Beware the Black Hole of Burnout–And What to Do About It

(Note: This was an experiment of a live broadcast via the Periscope app. So, my apologies for the rough edges around it all. Thanks to the 21 who tuned in!)

Every church has very faithful, loving, servant-minded members who enjoy working for their church and their Master.  They prove themselves faithful.  They see areas of ministry that need attention, and they roll up their sleeves to address that issue.  But soon, something ominous comes over the horizon:


The tank is empty.  Frustration ensues as to why others fail to step up. Their family life and personal life are swallowed up by meetings and activities.  Devotional life? That’s almost laughable if it weren’t so dreadful.  Soon, resentment sets in.  Despair takes over. Disengagement begins–not just of the ministries in which they are involved, but sadly of the church as a whole. Many just disengage completely from their church family in which they’ve poured so much of their heart and soul, then move on to find a place where they may begin again.

At the church where I serve, we have many who are deeply involved in the life of the church.  Some are so faithful and have so much energy and passion for the church, they jump in in numerous places.  While a minority thrive on such activity, most (even pastors) have trouble sustaining this pace.  They are pulled into the black hole of burnout!

So What Do We Do About This?

First, give your people permission to set boundaries!  Help them find an area where they enjoy serving, and so they may serve Jesus with all their heart!

Now, here’s the hard part.  If you tell them to set boundaries, then that means they’ll have to use a word that may not be in their vocabulary.


They need permission to say no to some things in order to say yes to the best things. If they’re stretched, then that means they’re doing lots of things in a mediocre fashion because (1) it’s so much, and (2) it’s outside of their gifting.

Secondly, lead your people to move from inquirer to multiplier.  Every person needs to serve in some area of ministry for the church.  The goal should be for the church that no member should serve on two teams at any given point.  I confess, that’s happening at the church where I serve. I fall into the trap that many pastors of small-to-medium sized churches fall into: humming along, thankful for those who are serving, and not being intentional or at least observant as to how many of our members are stretched beyond measure with teams and meetings and activities.  Do you hear the sucking of the black hole?  So do many leaders and many who are on the verge of burnout.

Our goal must stand strong in working to get every member ministering in some fashion, even if it doesn’t fall into the parameters set up by the team structure in place. Help them discover their spiritual gifts! Help them to recognize proper boundaries. Help them to realize that the Spirit is here to replenish, for we cannot do any of this alone.

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