Burnout, The First Time
"I feel like I am about to lose my wife, my health, my career and my sanity."
This is what I wrote in my journal the first time I was in the middle of burnout.
At the time, I was a pastor responsible for leading a ministry of 400 young professionals. We clustered those into three different groups based on age and stage.
There was not a strong small group structure at the time, and I remember getting hundreds of emails each week. Just keeping up with emails felt like a full-time job.
At one point, I was asked to lead a major change in the church. The senior pastor wanted to introduce a new kind of small group which he had seen work at a former church.
A plan was developed to make the following changes so people would eventually find their way to these “Community Groups":
- Discontinue the traditional Sunday School classes which had the trendy and rebranded name of “Adult Fellowship Communities".
- Discontinue the smaller discipleship groups.
I remember the faces of the people, whom I loved, were so sad and angry when I was the messenger of this news. The emotional toll of this decision still makes me sad.
Around this same time, my wife was pregnant with twins and was put on bed rest for 4 months. We already had 5 boys so I became Mr. Mom for that time period.
All of these changes made me feel like the proverbial clown trying to keep the spinning plates from failing!
To complicate matters, my conscientious and semi-perfectionistic personality only increased the stress by trying to live up to the phantom leader profile.
My wife was fed up with me being emotionally distant from her.
My health took a back seat until things calmed down, which they never do.
I was seriously thinking about going back into business because pastoral ministry was just too hard.
I really wondered if I should check into the mental hospital because I thought my sanity was slowing turning to mush.
Now that I look back, there are some factors which caused this first round of burnout.
- Large responsibility to care for people without an effective structure for small group interaction.
- Being a slave to email without a good plan to manage.
- Making a major change in an organization which brought on emotional shrapnel.
- Stressful home life with young children and ill wife.
- Not practicing self-care with diet and exercise.
- Unrealistic expectations of what leadership is and does.
I began a burnout recovery process which thankfully got me out of plate spinning and got me to a place of sanity and productivity.
Think about it: What are some of the factors which are causing you to experience burnout?