Burnout Buffer

If you’re reading this blog post the day it comes out, and your Christmas tree is already up in your living room, I want you to know that you are/live with an insane person. It’s way too early! But in the same breath, thank goodness we’re knocking on the door of the Christmas season, because this fall has been exhausting!

If your world is anything like mine, it hasn’t just been the onslaught of ministry that’s burned your wick down to nothing. Sure, it’s camps and events and sports games and volunteer issues. But there’s also been family stuff. Medical issues. Damaged relationships. Disappointments.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just been me.

At this point in the fall season, I think it’s common for some of us to begin feeling a little burnt out in ministry. The initiatives we launched haven’t gone according to plan. The Wednesday night numbers have dwindled because sports. Our senior pastors have added a few more tasks to the ever present “other duties as assigned” bullet point on our job descriptions.

At this point in the fall season, you might be starting to feel:

Overworked.

Underpaid.

Off balance.

I’m hopeful that, for you and for me, looking at this season of ministry and life through the lens of the gospel will act as a buffer to burnout.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes a small section for the ministry workers, and what he writes gives us some insight into how his view of the gospel affects his approach to ministry.

14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. 15 Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.      1 Corinthians 9:14-15 NLT

Paul was every bit as much of a career ministry worker as any of us are or could hope to be. And if someone were to use metrics and goals to measure the success of Paul’s ministry, nobody in the history of the Church has deserved a pay raise like he did. But, ultimately, Paul’s focus on preaching and sharing and shepherding people through the gospel wasn’t about the paycheck.

16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!            1 Corinthians 9:16 NLT

“How terrible for me if I didn’t” is a pretty passionate way to approach ministry, isn’t it? It’s rooted in Paul’s view of the gospel. The Good News and the God the Good News connects us to is too good for Paul not to give his life to it—paycheck or not! And so because Paul has such a high view of the gospel, he’s able to keep going in situations where some of the church workers of his day (and ours) bump up against burnout.

Listen, rest matters. Fair compensation is important. This gospel lens isn’t meant to be used as a manipulation tool to keep ministry workers in chains. That’s not the point. The point is that sometimes you and I can get so caught up in the X’s and O’s of ministry and family life that we forget why we’re in this in the first place!

 How terrible for us if we didn’t invest in the next generation! How terrible for us if we didn’t create resources for the ONE parent that actually reads emails! How terrible for us if we didn’t sleep in farty bunkbeds at camp! How terrible for us if we didn’t preach the Good News!

So, yes, you probably deserve a break. You probably deserve more pay. You probably deserve a win. Paul did too, maybe more so than any of us could fathom. But this gospel we’re experiencing and passing on to others? It’s just too good! It’s the match, the fuel, and the fire. So if you want to prevent burnout, don’t let your reliance on the gospel burn out.

And I guess sing a Christmas carol or two, if you must. But I still say it’s way too early!

Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at mike@gshades.org
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