By Sarah Ruf
Love to help people a little too much and neglect your own responsibilities in the process?
Yes, that’s me, raising my hand.
There is a special kind of burnout associated with church folks. The call to serve others is powerful and necessary, but sometimes you find yourself feeling trapped and resentful. We may even think it’s our burden to carry as Christians. This takes the shape of a “Jesus did it, so I should, too” mindset.
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But Jesus didn’t try to heal everyone. He regularly took long periods of solitude in order to connect with His father and recharge.
Getting rundown in ministry can happen innocently, but quickly devolves into a lack of boundaries in your life.
Thankfully, over the past few years, a self-care movement has blossomed in the midst of our madness. In a world where the hamster wheel feels like it spins faster every day, people are desperate for relief. I know I was, and as I talk to more Millennials who help out with church ministry—sometimes being the only one their age helping at their small church—we start feeling obligated or exploited.
There’s hope. Start with these small habits of self-care. I’d like to offer a few questions you may want to ask yourself right now. Your answers will provide some clues about your risk for burnout. Take a deep breath and try to be as honest with yourself as possible.
Practice saying “no” once this week
Perhaps it’s your boss or your brother or your deacon. If someone asks you to do something you don’t have time for, do you say yes anyway then resent the person to asking in the first place? Did you know that’s a telltale sign burnout is swiftly approaching? Would you be willing to use your “no” at least once this week? Do think God doesn’t have other ways of accomplishing tasks besides using your labor?
Take a walk around your neighborhood
Are you trying to make this a “productive” thing? Tempted to run to get some exercise in or send some emails while you walk? Can you allow yourself to enjoy a lo-fi walk around the block? What do you smell? Who can you greet along your path? What new construction projects might be going up around you? Have you even noticed those cranes? How many animals do you see? What do your neighbors look like? Do you know their names? Have you had time to invite them over? Have you had the energy to invite them over? Is your kitchen decent enough to invite them over?
Drink more water
How much water do you drink? How many times are you using the bathroom? Do you think you can squeeze another two glasses of water into your day? Ever thought about watering down your morning juice to get more agua in your life? Do you have a water bottle at work?
Sleep one more hour each night
Is your smartphone your bedtime companion each night? How many minutes do you spend snuggled up with a screen after you climb into bed? When was the last time you went to bed before 10:00 p.m.? Does that sound crazy? But how crazy rushed is your morning?
Pray constantly, even when you aren’t “feeling it right now”
Over the past week, did you try harder to accomplish stuff or decide to pray more instead? Have you praised God today for three things you are grateful for? Are you praying about that stress and anxiety you feel? Are you praying for your local church? Your pastor and his/her spouse? The pastor’s kids? Your local community? Your ZIP code? Your bank account? Your property manager, the one who annoyed you with a letter last week? What about your co-workers? Your addiction? Are you taking it all to God in prayer? Have you admitted to God how upset and confused you sometimes feel? Do you really believe he can handle your problems? Your anger? Your doubts?
In the hustle of the daily grind, be kind to yourself – God is kind toward you each day. That means understanding which responsibilities actually belong to you, which reside with God, and what truly belongs at the feet of others in your life. The book Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud, is a great read for every Christian doing ministry who wants to confront this concept head-on.
Take back control of your life by giving up control to God and then practicing these small steps of self-care. Then watch your life flourish and renew itself in amazing ways.