I’m living in Central Oregon with it’s multitude of forests. Prior to the spotted owl days, the lumber industry was thriving here and your house probably has some wood in it from one of our Oregon forests!
Because we have wood, we also have fires! Every summer the air is filled with smoke at some point, and if the burn is close, we’ll even get ashes. Have you ever traveled through a burned out forest? That’s not a pretty sight. Formerly beautiful, majestic trees pointing their black, charred ruins toward the sky. Black ground spreading out for acres devoid of clover and flowers. No bees, insects, birds, deer or coyote in sight. Burnout is a devastating, deadening, and ruinous reality.
And for Christian workers, there’s an experience similar to the forest fire that we call “Burnout.” George Stahnke, Chaplain in the Counseling department at Focus on the Family, and also the founder and director of Renewal Ministries of Colorado Springs, which includes private counseling and is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, defines it here:
“Exactly what is “burnout”? In psychological terms, it refers to long-term exhaustion resulting in diminished interest in work. It’s a state of mind in which continual, unrelieved stress can produce feelings of depression, hopelessness, and helplessness. Typically, these feelings are accompanied by a loss of coping skills at home and the office. This leads to negative attitudes towards work, ministry, family and self. Ministry leaders will often report that they experience decreased mental energy and initiative. There is also a loss of confidence, increased anxiety, angry flare ups, and emotional detachment. The list goes on as one becomes increasingly less effective.
Is there a way to avoid “burnout”? My answer is “yes”! And I’d suggest that the first step is realizing that you’re vulnerable. This phenomenon is especially prevalent among ministers. According to an article in the New York Times (August 1, 2010), 40% of pastors and 47% of pastoral spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. And 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. If you don’t fall into that category now, there’s a pretty good chance that you will at some point in in the future – unless you make up your mind to do something about it.”
If you are a Christian worker will you take George’s warning, “ . . . there’s a pretty good chance you will suffer burnout at some point in the future — UNLESS . . .”
How about planning a personal retreat to one of the Life Impact or Partner Oases, or blocking out a week someone for retreat and renewal?