that lay leaders – all of us – need to be aware of burnout in our lives. It especially also helps us to notice potential burnout in pastors and staff of our churches. Third, I want to encourage us to get the help we need when we need it. Perhaps it is utilizing the resources mentioned above or being vulnerable with leaders in your church or trusted friends in your covenant group. It could be seeking some level of outside professional help and support as well.
What do you need to do this summer to prepare for the fall? The question applies to everyone, not just pastors! If we can intentionally use this summer to get the true replenishment and rejuvenation that we desperately need, we will be in a place to have a healthy ministry in the fall and going forward. God has amazing things planned for you! We in ECO are so grateful for your perseverance and pray for your summer – that it is rejuvenating and encouraging for you, your family, and your congregation.