Greater productivity in ministry comes from lasting out and not burning out. A mentor once told me,
“In your first year, you can do NO WRONG.
In your second year, you can do NO RIGHT.
In your third year, either you or your critics WILL LEAVE.
In your fourth year, if you are still there, you can begin your real ministry.”
This weekend I am speaking at a retreat for the Blueprint church. They asked me to speak about longevity and lasting out in ministry.
It’s an important topic. Burnout rates among ministers are incredibly high. When i took my first job as pastor in a church, the Senior Pastor burned out within the year. Not my fault, by the way. But what’s sad is that that the pastor I am talking about, who was hospitalized with the shakes and had already taken a 3 month leave, had taken over the job from the previous pastor who also burned out in much the same way.
Here are my first thoughts on lasting out, not burning out. If you have others, please let me know in the comments below.
1. Be yourself. Find out what you love to do and do that. Align your gifts and passions with your ministry. Decades from now, you will probably still find joy in it
2. Minister out of who you are, not what you can do. Character based ministry will outlast accomplishment based ministry. If you accept a position, make sure they appreciate that who you are is more valuable than what you can do.
3. Know that the ministry is Gods, not yours. It is his prevenience that initiates lasting change and his grace that carries it through to completion. You are not as indispensable as you think.
4. Recognize God’s favor as it presents itself to you because it can be a reliable pathway into a God-empowered, God-blessed ministry in which the yoke of Jesus is not heavy.
5. Preaching the gospel is a matter of receiving and passing on rather than reinventing and customizing. It’s not the new twists you put on the message but the substance of it that is important. People can make it relevant themselves.
6. Install an on/off switch and use it. Its OK to be off, to be out of season, to take a break.
7. Accept criticism. Embrace criticism. And learn to dismiss it when you need to. You cannot please everyone. Accept the fact that 10% of your people will be mad at you for something at any one time.
8. Avoid vanity metrics. They are not helpful to you and you will kill yourself trying to live up to them or get back to them when the chips are down.
Who was the mentor I quoted at the top of this post? Bro. Thom Wolf, who also stressed that the goal in spiritual warfare was standing firm. It appears three times in the Eph 6 passage. Spiritual warfare is not primarily about kicking butt, demolishing strongholds, and tearing down the works of the evil one. Its about standing, about remaining, about lasting out and emerging from the fire, ready for more service.
OK – your turn. How do you avoid burning out?