Symptoms of Burnout

Episode 652: What should a church planter do who’s at the soul level of tired? Host Ed Stetzer discusses the symptoms of ministry burnout with Jessica Thompson, director of operations for the New City church planting network, and James Hobson, lead pastor of Hill City Community Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

In This Episode, You’ll Discover:

  • Five symptoms of burnout and how they manifest themselves in ministry settings
  • Two kinds of exhaustion
  • Three different types of friends needed for healthy ministry
  • How burnout manifests itself in a planter or his team’s life
  • Why pastors need to be in tune the connection between spiritual and physical health

Helpful Resources:

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Sharable Quotes (#NewChurches):

I’ve walked through seasons of burnout. Actually, at one point during Covid, I had to step away for a couple of days and regroup. @EdStetzer

Warren Bird says, “We must not allow ourselves to slip into a false spirituality that treats our bodily existence as if it can be separated from our so-called spiritual life, as if our spiritual life carries on independently from what’s happening in our bodies.” @EdStetzer

There’s a lot of bodies on the side of the road to church planting that burned out and didn’t recover, didn’t make it through the long haul. @EdStetzer

The reality is it’s challenging as a church planter. You need to be able to notice when you’re feeling burned out and have nowhere to go for encouragement or fulfillment or sustainability. @EdStetzer

When my friend Darren Patrick died, that was just too much for me. I wept for a day and into a second day. I realized I had pushed too far for too long and went to my doctor. We made some lifestyle changes. @EdStetzer

There’s the kind of tired that sleep can’t fix, and that’s where I was – a tiredness of the soul. @EdStetzer

Ideally, the best thing to do is to set up some strategies to maybe not quite get to burnout. Prevention would be great, but we’re all going to go through seasons of ministry that are just all-encompassing. – Jessica Thompson

It’s going to take a reset if you’re to that point where you’re just exhausted. It’s going to take sleep – actual sleep – and rest. – Jessica Thompson

Only you can know what revives you, those things your spirit feels revived in. It’s going to be intentionally resetting your life and adjusting the parameters that got you to that spot. – Jessica Thompson

We had no choice over Covid; it just smacked all of us. But what got to me more was the murder of George Floyd. There were moments I would weep uncontrollably. I’m so tired I can’t even go to sleep. It was the good news of the gospel of Jesus that kept my sanity in that moment. – James Hobson

Let’s do some preventive things, but sometimes burnout just slaps us in the face. If it wasn’t for my faith – a deep-rooted sense that it’s not my works for Jesus but Jesus works for me – I don’t know if I would have been kept. It was hard to stay together in that time. – James Hobson

Ultimately, it’s key for all of us to find out what self-awareness looks like. @EdStetzer

Church planting has always been a very social role. It’s always required a lot of us externally. Often the first symptom of ministry burnout is a loss of desire to be with people. – Jessica Thompson

If someone on the church planting team is rushing to his or her car to get away, that desire to be isolated is part of just being tired of people. When that becomes a reality, when there’s a growing resentment toward other people and desire to get away from them, that’s a cause for for concern. @EdStetzer

My 9-to-5 job is me being an extrovert, and I became an introvert but didn’t realize it. So, for me, all my relational energy is done so I’m going home. However, my wife who stays at home – we just had a baby – is like, “Hey, I’m I’m ready for us to go out.” And now I’m in the doghouse! – James Hobson

The only thing that sustains you in ministry is sustainable sacrifice. Burnout isn’t always all bad, but it needs to be the difference between a godly sacrifice that requires burnout and sacrifice that’s sustainable over time. – Jessica Thompson

One of my elders at a church plant said, “You know, it seems you’re on edge a lot.” He could speak into my life. So irritability can be a sign of burnout and, in general, that can hinder your spiritual growth. @EdStetzer

Out of these five symptoms, irritability is the one that almost causes the most external damage. A lot of these other symptoms are happening internally, but irritability is one that real quickly manifests itself in the life of the people around you. – Jessica Thompson

Irritability can taint your ministry really quickly. – Jessica Thompson

Growing up, I never heard the term “burnout.” I didn’t know what it was until I am lying in bed and just can’t move, and we’ve got service tonight and I’m really stressing out because I’m not there. – James Hobson

When I look back at that earlier church plant, I wish my lead planter or supervisor would have seen irritability in me and said, “Hey, James, why don’t you take the night off? Why don’t you you take the week off?” – James Hobson

When you’re on the edge of burnout, small things become big things. – James Hobson

The final symptom of burnout is sickness. Do you think most pastors are in tune with the connection between their spiritual and physical health? – Jessica Thompson

Send this episode to somebody and give them a hint, because this is a very real issue. @EdStetzer

We know and science shows us that stress, anxiety, all these things have a physical manifestation. The body keeps count. @EdStetzer

Realize your limitations and that those are God-given limitations. @EdStetzer

Psalm 29:11 says “The Lord gives strength to his people. The Lord blesses his people with peace.” Many times we can easily forget that God is our strength. – James Hobson

Only God can fill us. If you ever just need a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing for the Lord, maybe the season is difficult and you’re exhausted, I would encourage you to just read the end of Job and remember how much God can do with the little you are capable of. – Jessica Thompson

It’s being reminded of your salvation and the greatness of the God who loves you. Filling yourself up with truth because the Holy Spirit can fill you right back up. – Jessica Thompson

Church planning is not a “me.” It’s a “we.” @EdStetzer

Sometimes it feels like it’s all dependent upon you; it’s not all dependent upon you. The Lord builds the house and they labor in vain who think otherwise. So my exhortation to you is to recognize the symptoms of burnout. @EdStetzer

Burnout sounds like “It’s done. It’s out burn and out.” I would say that ultimately you can create a pace and a path forward, if you will be aware of your physical limitations, your spiritual need, your relational connectedness. @EdStetzer

Take time to connect with a mentor. If you don’t have one, connect with your denominational leader or  church partner. Know that our resources are here to help you finish the long journey. We need you for the long haul. @EdStetzer

Published March 24, 2022

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