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5 Ways to Avoid Burnout in Ministry


Why do you lead or serve at your church?

  • Its the right thing to do
  • There’s an opening and someone needs to help
  • You couldn’t come up with an excuse
  • You’re looking for significance

Our answer reveals our motivation and it opens us to a potential problem… burnout

Whether it’s after a week or several years, a lot of volunteers and church staff experience it.

If our motivation is out of whack, burnout has a tendency to edge itself in.

What if there was a way to help prevent this problem before it starts?  I don’t know if it’s 100%, but in my years at my church, I have learned a lot of ways to stave off burnout.

1. Know the whyThe Serving Church Book

If you serve for approval, out of guilt, just to help out, or because you couldn’t think of a good reason not to, you might be headed for trouble.  Your relationship with Jesus is what should guide your serving, but you also need what I call a “big why:”

What motivates you to get up when you’d rather sleep in?  Why do you stay a little longer when you’d rather go home?  For me, it’s people.  At my church lives and eternities are saved every week and I get to help.

2. View what you do as a privilege

A few years ago I noticed a change in how a lot of leaders referred to what they did.  It’s a simple thing, but it’s profound.  Change the word “have” to “get.”  I get to arrive early on Sundays at my church’s satellite campus.  It sounds odd, but it really helps me.  When I see what I do as a gift, I find it easier to do difficult things.

3. Expect hard things

Sometimes it will be difficult.  We live in a fallen, imperfect world.  Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 NIV), don’t act surprised when it happens.  Is it relationship trouble, money trouble, equipment trouble?  Whatever it is, decide in advance to make the right decision.  Don’t leave it up to the heat of the moment.

4. Forgive early and often

Everyone you’re around will eventually disappoint you, make you mad, treat you poorly, etc.  They’re human and imperfect just like you are.  Give them the grace that you’d hope others would give you.  Forgive more, not less.  See if you can be the most forgiving person.  I’d rather err on the side of forgiving more, not less.

5. Trust people

I’ll admit that this is hard.  I spent years harboring resentments and thinking I knew better.  When I finally gave that up and started trusting people, I was amazed at how light I felt.  When everyone around you is always wrong, your head toward disaster.

The path to significance and meaning is paved with sacrifice and humility.

Some people make a difference through their own selfishness, at the expense of others. Most of us can put aside our plans and ambitions and really make a difference. A difference that outlasts our lives. A difference that changes lives and affects generations.

[Editor’s Note: Take a moment to check out Paul’s book, The Serving Church, on Amazon – it will be worthwhile, I promise! -Lauren]

[This content updated – July 3, 2015]

Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford
Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. is the creator of ChurchTechU and where you and your team can learn church tech through self-paced tutorials on your time-table. He is also the author of Podcasting ChurchThe Serving ChurchChurch Video School, and other church tech books. He releases free tech training regularly on


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