This article originally appeared in Ken Braddy’s Sunday School Guy blog.
I recently trained a large group of church leaders in Nevada. I took them through several hours of training in the book Missionary Sunday School. At one of our breaks, a lady named Ruth introduced herself to me. She explained that she had come for the day of training, seeking to get back into a teaching role in her church after experiencing burnout. She’d left that role of teacher, but wanted to battle her burnout and “get back in the saddle”. With her permission, I prayed for her in front of the group and committed her and her ministry to the Lord.
How often is Ruth’s situation repeated in your church? Do you have teachers on the verge of leaving their important roles? Let’s talk about battling burnout among our teachers – maybe even ourselves.
Battling burnout isn’t easy. It’s hard work. Recovery is often slow. Burnout can leave teachers feeling sad, depressed, angry, tired, and unappreciated. For a biblical example, see Jeremiah and his ministry. He suffered from all the above.
People who experience burnout often feel they are alone, no longer effective, and are disappointing others. They simply go through the motions of ministry, but without the passion they once had. Teaching is draining, not energizing, like it once was.
To fight burnout, consider this advice.
Implement a practice that all teachers take a sabbatical from their teaching role on a regular basis – perhaps a six-month or year-long break. Make this part of your Sunday School’s DNA. I was awarded a 30-day sabbatical at a church I served, and the break from the routine – plus time to study, read, and simply relax – was key to my re-energizing. The break didn’t make me want to leave my role, but restored passion to continue a job I loved.
If you are the one experiencing burnout, talk to God about it. He already knows how you’re feeling. He’s your Father, so run to Him and ask for His help. Ask Him to restore the joy and passion you first felt when you became a leader in your church.
- Seek out godly counsel from others. Approach your pastor or other staff leader and let them know how you’re feeling. Chances are they’ve been there, too, and will totally understand what you’re going through.
- Simplify your life. Part of burning out is doing too much, so ask yourself if you’ve said “yes” to too many things, even good things. Perhaps you’ve taken on too many roles at church because others wouldn’t…give up some of them and keep only one you can focus your attention and energies on.
- Realize you are not alone . . . and you are not a failure. Jeremiah the prophet followed God’s plan for his ministry, preached messages God gave him, yet he battled burnout as he was at the center of God’s will. Burnout doesn’t make you a failure…it just affirms that you are human.
I’m praying for my new friend Ruth, and I hope to hear from her one day that she’s battled burnout and won with the Lord’s help. If you are the one facing burnout, let go and let God help you, too. Cut back. Talk with your pastor. Seek God. Rest in Him as you await a time of refreshing.
Ken Braddy is managing director of Leadership and Adult Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources and has served churches for more than 20 years as a minister of education. Follow his Sunday School Guy blog.