Avoiding Burn Out One Crises at a Time
In reality, my story isn't of a burnout ministry story, (yet). But it's more of a story living at the edge of burning out, and by the grace of God, I'm still hanging on. Even if sometimes it's just by a thread.
So I guess, I'll tell my story, because we have avoided burnout so far. But I don't take it for granted. I try to be vigilant to be wary of it, because I realize if I don't keep making strategic adjustments, I could go under quickly.
First of all, I've been blessed with a lot of successes in my ministry. The favor and graciousness of God has been steady, and I don't take it for granted for a moment.
But concurrently with the victories, have been some of the most scorching challenges that have been overwhelming, to put it mildly.
Whether it's the basic 'spiritual warfare' of the moody, offended leader, or it is some of the intense family drama that plagues my family, it's amazing my wife and I have held our sanity.
Our biggest challenge has been an on-going and intense medical condition with one of our children. It is a condition that can actually become life-threatening, and it requires constant monitoring and care to be provided by my wife, myself and my other children. The insanity that this on-going condition has created in our lives has taken my wife out as a ministry support, because the care-taking is so all-consuming.
People try to help, but the condition is so specialized, it really isn't an option. And the bottom-line is: most people want to help when something is 'short-term', but when it's long-term suffering, it's really hard for them to know how to support. The research we've read on this particular medical condition rates the stress level parents have to cope with to be equal to someone who has just served in Afghanistan. I'm not kidding. It's that bad.
My wife and I get counsel from other pastors and praying, seasoned saints, but there are times when we would want to get more intensive and professional counseling. The problem is, we aren't sure who could even relate to our lives, let alone, be able to offer some solid strategy and advice.
The demands of our growing church continue, and while we're grateful for the blessings of growth, we are challenged to keep up with the demanding needs of our child, especially since my wife had to go back to work to help with growing child-related expenses.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, the church we are serving at now turned out to be one of the most burn-out and dead and destroyed churches in the city when we arrived. There had been moral failures, church splits and factions galore as we came into town. It was one of the darkest things I've ever seen. God did a miracle, and this is now a new and thriving work. But navigating all the emotional tangled mess of what this church has been through (while fighting for our child's life) has been one of the most difficult things I've ever encountered. God has been good, but this situation has been intensely complex.
So far, we've avoided total burn-out, though I've had some depression and plenty of overwhelmed moments here. My mid-life crisis didn't really arrive, because there were so many other crises taking its place.
But by God's grace we've avoided burnout. And now that I'm older, I'm realizing I've got to continue to grow in burn-out prevention strategies. Otherwise, I know I won't make it.
There are a few things that have been our life-line in this journey. First, we have an amazingly strong network of ministry friends who are outside of our church, and who have walked with us for years. Their prayers, support and encouragement have been invaluable. I mean it. I also have a few key mentors that I draw on regularly to talk things out and process what we are going through. Without their support and prayer, I know we couldn't be here.
We also try to be transparent in our pain, both with ministry friends and (with discretion), with our church people.
Our leaders have been supportive of our extenuating circumstances, and have given us some extra breaks now and then.
But I realize as I'm getting older, I have got to do some serious shifting of gears in my exercise, health regime, or full burnout may take over.
I don't think we've done this perfect, but I'm grateful we've avoided total burnout. But it is a one day at a time journey for us. And I'm praying that our season will turn soon. I want to see my grandchildren.