4 Ways to Reduce Ministry Burn Out and Have a Balanced Life

Have you struggled through a hard week?

Does it seem like sometimes ministry snowballs into sacrificing family time, sleepless nights, and a need to be attached to your phone and computer and never have time to unwind?

A difficult or busy week, is sometimes really just a busy week but too often a busy week becomes a busy month, a busy season, and then the new year comes and you look back on the year and think.., “I’m glad that year is over”. Thinking next year won’t be so crazy…

I’ve been there, to be honest, I was there at the start of this year… 2016 was difficult we had many changes and struggles within Axiom. We were still in the first year of Axiom Lincoln, which comes with all sorts of stress and unknowns. We also moved Axiom Oroville to a new location, which came with a lot of criticism and skeptics, plus we’re experts in running youth centers, not in building code and construction!

There were many times this year that turning my brain off at night to try to fall asleep felt next to impossible.

There were times that eating a real meal felt like a luxury.

There were times that my husband would be talking to me and I was mentally still at work.

Have you been there? I’m sure you have.

As people who care for people professionally, we sometimes lose track of caring for ourselves.

When things get busy… our needs and self-care get put on the back burner. Taking time for you becomes an afterthought.

Until one day you find yourself discouraged, unmotivated, and out of love for the ministry you were once so passionate about… life feels gray, we just go through the motions letting days pass and pretending to be excited about the next event, camp, outreach event or all church bbq…

This is not the life Jesus wanted for you.

When He gave you a calling into ministry it wasn’t also a death sentence to your own joy and mental health. If anything, being in ministry should be life giving not life draining…

Burnout is something people don’t talk about until it is too late. But burn out happens every day.

Burnout is building in you and in me.

Every time we miss our kids game.

Skip date night with our spouse.

Get blindsided at the grocery store.

Have our phones out during our time with loved ones, because so and so is having a hard time and may need you…

Every time we drop whatever we were doing to meet the needs of other people.

Did you know you can fight back?

 They didn’t teach you that at seminary or college right.. your boss isn’t giving you skills on self-care, it’s not the highlight of Catalyst or other trainings and conferences…

 And of course, all the other people you know in ministry are amped up and at 110% percent all the time, sure they’ll say they’re busy or tired or stressed but they’re still “awesome!”

You already know, but I’ll tell you again… briefly

Jesus took time for self-care…

God took a whole day for self-care…

There’s some controversy surrounding the Sabbath… So we won’t go there.

But we will say God loves you, not for your work, not for what your ministry is doing to advance His kingdom, he just loves you. He wants to spend time with you not just you spending time in prayer and studying. Yes, do those things but also rest in Him.

Take time each day to rest in Him.  Let go of your responsibilities, hand them to Him and rest.

People of the Second Chance and Mike Foster describe self-care through the image of a canteen.

When you get stuck in a desert you want a full canteen right?!  You don’t want to show up in a desert with an empty canteen.

But what do you need to fill your canteen? You need multiple layers of self-care.


Self-care doesn’t just happen with your once a year family vacation. It doesn’t happen because you got a good night sleep that one-time last night.

Self-care becomes effective when it is frequent. This means daily, weekly, quarterly and annually.

Daily something easy, quick, cheap. Grabbing your favorite coffee, taking a walk, working out, sitting in your back yard.

 Weekly a little longer and substantial. Enjoying a movie, going on a date night, spending time with friends.

Quarterly a bigger deal, a day trip, a full weekend away from your responsibilities, getting unplugged.

Annually a week away, a family vacation, a staycation, something that does a lot to reduce your stress, connects you to your loved ones, to God, to the beauty and awe of the world.

You may have read those things and rolled your eyes.

But truly when you are refreshed, when you’ve have a full canteen from doing daily and weekly self-care you will experience a difference in your ability to handle the everyday stresses.

Your life will come back to color, your relationships will be healthy again, your ministry will thrive, your relationship with God will be vibrant. You’ll be fighting burn out.

You will be better able to handle the chaos ahead, to take on the stressful event or project, to attend camps and enjoy it. And you will do it all with more joy while also being more efficient, studies even prove it!

Yes, there will be times that you miss self-care, but because you’ve filled your canteen you’ll still be safe in the dessert.

Take some time today to outline what you need for your daily, weekly, quarterly and annual self-care.

Practice self-care for a month, we promise you will be happy you did it.

Having work-life boundaries isn’t out the window just because you’re in ministry. Saying no to something doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your job or that you don’t care about your students or ministry.

Say yes to your relationships, say yes to your natural design of needing rest, say yes to reconnecting to others and to God.  God doesn’t want you to be “busy” “stressed” “tired’ He wants you to be fully alive, energized and encouraged.

In the weekly reports, Axiom managers do there’s a series of questions at the end that asks about their self-care. I challenge you do consider the same questions…

On a scale of 1-10 (10 being amazing), how well did you practice daily self-care this week?

On a scale of 1-10, how well did you practice weekly self-care this week?

 Then lastly is there anything you need to do to take better care of yourself or your relationships?

Now do something to raise those numbers, cut yourself a break, you, your family, the people in your ministry will all experience benefit from it.

I also encourage you to have accountability in this area. Rachel and Carlos at each Axiom site have accountability in each week through their reports, and I bring it up if it’s low. Likewise, they each can tell when I’m skipping my self-care. My husband Justin checks in regularly and calls a time out when things get too busy and self-care gets lost.

Last week both took a Tuesday morning off, we had breakfast together and drove around Oroville to look at the high lake and river levels. You know what… we both got everything at work still done, the Axiom didn’t crumble, Justin didn’t miss something huge at work. Later that day the spillway at Oroville Dam broke but I’m 99% sure that wasn’t my fault! But we were both better able to deal with the coming stress of the week, including having to evacuate… Because we called a time out, we checked in with our bodies and realized we need to slow down for a moment, we need self-care. 

 

Call a time out today. The world and its problems will probably still be there tomorrow, and tomorrow you’ll be better able to tackle them.

Resources:

This is the second time we’re recommending this…

Rescue Lab, People of the Second Chance & Mike Foster. They do an amazing job focusing on self-care and helped me put some meat on my previous value on self-care! This training is amazing, we’ve sent both Axiom managers to Rescue Lab and we all have nothing but positive things to say about it. If you can’t swing going to Rescue Lab try their online course.