Spiritual burnout is a reality for children’s pastors. Children’s pastors are on the front lines fighting for a generation of children. The pressure is enormous. Demonic spirits fight us. The ministry we pour out drains us. Nobody has a clue as to what we do, and we feel like we’re all alone. The average children’s pastor lasts in the average church 1.5 years. How can we avoid burnout?
We can learn from a prophet in the Bible who was also on the front lines – Elijah. James 5:17 NKJV says “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours”. Elijah was called by God to confront 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mt. Carmel. He stood alone on the mountain. No other prophet of God stood with him.
Have you ever felt like you were standing alone? Have you ever lamented on not having the workers you need?
Elijah challenged them to a duel of sorts, whose God can bring fire from heaven. After an entire day of the prophets of Baal trying to bring fire from heaven, Elijah prayed and fire consumed the sacrifice. Then Elijah executed all 850 prophets with a sword. He wasn’t done yet. Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel and prayed six times for rain. After the seventh time, the rains came.
At this point, Elijah had to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted. He was probably running on adrenalin, and he was vunerable. He should have gone home and gone to bed for about a week. But he didn’t.
Imagine how tired you would be. How tired are you after a major, successful children’s ministry event?
Elijah was sure that this would be the end of Jezebel and Baal worship, so he ran to the city. Scripture said that he outran Ahab’s chariot. But when he got to the city, Elijah found that Satan doesn’t give up that easily. Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah plummeted into fear and depression, and he ran for his life.
God dealt with Elijah in a very unusual way. He didn’t answer Elijah’s complaints or correct him for his negative thinking. God put Elijah in a deep sleep for two days. During that time He sent angels to watch over Elijah and to cook Elijah meals to eat for the few times he did wake. God took care of Elijah’s physical and emotional needs first. Then God restored him spiritually. Basically, God loved on him.
So if Elijah was prone to spiritual burnout, how can we avoid it. We need to do what Elijah didn’t. We need to take time out for ourselves, for our families, and for our God.
Take time for yourself. We all need time to play: to pursue hobbies, play on the computer, watch movies, go on vacation, or just watch the sun set. There are those who say we should spend every free moment reading our Bibles and praying. I disagree. We need time to recharge ourselves emotionally. We need time to play. If we take that time, we honor God. Remember God created a day of rest for us.
Take time for your family. Your family is more important than ministry because it is the first ministry God gave you. Schedule date nights and family nights regularly. Honor God by ministering to your family.
Take time for God. So many in ministry get to the place where they only spend time with God in preparation for ministry. Remember, your ministry is not your God. God allows you to participate in His ministry, but your relationship with God should be more. Don’t be so busy with His ministry that you don’t spend time with God.
“But you don’t understand. If I take time to do all these things, the ministry will suffer. I’m the only one who will do this. If I take time out for myself, nobody else is going to get these things done.”
If you are making comments like this to yourself, you are all ready headed toward spiritual burnout. Re-evaluate everything you’re doing. What isn’t effective? Maybe you’re not supposed to be doing everything you’re doing. Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it all. Maybe you need to surrender a few things to God. Maybe you need to allow Him to be God.
Remember, it is God that bring laborers in to the harvest. It is God who is responsible for the results. It is God’s ministry and God’s children you are ministering to. God’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Give it to Him.