Have you ever felt like the guy in the picture?  Do you feel like that right now?  If so you could be in a phase of life we call burnout.  The good news is burnout does not always have to lead to fallout!  I hear it so frequently in ministry ” I’m burned out!”  Sometimes its a trusted lay leader,  from fellow ministers, or a friend that is just totally zapped from the stress of ministry, work, life or all of the above.  If given the chance to run its course burnout always leads to fallout.  Fallout is when those who are burned out disappear.  In ministry fallout frequently is seen most clearly when a person stops attending church functions.  In other areas of life fallout is expressed when an individual stops showing up for coffee, the weekly staff lunch, or other things they once enjoyed.  Perhaps the most tragic thing about burnout and fallout is that they are totally avoidable.  Doing a few simple things can save the day.

Step One: Publicly proclaim your call.  Why did you start this ministry in the first place?  Why did you come to work here twenty years ago?  Why did you pass up other opportunities and chose this path for your life?  Take time to remember the purpose and passion you have for what you are doing.  Then find an appropriate forum to recount you calling to others publicly. Thinking about it is great, saying it verbally to others will do wonders!

Step Two: Privately pray! Before, during, and after you do step one you should be in prayer.  Confess your weariness to God.  Ask for help, guidance, comfort, encouragement, and energy.  God already knows whats in your heart so don’t try to hide anything pour it out!  Then listen.  Listen twice as long in your prayer time as you talk and watch and see what happens!

Step Three: Passionately prune. Burnout is always the climax of over exertion.  Simply put you are doing too much.  It’s time to lighten the load!  Once you have publicly proclaimed your call, and privately prayed its time to get rid of the junk in your life and schedule. Over time our clear call becomes contaminated with other things.  These things may be good things but they are not God’s things for your life.  If it has nothing to do with your calling get rid of it!  Once your life has been pruned be mindful of what you add back in or you will face burnout again.

Step Four: Persistently pull back. To beat burnout you need rest!  A week-long retreat will do wonders but it will only help you beat burnout in the short-term.  Beating burnout over the long haul requires regular rest on a weekly basis.  God calls it the Sabbath in Exodus twenty.  Everyone (even ministers) need at least one day a week to pull back and relax.  This is not a day to shop, go to birthday parties, get your nails done, wash the car, do laundry, clean house, mow the yard, or work from home.  This is a day to pull back and rest!  Do the Sabbath thing God’s way and you will be amazed at what happens!  Turns out God knows what He is doing again.

Step Five: Passively ponder. This step insures that you don’t forget about how bad burnout is.  I have found that it is helpful to remind myself frequently about the hideousness of past close encounters with burnout.  Our human nature tends to down play negative experiences and we place them deep inside some secrete vault in our minds and act as if they had little effect on our lives.  This only makes us more vulnerable in the future.  Learning from our mistakes and consistently allowing those reminders to play in the background of our life will help us avoid the things that lead to burnout in the first place.

I pray that I have not over simplified this extremely complex and important subject.  My goal in this post was not to give you an exhaustive lesson on burnout but rather to share some helpful, practical hints that have been beneficial to my own struggles with burnout.  If you have other helpful hints please share them in the comment section below.