"It's almost over." That's what we tell ourselves as we near the end of the year and sigh with relief that we've just about made it. And you have, Congratulations!
But how do you feel about the fact that in about a month, it all starts over again?
For some that is exciting and encouraging; you already know what you'll do to make the new year better than before. For others, you're just hoping for enough energy to survive the season.
So you're either organizing your preaching agenda and pasting power verses to your social media, or you're muttering the mantra "he who endures til the end..." and pretending everything is okay.
If you find yourself to be the latter, then burnout might already be creeping in on you. Whether you see/feel/believe it or not, the byproduct of that burnout is showing up in your ministry.
Here are some signs:
You risk less.
As a leader you know the importance of seizing the day. It's the opportunities we take in faith that make or break God growing us and our influence.
Remember the bold faith it took to share a word with someone when you weren't totally sure of their situation?
Ever have a season that the giving to your community increased while church finances decreased?
How about a time you put your image on the line to indulge something outrageous in the Sunday service?
There is something powerful about God inspired risk. It isn't risk for risk's sake, it is risk for God's sake; risk enough so that there is room for him to show up and supply the awe factor that only he can. When we are tired, we play it safe. We simplify everything. We shoot down ideas that seem far stretched or demand too much from us and our leaders. We even project our lacking enthusiasm on others who may have just what the church needs to reconnect with the creator again.
Ask yourself (and your leaders) when was the last time we took a risk?
Risk a new person on the team.
Risk a new approach to Sunday services.
Risk a relationship or project with the other churches in town (especially other denominations!)
Always consider risking time, money, and people- whatever you must, to rediscover the reward of leading with great faith.
Unchurched people like risk takers; It's us churchy folks who get nervous. But there is a long history of risk-taking leaders in the bible who had reward. Some experienced the reward immediately and others long after they were gone. The opportunity of a lifetime can only be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity, so don't wait too long to risk what the Spirit may be brewing inside of you.
You grab for more.
Not only do we risk less (potentially short selling what God might want to do) but burnout causes us to grab for more. More ideas that worked for someone else, more money from other people, more projects to "fix" the problems. If you've found yourself feeling desperate for help and desperate for more ideas, then you might be in trouble. The more desperate we get, the more dependent we become on the latest and greatest ideas to get us through.
It's hard for people to jump on board with leaders who jump at any and every opportunity.
It blurs the vision of what to say "yes" to and when to say "no" and that makes everyone exhausted.
If you find yourself surveying anyone and everyone in the crowd, you may want to reconsider and take more time with your leadership team and in prayer. If folks on the leadership team don't seem encouraged or inspired to do the things you are throwing at them, then it's likely a sign that they're not on board. Collective prayer and planning will help build energy and clarify any conflicts along the way. Less is more.
You blame others.
Perhaps the most damaging byproduct of our burnout is that we turn to everything and everyone else to defend why things aren't going the way we'd hoped. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard pastors claim that they can't get their congregations to do anything, and it naturally reaches a peak just before the pastor calls it quits and moves on. All their exhaustion and frustration spills over into their ability to motivate others- and when it is lacking, it quickly turns to a tone that "they" are lacking.
What's worse is when we feel the need to defend every bad decision made, as if we can really control people. No matter how well you communicate the vision, how cautiously you select the leaders, and how consistently you follow up, something WILL go wrong. Someone will misrepresent you and the church. Someone will act in a "less than Christian" kind of way. Someone will do things differently than you would've done them. All that is to be expected, so if you find yourself in defense mode more often than not, then yep, burnout may have the best of you.
You know who's fault it is that the financial giving is down? Everyone.
Why isn't the church growing? Because everyone isn't doing their part.
How come your preaching isn't on point? Because everyone has a different need and style preference.
Everyone is to blame because it takes everyone to come together as the body of Christ in perfect obedience to Him to get it right, 100% of the time. But since everyone is human, our only options left to blame are God or nobody.
I'd encourage you to err on the side of blaming nobody, and to come to grips with human limitations.
This is not to be void of responsibility, but it will alleviate you from the need to subconsciously, subliminally, or even intentionally tear down your teams with statements like:
"I'm not sure why they did that. We talked about this..."
"If I had known I never would have..."
"They aren't quite at the level I thought they were..."
Your ministry will be better served if you evaluate the systems for recruitment, training, and retaining leaders for the long haul rather than chalk it up to people who have problems. Not to mention, you'll keep your credibility and guard your love for people if you can keep yourself from putting them down.
You've worked too hard, too long, to build a God-given dream to destroy it now. Guard your heart, risk more, grab less, and avoid the blame game at all costs. I think you'll find it will bear fruit in your own soul.