Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ministry Burnout - Is this You?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

As Christians, we need to be plugged into ministry somewhere. The "Great Commission" says that we are to go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The question is, how do we go about that?

Making disciples requires that we put forth great effort in first sharing the Gospel message with others - the good news that Jesus died for the sins of the world and that through that shed blood, we are saved from those sins and from eternal death (in hell). It means that we also share that Jesus is ALIVE, having risen from the dead on the third day. Without a risen Savior, His death would have meant nothing. Further, we are to teach others (disciple them) the Scriptures and how they can live a life full of blessings, serving God and their neighbor. Why is that last part important? So they can go out and share the good news with others - spreading the love of Christ throughout the world.

A good place to start is in local ministry and the local church. We get on fire and we sign up as a volunteer in the ministry. After a time, we're asked to volunteer in another area, and then another. Before long we're ministering in a few areas over the course of, perhaps, a few years.

And then it happens. We crash. We feel pulled into several different directions. Maybe our family life isn't what we want it to be. Maybe we don't have time on the weekends to go out and "do things for ourselves. We become resentful. We put half a heart into our ministries until we finally just drop out of them.

We call it burnout.

I have watched some people within my own church who minister over and over again, year after year. They live for the opportunity to serve. They are happy. They are fulfilled. They are energized by ministry. And in case you're wondering, they are not at all young.

Why do these individuals experience so much joy while many, many more folks become disheartened with serving? I believe it is because the joyful ones are obeying Galatians 6:9. They are in ministry because they fully understand that they are not there because of selfish ambition. They are there because they desire to do good for God - to reap a harvest for Christ. They want to win souls for Heaven. They do not tire in doing good because "the joy of the Lord" is their strength.

In order to avoid burnout, I have found that I must keep in mind some principles:

1. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV) Remembering that ministry is not for my sake but rather for God's glory keeps me focused and strengthened in the tasks ahead. Who are we really working for?

2. Sometimes it is hard to say no to those asking us to volunteer. If I am already serving in many areas and I know there isn't enough time in the day to do them all, I must be ready to relay that information. I know from personal experience that those asking me for my service don't always realize that I am already volunteering my time on a weekly (or more often) basis in three different areas. I am a homeschooling mom who holds down a part-time job out of the house. I simply cannot do it all and I know when to say no. Caution: You can get to the point where all you do is say no. Be sure to pray about all opportunities before you respond.

3. Some volunteer opportunities are wonderful family projects. They can be terrific tools to use in teaching your children about God and his love for others. An example of this in action from my own life is something our church calls the C.I.A (church in action). Every few months, families and individuals from our church gather on a Saturday morning. We pray, have breakfast, and then take our assignment sheets and go into the community to serve others - like widows who want their yards raked, like the local crisis pregnancy center who needs shelves built, like the Christian school who needs different projects finished, like Christian camps that need work done, etc. A month ago, our family raked a widow's yard and did some heavy outdoor work for her. Then we headed over to another widow's yard and pulled little maple trees from her (huge patch of) ivy. She uses the ivy as ground cover rather than grass. Our kids were tired when finished, and so were we, but what a blessing we received from those widows who were so happy to finally get something done in their yards. They could not afford to pay anyone for it so we really blessed them. 

4. Time here on earth is short. All you have to do is read the newspaper or turn on the internet or turn on your TV to get news that somewhere more evil has erupted. Satan knows that his time is coming, so he's working overtime to gain souls. Shouldn't we work all the harder to win souls to Jesus? I don't want to see people go to hell, yet that's where the majority of the world is heading. Living a comfortable life in my own desires, even if that life is not one of sinful desires, is not what God wants for me. He wants me to be on fire for Him, living a fulfilled and exciting life that honors Him by seeking out the lost, sharing the message of redemption with them, and then making disciples.

Sound interesting? Give it a try and don't let "burnout" be a part of your vocabulary.

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