Preventing Ministry Burnout: 6 Questions You Can Ask

Preventing Ministry BurnoutIt is now 4 years since I spent a year recovering from burnout. [1] These days, my approach to life and ministry is different as a result of the things I have learned. Here are 6 questions I regularly ask, and encourage others to do also:

1. Am I Living from the ‘Rest’ of Sonship?

Sons and daughters know that we are already pleasing to our Father and affirmed by Him. Therefore, we do not need to strive to bring Him pleasure. We can rest in, and live out of that immense security. Our identity is not in a role, but in being ourselves—a much-loved child of God.

An ‘orphan spirit’ can lead to burnout, if insecurity drives us to perform, succeed or keep up appearances. An inner drive to conform (in order to please God or people) causes us to try to be or behave in some way that is not true to the way God made us, which will ultimately deplete us to the point of burnout. [2]

2. What is Motivating Me?

When busy and weary, we need to re-examine our motivation and why we are finding it so difficult to take a break. [3]

The most revealing question is not, ‘Why am I doing this?’ but ‘Why can’t I say ‘no’ to (or pause from) seemingly good or important things, if it is getting to the point that they are having a negative impact on my:

  • Physical, emotional and mental wellbeing
  • Devotional life and spiritual health
  • Relationships with ‘significant others’ (spouse, family members, close friendships)

3. Am I Being Replenished?

Staying filled and energised does not come automatically. It takes time and intention.

This does not only relate to times of trial. I have learned that good emotion, such as excitement in ministry, also has the effect of depleting me emotionally—and I need to pay as much attention to re-charging during times when things are going well.

Am I keeping the Sabbath principle? God gave us the Sabbath Rest for a purpose.

Important questions related to this are:

  • ‘What are the activities, people and places that replenish me personally?’ and
  • ‘Am I putting these into practice?’

4. How are my Personal ‘Tank’ Levels?

Self-awareness does not always come easily to us, but it is something we have to grow in if we are going to stay replenished and prevent burnout.

We need to regularly check how much we have in reserve in the capacity of our:

  • Emotional health
  • Mental / ability to think clearly and concentrate
  • Physical health and energy
  • Spiritual condition

What I can handle and my rate of depletion will be different to that of someone else. For example, a busy ministry schedule that includes social activities depletes me faster emotionally than it does someone who is extroverted by nature. I may have greater capacity than others in different areas.

We should not feel guilty if we are feeling drained, or try to keep up with others.

Important questions relating to this are:

  • ‘What are the signs that I am running low in one or more of the above areas?’ and
  • ‘Am I paying heed to these signs when they occur?’

5. Am I Personally Connecting with God?

If I was to remove my communication with God relating to ministry commitments, and praying for other people or situations, what is left?

When was the last time I heard God speak to me personally, and what did He say?

Spiritual Pathways have been the most helpful tool for me to connect with God. I discovered that taking time apart with God in the wide-open spaces of creation was one of my greatest means of connecting with Him, along with worship music and times of solitude in His Presence. How are you wired to connect with God?

6. How am I Responding to the Environment Around Me?

We need to regularly step back and review our environment and the effect that it is having on us. This may include a family or living arrangement, church or ministry situation, or a study or vocational setting.

An environment may be stressful or cause us to carry more weight or responsibilities for a season—such as in times of change. When in transition, it is important to see a start and finish time, and to manage the in-between. When transition becomes open-ended, the danger of burnout increases.

An environment can deplete us emotionally during times of trial or tragedy. In times like these we need the help of others to manage both our environment and our own need to recover and replenish.

A continual over-emphasis on performance, work and results, to the detriment of relationships with others and God, home life and personal wellbeing is unhealthy. I add quickly, here that the presence of a high work ethic, excellence and measurement of results does not constitute an unhealthy environment. A challenging environment in which one person thrives, can be toxic to someone who is insecure or striving for acceptance.

Judging or blaming an environment (or leader) for our own weariness or depletion will disempower us and hinder us from taking the action we need to get better.

When we find ourselves in an environment that depletes us, we can only survive long term to the degree that we can ‘swim against the tide’ and maintain our own environment of rejuvenation in the midst of it.
This will require saying ‘no’ when necessary, being humble enough to ask for help when we need it—and being so secure in God’s love that the approval of people is not driving our labour.


[1] I tell some of the background and reasons for my experience of burnout in these posts:

No Longer an Orphan: How I Discovered the Father’s Love

1 Father, 2 Sons, 3 Positions: Which One Describes You?

[2] For articles on the Orphan Spirit, see Enliven Blog’s Orphan Spirit Category

[3] See Martha article on 4 Traps to Avoid in our Service to God

Related Posts:

Rest is not an Option: Father’s Sabbath Plan for Your Life

How to Discover Your Spiritual Pathway

7 Signs of Spiritual Dryness

Can you think of any more questions related to preventing ministry burnout? Do you have any thoughts or experiences to share? Leave a message in the comments box. If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.

© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

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9 thoughts on “Preventing Ministry Burnout: 6 Questions You Can Ask”

  1. Dear Helen, thank you so much. I Absolutely Love your Teaching, it is Filled to Overflowing, with the PURE WISDOM of GOD.
    This is a poem I wrote recently called “GOD BREATHE into me”

    GOD Breathe into me
    Open Up my Eyes to See
    Winds of Heaven Begin to Blow
    Rivers of Healing Water, from Heavens Throne Room, Begin to Flow
    Flowing so Peacefully, from Heavens Throne Room, I hear HIM calling me
    With a gentle whisper, just so Heavenly

    Like the Dawning of a New Day, inside of Me
    JESUS Opens Up my Eyes to See

    GOD is BREATHING New HOPE, into my Heart
    GOD is Stirring New HOPE, inside my Soul
    GOD is Stirring the Healing Waters of Heaven, and making me Whole

    Yes, Let the Healing Begin
    Rivers of Living Water, Flowing from Deep Within
    Let the Oil of Heaven, Flow All Over me
    Anointing my eyes to See

    I Belong to CHRIST, and HE Belongs to Me
    I’m Connected to the TRUE VINE, you See
    HE Nourishes me, and Satisfies my Soul
    HE gives to me New Life, Joy, Peace and Strength, and makes me Whole
    Yes, JESUS will ALWAYS CARRY me, through every Season of my Life you See

    Poem by Irene Kyriacou

  2. Thank you Irene, love it! I feel refreshed just reading it! May the prophetic and poetic continue to flow 🙂

  3. So true.
    I love Number#5. When doing ministry, it’s too easy to think we are spending time with God, but we are really just doing things for Him. God constantly draws me back to the story of Mary and Martha. My Heavenly Daddy doesn’t need my work, He just wants to be with me!
    <3 JoSarah

  4. Hi JoSarah,
    thank you for leaving a message! Yes this is such an easy trap to get into when busy with ministry.
    I am going to be sharing about Mary and Martha at a women’s camp tomorrow morning – a message on ‘having an open posture towards God’ – very close to my heart right now 🙂

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