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.

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

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.

Warning

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.

System

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 ShannonMilholland.com or on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Monday, July 16, 2012

You have to admit it's a hard job.

By Christy Fitzwater

An amazing lady in our church passed away last week, so my pastor husband added to his job the weight of preparing for her funeral. On Friday, his only true day off, he spent six hours at the church working on her service. On Saturday he spent another six hours in a black suit. 


Sunday morning he woke up and said, Well, it’s my Monday and I’ve had no weekend. 

Exhausted. 

Monday morning, as I kissed him on his way out the door, he said it again. It’s Monday morning and I’m so tired. I feel like I’ve had no weekend. 

What does a wife say to that?   

A wife who scrolled through pictures on Facebook –looking at everyone else’s weekend playing-at-the lake pictures. Our family did funeral instead. 

The Fitzwater Family
You laid down your life for another family. That’s what I said to him. That’s what followers of Christ do. That’s what shepherds do.   

We could have had a weekend like “normal people”, but what we want more than anything is to follow Christ. That means sacrifice, and there’s no way around it. It’s just hard. 

When our families sacrifice and our husbands are fatigued, we can either feel sorry for ourselves, or we can speak words of truth to our men.   

We can say it out loud: 

We’re denying ourselves the fun of playing like everyone else does. 

We’re laying down our weekend fun. 

We’re taking up a weighty cross of loving other people even when it hurts.   

It's what we signed up for -giving up fun and normal for something richer.   

That’s what we speak to our tired husbands when shoulders slump and black bags are under the eyes.


About Christy: I live in Kalispell, Montana where my husband is associate pastor at Easthaven Baptist Church. I have a daughter who starts college in a month (sniff sniff) and a lanky teenage boy who will be a sophomore this year. I love to teach and write. Find me at my devotional blog: tiddlywinks-christy.blogspot.com 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Five Tips for Avoiding Ministry Burnout

{Pastor Curtis and Monique Zackery}
Being in ministry is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. The ability to serve others and share the Gospel brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment like nothing else. Over the years, however, I’ve picked up a few hard-learned lessons about ministry burnout, and how to avoid it. In this PW* role it is easy to become overextended, or caught up in a false sense of guilt when we can’t meet every need {or expectation} that arises. These simple tools have become staples along my journey and have helped me find rest in the middle of the busy.

So without further delay, here are five PW tips for avoiding ministry burnout.

1. Color Code Your Calendar - About three years ago I started color-coding my calendar. Everything in orange was ministry. Home and family activities were blue, school was green, and “me time” was purple. I had no idea how much ministry I was involved in until I saw it in color. There was orange all over that calendar! At one point I remember looking over my schedule and realizing I had two months of orange commitments before I had a purple day off to breathe. It was severely unbalanced and I was probably beginning to look like a zombie. 

The first step to avoiding burnout is to take an inventory of your current commitments. See if you have an imbalance somewhere and adjust as needed.

2. Learn to Use Your “No” – For some of you, saying “no” might come as a breeze. But for others of us, saying “no” can prove to be difficult, especially when we’re put on the spot. However, it is possible to master the art of saying “no” gracefully.

Although I love to plan events or join a new Bible Study in a heartbeat, I’ve had to learn phrases like, “Wow, that sounds like a great idea. Let me pray about how {or if} I am to be involved and I’ll get back to you.” This provides time to talk to God, look at my color-calendar, and consider what I’m taking on before using my “yes.”

3. Stop People Pleasing – When pleasing God is the focus there is freedom to be your self and operate in your calling without trying to fill a faulty notion of what a PW should  be. When we focus on the beauty of the cross our service is compelled by Christ’s love instead of a sense of obligation to people. 

My husband has been instrumental in helping me to grasp this truth. He has so graciously reminded me that I don’t have to be at every single church event, every time the doors open just because I'm a PW. There’s so much freedom in realizing that it’s totally okay to stay home on a Wednesday night if I’m feeling depleted. It’s okay! :)

4. Schedule Time for Rest – At our former church, our women’s ministry director, Kristi, started a series on rest. She reminded us that: 1) rest is a command, 2) God desires rest for us, and 3) He exemplified it for us on the seventh day (although He never grows tired). As a result, she started “Listening Prayers” for us, which were periodic mornings of rest.

During “Listening Prayers” we gathered in someone’s home. Then we chose separate spots around the house. One would take the couch, while another took the guest room and another sat on the patio or the tree swing.


For about 45 minutes we would all just sit in the silence, soaking in the morning sun. Some moms would come for a moment away, bring a pillow and just sleep the whole time. Others used it as a time to seek the Lord, and listen. It was a scheduled time of rest, and it was glorious! I learned that this intentional rejuvenating practice should be added to our calendars on a regular basis. It's worth it!

5. Stay Connected to The Vine – The last point is the most important. We’re all familiar with the famous John 15 teaching of The Vine and the branches. In it Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The moment we find our strength withering away in ministry is a perfect time to reflect on whether or not we are remaining connected to the Source of Life. These are the instances to remember Jesus’ special invitation to “come.” This is how we “draw our strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

So, dear sister, “Let us not become weary {or burned out} in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”  (Galatians 6:9). 

Sincerely,

Monique Zackery

*PW- Pastor's Wife

_______________________________


Monique Zackery, Contributing Author

Monique is a pastor's wife in Northern California. When she isn't glueing her fingers together in a D.I.Y. project, you can find her worshiping God through music and everyday life. She is the author of the blog Finding Me in You, where she openly shares and encourages others with the lessons God is teaching her on identity and fulfillment in Christ. Furthermore, Monique has a passion for abolishing modern day slavery in this lifetime and has recently partnered with Abolition International as a public advocate and church partnership coordinator. She is currently working toward a degree in Leadership in Ministry and hopes to complete a Masters in Counseling as a tool to aid in the healing of her community and rescued victims of slavery. Above all, she desires to be an arrow, pointing others to the ultimate Healer, Jesus. 

To learn more about Curtis & Monique Zackery's mission visit www.thezackerys.blogspot.com

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pouring Out ~ Burning Out

By Carla Adair Hendricks

Have you searched the eyes of your minister-husband recently? I mean, really searched those chestnut browns or baby blues?

If you have, I bet there's one thing you've detected.

Fatigue.

If you haven't seen it, you probably haven't looked hard enough. Because reality is, the average minister is tired. Bone-tired. Soul-tired.
 
In Surviving the Land Mines of Ministry Marriages I shared some alarming statistics. They certainly alarmed me when I first heard them. I won't belabor each statistic here, but I'd like to revisit just a few...
  • 80% of pastors believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively
  • 75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation
  • 1500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure
Did you read that last one? Let it sink in.

1500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

No wonder our husbands' eyes droop. Especially on Sunday evenings.

Sisters, maybe our own mascara-ed eyes are weary with fatigue too, as we encourage our husbands in ministry, support them emotionally, block for them when others criticize, manage our homes, nurture and guide our children, homeschool or maintain involvement in our children's schools, volunteer in the community, etc. etc. etc. And sometimes we do all this while holding down part or full-time employment.

It's enough to exhaust an Olympic Gold winner. Much less little old us.

So how do we continually pour out -- our time, our talents, our spiritual gifts, our advice, our love -- without depleting every ounce of life within us?

Like the Samaritan Woman at the well, we need the replenishment of living water.

This woman, weary from life, rejection and failed relationships, met the Savior at a critical time in life. He offered her new life. New hope. A hope found in a life lived in Him, through Him and for Him. Let's take a look at His words:
"Anyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14
A spring. A body of water originating from the depths of the earth. Clear. Refreshing. Full of minerals and nutrients.



There is no easy answer to the pervasive fatigue of ministry. Vacations and time away are a must. Date nights sans children are essential. Days off filled with enjoyable, energizing activities do wonders.

But there's nothing like regular -- daily -- time being replenished by living water. The living water that sustains us, strengthens us, nourishes us deep within our souls. The living water that flows from spending quality time with the Savior. The living water found in prayer, reading the Word and just sitting quietly before the One who promises to quench our soul's thirst.

Will you let the Savior fill you with His living water today?




Carla has been a pastor's wife for over a decade, and founded "A Pastor's Wife's Garden" to encourage other pastor's wives in their calling. A writer and editor, she has published in several Christian and mainstream publications, including Guidepost Magazine and AARP Bulletin. Her heart for orphans "around the corner and around the world" has led her to dedicate her time and talents to various orphan ministries, including The CALL, which recruits and trains foster care parents from churches in Arkansas. Join Carla here every first Monday of the month and visit her personal blog here.
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