Recently I have been very intrigued by the topic of burnout and depression in ministry, and I have been writing on the topic mainly because it seems to not only be so prevalent, but it's rarely talked about. In fact, I would say that the symptoms (burnout and depression) are often a result of a lack of boundaries, and a mentality that says do more and more in ministry…as if that equates to godliness.
There are lots of great resources out there, and some pastors are beginning to approach the subject and write about how burnout and depression has affected not only the ministries they are involved in, but everyone around them. In fact…
I think openly discussing and seeking help for burnout and depression is innovative…
because so few are doing it, that to broach the subject puts you ahead of the curve in this area of thinking and praxis.
Recently I read the book Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro, who is the Senior Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii. Wayne's book is a great read, and it's not only very authentic, vulnerable and insightful, but he provides some great steps and resources for those who may be suffering through burnout and depression. Wayne says:
We don't forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.
It arrived without warning, like an uninvited guest. Decisions that were once simple now refused solution, and I found myself dodging anything that asked for my emotional input. My once stalwart faith was left fragile; I avoided whatever required my action.
It was a balmy California evening. I had gone for a jog before I was to speak at a leadership conference. I still can't recall how I got there, but I found myself sitting on a curb, weeping uncontrollably. I couldn't tell if it took place suddenly or gradually, but I knew something had broken inside. I remember lifting my trembling hands and asking out loud, 'What in the world is happening to me?'
I had been leading on empty.
This is such an important topic, and I think one that needs to be talked about more in church ministry, especially among leaders. But it must not only be talked about, but action must be taken to move leaders to a more healthy place of leadership.
If Christian leaders do not model a healthy life, then what exactly are they modeling?
Wayne helps leaders assess what burnout and failure looks like, but he also provides a roadmap for how they can get back on track. His seven hard lessons seem obvious, but unfortunately they don't become obvious except in hindsight for many of us.
Wayne also does a great job of talking about some actions that one can take such as sabbaticals, and he provides some important resources (counseling centers, camps, retreats, books, etc.) for leaders to access.
I think if more leaders would read this book, and learn some important lessons ahead of time, as well as possibly finding a partner in their own burnout (such as Wayne), then they will find themselves in a much more healthy leadership position than before.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MSMFT)
Pastoral Care to Youth at HPPC (M.Div)