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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Is Your Spiritual Tank Empty Or Being Filled?

Have you ever been on a long car journey, when you realise that the fuel gauge is running low and you don’t know where the next Service (Gas) Station is?

This happened to my husband Malcolm (aka ‘The Hunk’) and I many years ago, during a long trip between Christchurch and Nelson in New Zealand.

A situation like that can do one of two things. It can cause your marriage relationship to suddenly deteriorate – or it can cause your prayer life to suddenly improve. The first option is especially tempting when you realise that if ‘someone’ had paid attention and filled up before you began the trip, you would not be in this predicament!

What a relief it was, when we finally pulled up to a Service Station a little way out of Blenheim.

It’s Time to Check the Tank

The New Year is an opportunity to do a personal resource check and to ask:

  • Do I have enough of the right fuel in my tanks—physically, emotionally and spiritually—to go the distance for all God has for me in the coming year?
  • If I am depleted in any area, what will it take for me to be replenished?
  • What is the first step?

The first and most important check we need to do is, ‘Am I vitally connected to God?’

God wants to be the very Source of our life.

At a crucial time in Jerusalem’s history, God spoke to His people through the Prophet Jeremiah, saying:

“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13)

To put it simply, God was saying, “My people have made the wrong resource choice.”

The Gihon Spring was the only permanent source of water to the city of Jerusalem—the people’s very means of life. So the picture of turning away from the living spring and looking for other sources of water was a relevant one to them.

When God gets Shifted Off-Centre

Reading in Jeremiah and elsewhere, you discover what God meant by Judah’s ‘broken cisterns.’

He was referring to two main things –

  • Judah still had God’s temple, and they still made a show of worshipping Him, but they worshipped idols as well.
  • Instead of looking to God when they needed deliverance, they looked to other nations for help – nations that worshipped other ‘gods’ and gave glory to those ‘gods.’

What had happened? The people of Jerusalem still had God in their lives, but God was no longer their chief source. He was kind of like an add-on.

Sometimes we can be like that, even without realising it. We still have God in our lives, we may even be serving Him, but we have shifted Him off-centre. And when God is not at the centre, we are spiritually dry, empty and don’t work properly.

And yet, our Father is so full of grace and mercy. Today, if you feel spiritually dry, and if you recognise that somehow you have shifted God away from the centre of your attention and your life, He comes to you saying,

“I am the source of life – and if you make me the Source of your life, I will be as a spring of living water to you.”

All The Resources of Heaven

The concept of God being like a spring of living water to us is a powerful one.

Here is an amazing fact: At any one time, most of the world’s fresh water is not on the surface of the ground, in places we can see like rivers and lakes.

Instead, most of our fresh water lies deep underneath the ground. We call this hidden water, ‘groundwater.’ And groundwater travels beneath the earth through special gravels and soils. When one of these ‘aquifiers’ meets the surface, a spring bubbles up.

So when God says, “I am the spring of living water,” He is using a powerful illustration to say, “In Me all the unseen resources of heaven are there to back you up.”

As you enter this New Year, God offers all of Himself to you, to be your Source, your Provider.

He offers you all of His fullness, all of His grace.

He gives you access as His son and daughter into His very Presence.

He makes available to you through prayer, all of the resources of heaven

His Holy Spirit resides within you, an immeasurable, Heavenly source of life, waiting to be tapped into and released.

Today is an opportunity to refocus your life. To turn away from every distraction, every dependency that is not of God.

And put Jesus at the very centre of your life once again.

Related Posts:

This Can Be A Year Of Visitation From God

7 Signs Of Spiritual Dryness

7 Ways To Combat Spiritual Dryness

If you enjoyed this article, you can listen to the full audio message ‘Source of Life’ by Helen Calder from the Enliven Blog podcast page

© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

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