For the first time in a very long time I’ve now got time to think. Like, really think. Moving countries twice in 13 months definitely took its toll on me in a lot of ways, but one of them was it took away my space and ability to think and process these thoughts. So watch out world…….I’m spending a lot more time by myself these days and therefore…..all the words I have….they may just appear on here….
I’ve been thinking about ‘burn-out’ in terms of ministry burn out and what brings people to that point. I’m not even sure what the clinical or professional definition of burn out would be, other than the loss of motivation to carry on with whatever ministry obligations one is supposed to be carrying on with. I once heard someone give the statistic that youth pastors survive two years in the job before burning out. I don’t know a stat for overseas missionaries, but I would be interested to hear it. And then I’d love to know how that compares with missionaries who stay in their home culture but their main job/ source of income would be Christian ministry of some form. How quickly do they burn out and how can we avoid this? I’m sure the info is out there, I just need to track it down.
My husband and I are fortunate. We were overseas doing mission work for nearly six years, and now we’re back in our own culture, but the mission work continues. We’re fortunate though because we’ve avoided burning out. But if I were to sit down and ponder this really closely and honestly with you, I think we, well really I, came pretty close to it a number of times. I don’t think the desire to chuck it all in and run away from home is a very healthy mindset to have, and I’ve felt that way a few times. And recently too.
Any walk that is walked alone is harder than it needs to be.
I harp on and I harp on in this blog about the need for community and for people to have people. And I still believe that is so very true. And I wonder with all my might, in my very simplistic way of thinking and looking at the world, if the very antidoteC to burn out, is to have someone in your life asking you how you are on a regular basis. Someone other than your husband/ wife, that is making the effort to actually inquire about you. Not asking about your partner, your kids, your ministry, your extended family, but YOU. Making you a priority.
Why do I think this is so important? Because we feel things. You and I feel things. And we need to have these feelings either validated, or squashed beneath our feet. We need to know that what we feel actually matters, and that we’re not alone in these feelings. We need to have these feelings taken to the Lord, and to gain His wisdom and insight into our issues. And sometimes we can’t do this by ourselves. Sometimes we get stuck in the moment. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we’re so used to making sure that everyone around us is ok that we don’t focus on ourselves.
What I am talking about is more than having someone we’re accountable to. It’s about having someone who is actually invested in us. Who makes us a priority.
What if everyone in Christian ministry of some shape or form had someone in their lives who was interested in them as a person with feelings…then I wonder what would happen to burn out rates then?
Now you may be thinking that surely this is already happening in most missionaries lives? Surely the organisations are looking after their people. Well some are and do and do a fantastic job at this. And some missionaries/ ministry workers are very good at having this in place in their lives. But not all. Not everyone wants to talk about their feelings. And not everyone knows what happens when their feelings aren’t listened to. Until it is too late. They want to run away from everything they know and love.
Now maybe not everyone needs to talk about their feelings as much as maybe I would like to be able, and that’s ok, but i do think most if not all people need to be able to process things, and if having someone who is able to hear you out helps, then awesome.
So why am I bothering to open up about this here and talk about my own simple thoughts and findings on a matter…….because if you’re reading this you’re likely to be a fellow Christian. If you have someone in your life who is involved in Christian ministry, can I implore you, start simply asking them about them. Not their family, not their ministry, not their spouse, but them. You may be the only person to do so, you’d be surprised. And if you’re in some form of ministry and all of a sudden get asked to share your heart, embrace that. You’re not dumping on someone, someone is actively showing they care for you and about you. Embrace it.