There’s been a lot of talk lately in ministry circles about burnout since Pete Wilson stepped down as lead pastor at Cornerstone Church, a megachurch he founded and has served at for 16 years. His reason for stepping down isn’t moral failure or negligent sin.
His reason for stepping down was simply that he was tired.
Since he stepped down, I have seen numerous articles about burnout posted in ministry circles. How to avoid burnout. How to recognize burnout. How to recover from burnout. I’ve read tons of advice; everything from maintaining a Sabbath and setting boundaries to making sure I exercise and establishing people to hold me accountable.
And all those things are good and right.
All those things may indeed help stem the physical and emotional strain ministry places on the body and mind that lead to burnout.
But I want to talk about something I haven’t seen discussed as much. Soul weariness. Deeper than the physical symptoms. More complex than the emotional burden. Paul seems to describe it well when he writes, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor. 11:28, 29).
For those of us who serve children, youth, and families in the church, it might read something like this…
“Besides preparing curriculum, training volunteers, meeting with parents, visiting with children, interacting with the congregation, working with church staff, planning VBS and Christmas programs, visioning with ministry councils, cleaning classrooms, communicating with the whole church, coordinating family and community activities, comforting the hurting, educating caregivers, serving the community, creating space for discipleship, maintaining ongoing programs, establishing new programs, filling activity packets, replenishing snacks and wipes, complying with safety regulations, holding sticky hands, changing stinky diapers, etc. (the stuff that leads to physical burnout)…
…we face the daily pressure of our concern for all the churches.
Who is being discipled when they leave the church building?
Who is being lead astray by peers or media?
Who is being bullied and is afraid to tell anyone?
Who is facing immeasurable pain but can’t express it?
Who is fighting illness? Or who’s loved ones are losing battles to cancer?
Who doesn’t know the love of Jesus?
Who is angry and hurt and bitter and needs healing?
Who is weak, that we do not feel weak?
Who is lead into sin, and we do not inwardly burn?”
How many tears do we shed when we read the statistics about young people leaving the church?
How do our hearts break when we know that studies show families spend less than ten minutes a week talking about Christ at home?
How do our souls grow weary when we are met with the fact that the very ones we pour ourselves into each week, each day, for years, will likely walk away from the faith when they reach their 20s unless others take up the torch and keep the fire lit for years to come?
Being soul weary can’t be cured by exercise. By eating right. By getting plenty of sleep or even getting all of our questions answered.
Being soul weary can only find rest in one place.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 43 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,my Savior and my God.”
There is only one place for the weary soul to find rest. In the arms of the One who created our souls.
I was reminded at a Group Kidmin mini-conference I attended yesterday that without Jesus in our own lives, known by us and known by Him, we have nothing of eternal value to offer those who we minister to. For it is Jesus alone who sustains us like a vine sustains its branches.
It is Jesus alone who sees us and knows us and calls us. He alone is Creator of our souls and when our souls are weary, drug out, exhausted, and lay helpless before Him, He alone, as Good Shepherd, can pick us up, hold us close, heal the words, and restore the soul.
Fellow minister, fellow parent, is your soul weary?
Run to Jesus.
I’ll meet you there in the heart of prayer. His grace will meet us, as promised, in our time of need. For the One we serve is faithful. The One we serve is good. The One we serve knows how to restore weary souls.
Our invitation, weary souls, is to come.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. In the same way, my Spirit will help you in your weakness. You do not know what you ought to pray for, but my Spirit himself intercedes for you through wordless groans. And I who search your heart knows the mind of my Spirit, because my Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Yes, my weary soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.”
Matthew 11:28-29, Proverbs 3:24,Exodus 33:14, Jeremiah 31:25,Romans 8:26-27, Psalm 62:1, Psalm 4:8, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 62:5
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About the author
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com