I have been challenged deeply in the last few months by working my way slowly through Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening The Soul of Your Leadership. The book is insightful, honest, and compelling for anyone who has struggled with the seemingly impossible balance between ministry and margin. She writes in a way that engages both contemplatives and high-detail Type A folks with the express intent to bring health and hope into leadership and ministries that are sagging from the weight of over-committing and believing in the “Superman complex” buried within each of us.
She actually lists key indicators you can use to know when you are working your way toward burnout and collapse in ministry, and I think it’s worth copying here for those of you who need to pause and take an assessment of your own life and ministry.
To be sure, this isn’t a list reserved for people who are paid to work for a church. I believe volunteers, parachurch staff, and all others in between need to analyze the balance (or lack thereof) in their efforts for God and His Kingdom.
- Irritability or hypersensitivity – things that normally don’t bother us put us over the edge.
- Restlessness – when it is time to rest, we can’t settle down and shut our brain down
- Compulsive overworking – we can’t regulate our work habits or disconnect from work, we are unable to completely unplug
- Emotional numbness – we are so busy pushing our limit that we can’t commit the energy to actually “feeling” something
- Escapist behaviors – we find ourselves justifying eating, spending, gaming or surfing because of how “hard we’ve been working” instead of pursuing life-giving experiences such as relationships or exercise
- Disconnected from our identity and calling – we go through the motions of our ministry and service but we have lost the drive and purpose that we used to have
- Not able to attend to human needs – we put off surgeries, oil changes, conversations, vacations, sleep, or staying organized because we are “too busy”
- Hoarding energy – we begin to feel threatened by people who want pieces of our time and few resources
- Slippage in spiritual practices – we’re too busy to spend time with God because we’re “doing” things for Him; we use Scripture for ministry so much that we don’t let it have an impact on us personally
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to tell someone and get away for a while to think through the source of these symptoms.
How are you doing with the things above?