Burnout and our Spirits

He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves
and rest awhile.’ (Mark 6:30)

That’s Jesus, inviting his disciples to retreat and rest after they’ve been doing ministry around the countryside. Trying to get away from demands for awhile, and to feed his spirit, is not unusual for Jesus in the gospels.

“Burnout” isn’t a word Jesus and his disciples would be familiar with. But they faced the human reality that we can’t constantly spend our energies, even on those things that feel most important, without balancing it with some breaks – and, in the case of our faith, times for real spiritual nurture.

Your Session recently had an impromptu conversation about exhaustion in the church; and it is real. A church which maintains an active pace like ours (and folks new to us often comment on this) requires a lot of energy. Inevitably this means that at least some committed people at any one time will have feelings of burnout, which one author as described as the body’s doing the work, but the spirit’s not present. To a busy church life, add unexpected losses, drawing on our emotional and physical resources, and the general aura of discouragement so many sense in the world at large these days, and we have a mix that leaves many folks feeling depleted and less than joyful even about service in the church.

Taking a cue from Jesus himself (!), which we church leaders should always be more attentive to than we have been, we’ll be making this a theme for 2012.

There are many more aspects to our “recovery” than I can mention here. They include much more than just “time off” for busy people, though those who have served long at the same tasks may need encouragement to do that. Also important will be some reassessing of what we’re doing and what’s most valuable to continue, and what’s not, and offering more opportunities for refreshing the spirit.

Maybe nothing’s more important, though, than seeking to welcome the gifts of volunteers in those areas which they feel most suited for, and which can make them feel most glad. You can expect (I hope!) more use of what members have shared on the time and talent commitments for this year, as areas of our life together in which they might truly feel called to join in. If you haven’t completed a time and talent form for 2012, it’s not too late to do that! They’re available in the church entryway, or just ask.

Peace,

Rod