Monday, July 30, 2012

Burnout: Digging Deeper

by Levitica "Lee" Watts

On any given day, a person in ministry can face a myriad of overwhelming issues -- from the basic needs and issues in your household, family, work, finances to issues of the church, ministry growth and the spiritual issues that your members may be facing. We tend to take it all on. 

If we are not careful, the dangerous result is burnout, which can be detrimental. Without addressing the issue, it can lead to an unhealthy spiritual life. Couples can begin ministering out of frustration and anger. Hurtful words come easily, annoyed looks are common, peace vanishes and all types of sin can impede a ministry and marriage.

There is wonderful advice on practical ways to avoid or manage burnout: creating boundaries, establishing quiet time, managing your calendar effectively, honoring the Sabbath. All these bits of wisdom are valuable and should definitely be taken seriously and incorporated into our lives. 

However, there are often deeper issues that lead to continuous burnout in the life of ministry.  Burnout should force us to look deeper and ask ourselves hard questions: Is my need to perform stronger than my desire to obey? Do I fear disapproval from others? Am I staying busy to avoid another problem in my life?

Below are three ways to help dig deeper to the root of some of the burnout we may experience in ministry:

Know Your Audience: As a writer, speaker and marketing professional, knowing the audience is always the first rule of thumb. We encourage others to know who you are writing to, the type of audience that will hear your speech, or if selling services or a product, know what makes the buyer tick. It is also imperative in the life of ministry. Who is our audience? Without a doubt, it should be the one and only - Jesus Christ our Savior. However, busyness and pride makes us forget. We get distracted and look at the active family in our church, the deacons or the women's ministry as those that we need to please and respond to immediately. 

I love the way the Message Bible interprets Paul’s last words to the Thessalonians: “We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.” (2 Thess 4:1) He is the one to please, dear sisters. When we are reminded that our main goal is to please our Faithful Father, it releases us from seeking the approval of others, giving self-serving opinions and allowing people's demands to rule us, which often leads to burnout.  

Stay in Your Lane: My friend and I use this phrase with each other often. It is our way of reminding each other that we are venturing into territory where we are not called. Often burnout creeps into our lives because we are operating in an area that God has never called us to operate. My husband's gift is teaching. He is not a particularly good "preacher" in the traditional sense, but teaching is definitely his gift. When he finally accepted his calling and gift and stopped trying to deliver the message the way he thought others wanted and how many of the preachers in his circle delivered it, a big weight was released from him. Know your gift and your calling and just stay in your lane. Know what God, your Audience of One, has called for YOU to do.

Divine Timing: "There is a time for everything"—everything God calls us to do. I am always in awe of God's timing. Just when I think things are over, done, nail in the coffin, our Redeemer comes back with more. We see over and over in scripture that Jesus was careful about his timing and when He would perform a miracle or move forward. From Jesus’ example we realize that not everything is for now. God may speak something to us and we rush off with paper and pad in hand, calling meeting and proclaiming “God told me…” But did we stop to listen for the timing. Did we sit on it and wait for God to give us more instruction? There are seasons to everything... ministry, spiritual growth, life, and yes, even marriage. Let's be careful to be in sync with God and be aware of which season we are operating. There will be times of frenetic activity and ministry, times of arduous building and preparing. But our Loving God also blesses us with times of rest and receiving. 

Stay faithful, my friends.  God loves us too much to call us to something that He has no intention for us to complete or would not give us the energy and resources to do. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phil 1:6 NLT)  He is at work!

Levitica “Lee” Watts lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Terence and two young boys, Terence Jr. and Trenton.  Along with serving beside her husband, she is also the editor of an online magazine breathof God magazine and president of Atlanta Chapter of Ministers’ Wives. She is employed as Business Development/Marketing Manager and enrolled as an MBA student at Georgia State. She is a writer, sunshine-lover, hope-chaser, forever-friend of God, who enjoys working out and laughing with friends.

She can be found on Twitter: @lywatts, and on Facebook: Levitica “Lee” Ashby Watts.


  1. I especially like the "Stay in Your Lane" part. We've been watching the Olympics lately so that really created a great word picture! I've been feeling burned out lately but couldn't figure out why...I have boundaries and work hard at not over-extending myself. But I wasn't staying in my lane...thanks for sharing such wise thoughts! :)

  2. Levitica, I found myself thinking "Yes!" and "Absolutely!" as I read this post. Great words of wisdom here. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  3. I really needed the reminder to "walk to please God" today. Thank you so much.

  4. Levitica, I appreciate your words of advice. Convicting, but encouraging as well, especially when you ask, "Is my need to perform stronger than my desire to obey?" Ouch! Thanks for sharing your wisdom here in the Garden.

  5. Thank you so much for all the encouraging comments! God is so amazing. Just when we think we don't have a voice, He speaks right through us.

  6. great blog Lee!


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