The Truth About Burnout

Fight it with Joy

Serving / Spiritual Formation //

I do not believe burnout is really a problem in children’s ministry. Stay with me for a minute as I explain. When we, or a volunteer, are tired from serving, instead of identifying it as we are tired, we call it burnout. Or when one of us experiences frustration because we are serving on our own or took too much on for us to be able to handle, instead of identifying it as we are doing too much on our own, we call it burnout. There are other examples, but the point is, burnout is not really the problem. Misidentifying, or even not identifying, the problem is the problem. When we fail to correctly identify the problem, we can’t solve the problem and sadly, the end result is, people leave ministry and do not experience the joy God has for them when they serve. This is a true tragedy.

God, in His amazing generosity, has given each of us gifts to use in our service to Him! He doesn’t give these gifts for them to be a burden to us. He doesn’t give these gifts that they would bring us stress or frustration. Quite the contrary. When we identify and use the gifts God has given us, in addition to receiving the awesome gifts, we also receive a most amazing bonus … we receive an incredible joy!

Clearly, Satan doesn’t want us, or the volunteers in our ministries, to use these gifts and most definitely does not want any of us to experience the joy God has for us. So, if he can sidetrack us into believing we are burned out, he can, not only get us to quit using the gifts, but he is able to successfully rob us of joy.

So, we need to first of all, correctly identify what we are experiencing if we think we are burned out and are contemplating quitting. Once we correctly identify what the problem actually is, then we can find a solution. Hopefully, it will be a solution that allows us to continue to serve and frees us to experience the joy God has for us! Then, we need to focus on things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. Doing these things enables us to stand firm in God and rejoice … which is absolutely something worth rejoicing!

For example, if we’re feeling overwhelmed with all we have to do, find help! Delegate. I firmly believe God cares more than anyone if we have the people we need to do all the things we need to do in our children’s ministries. The people you need are there in your church! Some recognize they are these people. These are the volunteers you have! And some don’t know they are these people; yet, these are the treasures waiting for you to discover!

If a volunteer feels alone, overloaded, or unprepared, then get them help and training. Do not understaff your classes. Not only is this a safety risk, but it leads to volunteers feeling overwhelmed and quitting. Try to refocus away from the negative and onto the reason you’re serving and the difference you’re making. Do everything you can to free yourself and your volunteers so you can serve and experience the joy. How do you do this?

  • Match each volunteer (and yourself) with a prayer partner who will faithfully pray for them throughout the year. Make finding prayer partners a top priority.
  • Adopt out those volunteers … (and yourself, too). Find out what adult class they would be part of if they were not teaching and identify someone in those classes to adopt them. The “Adopter” will commit to take notes, share prayer requests, let their “adopted” teacher know about any get-togethers and stay in touch. This frees those serving from feeling like they are missing something by serving.
  • Share joyful testimonies from children, parents and volunteers as to the amazing things happening in the children’s ministry. This can be done in front of the entire church, in the bulletin, on bulletin boards and in emails/letters.
  • Celebrate serving! Brag about volunteers and what they are doing, preferably within earshot of volunteers. Make table tents to send home each month that highlight a volunteer/class and the amazing things that are happening! Plan little … and big … ways to say thank you. Don’t approach serving in the children’s ministry as something that nobody wants to do; instead, celebrate it! Emphasize the joy and share it with others!
  • Did I mention pray for the volunteers? I know I did, but I will say it again! Pray! Pray! Pray!

These are just a few ways you can free your volunteers so they can serve and experience the joy! And, while we’re on this topic, don’t forget yourself. Take time to focus on the joy God has for you in your service to Him. Far too often, we’re too busy to stop and notice, and enjoy the joy!

Oh yes, and make prayer a priority. Yes, I know, I said this again, but there is a reason. Prayer is essential; especially when dealing with discouragement, frustration, disappointment, and aren’t discouragement, frustration, disappointment at the heart of burnout? If we were not feeling discouraged, frustrated or disappointed, would we even consider quitting?

“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:1, 4-9).

Rejoice! Be anxious for nothing! Pray about everything with thanksgiving and God will give us an incredible peace, which will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus! Doing these things will cause us to stand firm in Jesus and this brings joy.

It really is a battle for our minds and hearts. If we believe we’re overwhelmed, overworked, taken for granted … burned out, we’ll act accordingly and quit. We won’t have God’s joy. If, however, we think about things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise, we will stand firmly in God’s peace and joy!

Having said all this, keep in mind, there may be times when someone needs to step away from their ministry, at least for a time. They, or someone in their family, may be experiencing health issues, job change, or some other major life issue. This is an opportunity to offer support, care, comfort and love. Use it to serve them. In time, they may be able to step back into their ministry. If not, they may be able to join your prayer team.

Consider making Philippians 4 your prayer for your volunteers and for yourself as you serve.

Dear God, as I, and the volunteers in my church, go through this day and week, please help us stand firmly in You. Please help us rejoice in You, especially when we might begin to feel anxious. I want to choose to rejoice in You always and then rejoice some more! I rejoice to know when I focus on You and the joy You give, You are close to me and I do thank You for this! As my volunteers go through this day, I pray their hearts will be lifted in thanks to You as they experience Your joy, too! Thank You for Your peace which guards our minds; please help us focus on those things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise so we are able to rejoice in You! Thank You for Your peace and thank You for being with us, Amen!

Take Philippians 4 to heart! Be committed to correctly identifying problems, finding solutions and focusing on things which are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellent and worthy of praise! Be committed to serving with joy and equipping your volunteers to do the same! The greatest weapon we have against burnout is joy! Focus on the joy, and burnout will burn out!





About the Author

Lynda Freeman has 40+ years of experience working in Children's Ministry. She has served a children's director for churches of 1600 people - as well as in churches of 100 people. Lynda has been a consultant for Gospel Light, Group  and ZonderKidz/Big Idea, ZonderKidz/Promiseland. Currently she is known for her reviews of curriculum and church resources, she writes kidz Connection curriculum and her other blog, grandma's cookie jar!