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If you told me three months ago that ministry would be completely different no public gatherings, no home groups, no board meetings together in the upper room at the church, no worship rehearsals and so on and so on; that everything would be shut down and yet I would be busier and working harder than ever – I would have laughed and said, “ha... that will never happen!” And yet, here we are: in the midst of a world-wide shut down with my time, my schedule, and my life filled to capacity.

I think there are a lot of pastors who would echo these sentiments. Just because you are not in the office (as much) or with people (in person) you are still pouring out, ministering at a high pace, loving, caring, and leading. The problem is, it’s different; so different, that the very subtle yet very real danger of burnout and stress can sneak up and attack, and you may not even know it.

All of us need to be aware of the potential burnout that lurks just around the corner, especially when things are not “normal” and your focus is on a new way of dealing with ministry, a different way than you have ever done it before. Here are four warning signs that you may be on the path to burnout or collapse in this “new time” of ministry.

  1. You’re becoming cynical.
    The passion and excitement of a new challenge is no longer there. Instead, it’s replaced with a crusty outlook filled with complaints and anger-fueled emotions. “Why does this have to happen?” “When will this be over?” “There’s no way we can keep this up!”
    Remember, challenges and obstacles have always been part of braving a new path. Every great explorer first had to struggle with an undefined and treacherous path before they reached their new destination. Doing ministry in this COVID-19 era is different, but it’s still ministry. It looks and feels different but it’s still bringing light to dark times and dark places.
    If your cynicism is overwhelming your drive to reach people, you may be burning out.

  2. People drain you of energy and emotion.
    I know, this can happen to anyone in ministry at any time, but the truth is that if it’s happening all the time, it’s a problem. Sometimes people can charge you up, get you excited, or stir up a passion; but when you find that no one – absolutely no one – gets you energized and the mere thought of dealing with people has you feeling angry, frustrated, indifferent, or maybe even resentful, then there is a problem. And if the mere thought of seeing the people who regularly challenge and inspire you (your friends and family) has you slumped over in a dark corner hiding, then the problem could be bigger than you realize.

  3. Your passion for everything is gone.
    All of us will have times where we are unmotivated, but burnout can steer you towards a loss of passion for everything. You were once passionate about your relationship with Jesus, your family, the people you minister to, and those around you who are hurting and lost. But now there is a lackadaisical indifference towards everyone and everything.

    It’s hard to get off the couch to connect with people. It’s hard to dream, create, and be inspired to do the things you’re gifted at. Why? Because things aren’t the same. Why put the effort into it? This could be your reason or excuse but remember: a passionless person is incapable of leading well.

  4. Nothing makes you happy.
    My wife has always known that when I’ve had a difficult week or when my mind is filled with everything but happy thoughts, the thing that always puts a smile on my face is chocolate cake. Yes, I know, it can have drastic results on my health, but it makes me happy! My kids even make fun of me for it. “Uh oh, dad’s stressed, better make some chocolate cake!” For all of us there are things that put a smile on our face and make us chuckle – games night, a bike ride or hike, playing with the kids, seeing an old friend – if you’re not smiling, if nothing is making you laugh, or if you can’t seem to find anything that brightens your mood, then trouble is on the horizon.

Taking care of YOU is essential if you’re going to take care of the people around you: your family, your friends, and your church. They need you to be the best leader you can be, especially in these confusing and different times. Everyone is looking for their leader to guide them, to care for them and to assure them that God is still with us.

You can’t do that well if you’re not well.

I would encourage you to seek out help from a skilled counsellor a trusted colleague if these types of symptoms are becoming a regular part of your routine. Then, make sure you honestly talk with someone who cares about you and your wellbeing.

Here, at your BCYD Network, we have resources available just for times like this, just for you; professional counsellors and coaches who want to see you be at your best, leading with the exceptional skills and giftings that God has given you.

Please call or email any of our district team to find out more about these available resources. As is said so often by our Superintendent, “we are better together.” And “better” means healthy, happy, passionate and excited.