Monday, July 23, 2012

An Early Warning System for Burn Out

"Mam-Maw's up!" my hubby teased when I stumbled into the kitchen this morning. Lately I've been falling asleep before the sun relinquishes rights to the day. Any chance I'm bordering on burn out?

Burn out sneaks into your heart and home as stealthily as a shadow. It moves the front of your emotions and spirit an inch at a time. So sloth-like is its attack, you find yourself surrounded by darkness before you register the first symptom. Like a coastal town, we need an early warning system.


Early in my day I tend the fields of my own heart. I spend time talking to God. I explore His Word and allow Him to talk to me. I walk or run to prepare my body for the day's battle. I fuel my body with the most nutritious food our budget allows. I stimulate my mind with reading other sources as well.

This isn't selfish - it's making the best use of God's day. I can't give out what I don't have and I have to make the choice to possess God's best as early in my day as possible. I can't reach the finish line of my day without properly preparing for the starting line.


We each have a "tell" to indicate impending burnout. Mine is when opportunity becomes irritation. When I have so little margin I no longer want God to interrupt my day. 

On Tuesdays at Jesus & My Orange Juice, we've been learning about the 8 life transforming one-sentence prayers that have changed my life. One of those I learned to pray over my home and schedule - Lord, direct me. When I see my tell, I return to that place of prayer, surrender my day to Him and ask for His direction.


Through prayer and with the guidance of my husband's wisdom, I make choices. I make these decisions long before they're needed. They are my ultimate protection against burnout.

My children only enroll in a limited number of activities.

I only speak a certain number of times per month.

My children have friends to play a determined amount of times.

I say yes to an exclusive number of ministry opportunities.

This system of careful choices prevents burnout before it can begin.

I once heard a pastor's wife quip, "To be successful in ministry, you have to fly under the radar and above the fray." There is real wisdom in this but the best place to fly is in the shadow of His wing. With His radar and utilizing this Early Warning System, we'll be in the ministry sweet spot - far from burnout.

Shannon is a morning runner, an afternoon carpooler and all-day lover of Jesus.

She is the author of Jesus & My Orange Juice, a fresh-squeezed oasis for ordinary living. Shannon finds joy among piles of laundry and miles of carpools and delights in leading others to this place of contentment in life. She presents the gift of prayer in her free 30 day prayer guide PrePrayed: Preparing for Life’s Events. She is a frequently published author. Most recently, she was a contributing author to Always There: Reflections for Mom’s on God’s Presence.

As a speaker, Shannon is straight forward about her own struggles. She is a compassionate advocate fighting for victory in the life of her audience with a message of hope and encouragement.

When not writing or speaking, she enjoys her favorite job of wife to Scott and mom to four daughters from kindergarten to high school.

Connect with her online at or on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.


  1. A pastor spoke at a conference I attended. He shared all he had done for the church and para-church organizations, how he was viewed as a success and how people's lives were being changed. Then he told the truth -- had he kept it straight with God, he could have done more. Instead, he relied on his own strength -- preaching the word without letting it penetrate his heart. He burned out. He needed some significant time off to right things with God, spending time first with Him and then on work. His message seeped into my heart. If a pastor (or pastor's wife) can fall, we all can fall. There's no special status to be close to God. It's a relationship that's built on time and commitment. Beautiful post for everyone in ministry!

    1. Thank you, Karen, and I definitely count you among those in ministry!

  2. What a wonderful way to start your day and live your life. You are an inspiration in so many ways--encouraging others to seek God's comfort and love.

  3. I love what you say about "careful choices". It took me a lot of years to learn how much I could do with joy and excellence. This was a really good word -thanks for the encouragement!

    1. love this "what I could do with joy and excellence" - what a fantastic criteria!

  4. "The best place to fly is in the shadow of His wings..." Beautiful words Shannon. Powerful advice. I'll be using it. Thank you.

    1. Always a privilege to be here and serve those who serve so many others!

  5. I love that under the radar and above the fray, but you are right about the shadow of the wing...better place;)

  6. Great wisdom here! I love the practical advice to make choices in advance, and to make time for moments with God each day. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Oh how I feel your heart in this, Shannon. It's just beautiful and perfect (as always) for what I needed to read today. I have a bad habit of saying yes too often and finding myself completely overwhelmed with burnout. I have a decision to make about an opportunity that would really grow me in a more face to face style of ministry. I feel very unequipped for it, but know God will do His thing to prepare me. Most concerning to me though, is whether or not I can realistically fit it into my schedule. How do you know what ministry opportunities to go after and which ones to gracefully walk away from?

    1. Rosann, that is such a great question. Of course there's no cut and dry answer but the first thing I ask myself is whether the opportunity is in my area of primary gifting. I can do many things (such as work in VBS, volunteer in Youth, etc.) but these are not my primary giftings or callings. I choose to say no to those in order to have margin to say to speaking and writing.

      But even among speaking and writing assignments I must be discerning and ask myself which has the most potential for maximum impact. I recently walked away from a huge opportunity as a writer because the assignments were all "secular" in nature. I had to choose my message over reach. This requires discernment, wisdom and lots of prayer.

  8. This message is just great, Shannon, and hits home for me! We're in the middle of a move, and I'm getting too close to the place where time with God is becoming an irritation instead of the source of renewal that He is! Thanks for helping to reel me back in, back to the foot of the cross, which is life.

    1. Oh what a sweet tug on your heart as He gently nudged you closer to His. :)

  9. Thanks for speaking to me today, Shannon. Yes, I have to do an emotional detox. I want to start simplifying my life, so I won't get too stressed out over the little things.

    Sans the guidance of a husband's wisdom, I will have to rely solely on prayer to help me get through each day. When I feel I'm about to snap, I will do as you do, and say, "Lord, direct me."

  10. Love this Shannon! So important for all us women! May God continue to guide our steps and may we become prone to listen for His glory daily! Blessings out to you, Amy :)


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