Leadership in ministry can be very taxing. I know firsthand the demands that ministry can put upon a leader. There is a physical, spiritual and emotional load those in leadership bare. As a result of ministry burnout many leaders end up out of ministry prematurely.
Evey leader experiences seasons of tiredness. The apostle Paul described himself as regularly weary and often going without sleep. Tiredness is normal, but ministry fatigue is dangerous. The reason I say fatigue is dangerous is because the step after fatigue is burn out.
Here’s a few identifiers and contributors to ministry fatigue. If these locate you, I encourage you, step back, get some R&R and allow the Lord to refresh your heart and vision.
1) Lack of a vibrant spiritual life – We are designed to function properly when our first and primary activity is intimacy with God. Without a vibrant flow of life from God, we will not have anything to sustain our own hearts nor to offer others. Leaders must prioritize intimacy with God first or they will find themselves running on empty. I believe this is the main contributor to burn out among leaders. Physical tiredness is nothing compared to spiritual dryness.
2) Lack of personal time – God built into our makeup the necessity for a sabbath. Often leaders try to ignore this truth. Because the needs of ministry seem so extreme or because of personal driven-ness, they neglect a weekly day of rest. Time off is essential. You can’t beat the system. God made you to need a day off EVERY week. Skipping a day off is not spiritual, it’s foolish.
3) Lack of sleep – There are seasons when ministry demands will require you to get less sleep. Paul was sleepless often. But you cannot function properly on little or no sleep over the long haul. Sometimes the most life giving thing for a leader is to get a good nights rest. At other times you might need a few weeks of good sleep to replenish. If you have neglected sleep because of the needs of ministry, I encourage you get some real sleep. I have found that when I’m tired even a nap can completely change my perspective.
1) Lack of vision – Rather than seeing the possibilities for what God has placed in front of you, a leader who is fatigued will default into pessimism. The problems will seem to outweigh the potentials. Your view will be askew. Fatigue can make everything seem far more challenging than it really is.
2) Lack of desire – When a leader begins to lose his desire to serve the Lord in the calling that He has placed in front of him it is a telltale sign that he is fatigued. If you’re lacking the desire to do what God has called you to do get some rest now. I have seen individuals who were extremely passionate about the assignment the Lord had placed before them lose all desire simply because they wore themselves out.
3) Lack of hope – Often leaders slip into discouragement and depression because of fatigue. I have often counseled leaders to take some time off for rest and relaxation as an antidote to their discouragement. After they got the proper rest they returned with a renewed sense of hope. It’s amazing how rest can be a solution to discouragement.
When you find yourself fatigued in ministry there is a single answer: Rest. Rest looks different for different people. Some find rest out in the woods, others on the beach, others working on a project around the house. Whatever rest looks like for you, know that it is the answer for leadership fatigue. You need rest. You require rest. God made you to rest. You cannot function effectively without real rest. Allow God the time to refresh your body and heart through rest and watch Him renew your vision.