Not that kind of burnout…
I was researching church burnout for my teaching tonight. It is the final teaching of the series 1+3=. Below is a blog post that I found at a creative ministry ideas website (creativeideas.wordpress.com). I thought I’d share it with you. It was very helpful to me and will be read as part of my teaching this week.
My Story Of Church Burnout: The Dark Side Of Media Ministry
I have to say one of the most damaging decisions I’ve made in regards to my spiritual health was to come on a church staff full time. I’ve been on staff at two churches. The first for almost 10 years and the second for just over 6 months.
At my last church I can now look back and realize how burnt out I was. Here are some of the symptoms I had:
– The only time I was reading the Bible or thinking about the Bible was when I was preparing a sermon.
– I would have a fantasy that I would be in a car wreck. One that was serious enough that I’d have to go to the hospital and I’d miss the weekend at church. It would give me a viable excuse to not have to worry about my attendance numbers in junior high.
– Most of the spiritual highlights of my life personally were before I was on staff.
After 5 years of behavior like that I transitioned out of a pastoral position and into media. I felt a relief of not having to produce attendance numbers. Relieved that I wasn’t being a hypocrite standing up and talking about the power of the Bible to change lives which I wasn’t experiencing.
But moving into media didn’t fix my spiritual problems. I was so focused on the production aspect of services that I was not engaging in the services. I didn’t worship because the mix wasn’t good or the band was off. I didn’t listen to the message because I was brainstorming an idea to improve a technical aspect of the service.
It didn’t stop there. Over time my heart grew bitter towards the church. And as a result it grew bitter towards God. Eventually I didn’t worship because I didn’t want to spend time with God. I didn’t listen because I didn’t care what the Bible had to say. I stopped tithing and giving. I was a practical atheist.
On the outside things may have looked OK but I was dead on the inside. During this time my wife and I had our first and then second child. The additional stress of less sleep and the challenges of raising kids squeezed me. And when I was squeezed I didn’t like what was coming out. I’d be angry towards my kids and unkind to my wife. I was selfish, moody and sinful.
I looked for ways to escape. I threw myself into learning video production and motion graphics. I threw myself into video games, movies or TV shows. I even fell back into a pre-Christian habit of looking at porn on line, only to be caught by my wife. Being caught was a wakeup call. I realized left on my own I wasn’t just hurting myself but I was hurting my wife and my kids.
I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. That we needed a change. I realized I needed to change. This was the Fall of 08.
At my last church my wife and I never sat together during service. We weren’t involved in a small group. And I felt like I couldn’t be real with most the guys I worked with for fear of my job. I felt like no one cared about me personally, only my performance on the job. So we new we needed a new church home and I needed a new job.
I was fine taking a job that wasn’t at a church. Applied for a few but didn’t get an offer. We finally landed at Lakeshore in April of 2009.
During this time we went through a television fast that got me reading again. I focused on reading books to help me with my spiritual walk. One of the books that really opened my eyes was Mad Church Disease. It was a painful mirror for me to evaluate myself and my life by.
At Lakeshore I’m able to sit with my wife during service and worship and listen to the teaching. We’re able to be involved in a small group for the first time in a long time.
Over the last few months I’ve gotten into the Bible for the first time in a long long time. I have a hunger to know God, to spend time in the Word and worshiping for the first time in at least 10 years.
The podcasts that I listen to are 80% preaching and 20% other. Compared to 100% media/ tech/ etc.. a few month ago. My favorite are Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler for the expositional teaching through a book of the Bible, the solid theology and the clear call to a radically different lifestyle. And John Ortberg because of his great communication skills and practical approach to spiritual disciplines.
I’ve invested money into a new study Bible (it’s the ESV Study Bible and I’m really enjoying it by the way) and Logos Bible software to deepen my Bible study. On a side note I have a fear of how much my American, consumer mindset influences my view of the Bible. So I’m reading the Bible and digging into commentaries to make sure I’m not taking the Bible out of cultural context and historical, orthodox interpretation.
I know I’m not perfect. I’ve still got junk I’m dealing with. But I have to say for the first time in a very long time I feel healthier. My relationship with my wife is the best it’s ever been. I’m more honest with myself and in turn God.
It’s all too easy to get so busy doing stuff for God that we’re not being with God. It’s a cliche but it’s true. I hope my story can encourage you if you’re realizing you’re burning out in ministry whether you’re on staff or a volunteer.
Take an honest look with yourself. Your relationship with God is too important. If you need to make changes make the changes. If you’re dealing with sin. Get over the fear and talk to someone. I can’t tell you the freedom I’ve experience once I talked through these struggles with some friends and my wife.