How to Dig out of Leadership Burnout

From time to time every leader and pastor face burnout. The well runs dry. He or she becomes weary in well doing. He runs out of gas. She simply has nothing left to give. When we totter on the precipice of burnout, what can we do? As I’ve faced those times during my ministry, I’ve learned a few ways that have helped me dig out.

  1. Recognize the symptoms
  • Everybody’s burnout looks a bit different. Sometimes burnout comes from doing too much outwardly with over busy schedules. Sometimes burnout comes from an inner world in turmoil: worry, incessant anxiety, and fear. I suggest starting with self-understanding. What does your burnout look like? Which of these factors might indicate you are burning out?
  • The joy you once had seems to have disappeared. You seldom have fun anymore.
  • You consistently sleep poorly.
  • You feel non-localized, free floating anger in your heart.
  • You catastrophize in your thinking, assuming the worse in people and life.
  • You easily snap, lose your cool with friends, families, or people in the church.
  • 2. Rest

  • After you recognize the symptoms, I’ve found that rest really helps. Whether it means taking time off, taking more breaks during your work day, getting more sleep, or trimming your schedule, the body and soul need rest. Neuroscientists have coined a term for excessive wear and tear on our body due to prolonged stress and burnout, allostatic load. When we don’t give our body and brains time to rejuvenate, we prolong our burnout and its negative effects.
  • 3. Revisit

  • Third, revisit your core values and mission. I encourage every leader to develop his or her own mission statement, their mission God has called them to achieve with His power. Most weeks when I do my strategic planning, I revisit my mission statement and personal values. If you’d like to see mine, you can click here. In this post I talk about the importance of developing your own personal values.
  • 4. Re-orient
  • The final step is to re-orient your time and effort to best live out your personal mission, without burning out. I suggest taking a half day alone to reset your goals and adjust how you use your time. Here’s a post on how to plan a retreat.

If you’ve faced burnout, what has helped you?

POSTED ON August 14, 2017
  • Randy Brockett

    What has really helped me in times of burnout and stress is to reconnect with God — giving thanks to Him for His many blessings, reading Scriptures, especially the Psalms, and worshiping Him. As I lift Him high I begin to rest in Him and release all the anxiety and stress as I give my to-do list over to Him.

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP 2014) an recommended leadership resource, and his most recent book, Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry”(Abingdon, May 2015). He blogs at