Thursday, July 26, 2007

Q&A #5: Fried?

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

OP (brought to the table by my friend Steve):

Christian musician/recording artist Saun Groves recently taught about the situations that can lead to ministry burnout, and how to address them. Shaun questions whether the "model" of many church infrastructures, and the culture's influence, may be adding fuel to the fire. But there's more to it than that. How can we help one another prevent/recover from burnout? Here's a segment from Shaun's blog,

"....I got up late and “taught” about burn-out. Really, I’m getting paid to tell my story and remind folks of some very basic things I stopped believing and doing that left me physically, relationally and spiritually unhealthy. Afterwards, several people came by to tell me their story. A pastor’s wife, a single music minister working two other jobs as well, a seminary student wishing they taught this basic stuff in school - all burned out or believing they’re headed that way. It was rewarding to say something so simple and see immediate results - people feeling less alone and weird than before, people resolving to quit jobs or ask for a more clear job description, people vowing to take a vacation or take their wife out on a date. These aren’t world changing resolutions but they could save a marriage, extend the life of a person, build a better dad and a healthier church.

The thing I kept thinking was “Is there something inherently unhealthy about our current church model in America?” The problem of burnout is so rampant, it seems, that it makes me wonder. Is the problem how we respond to the model we have or is the problem the model itself? Or is it a combination of the two? What do you think?"


MilePost13 said...

Shaun asks some good questions. I'll ask, in addition, that we remember the pupose of this blog...that we can't just discuss what the problem is, but that we must also discuss how we can practically bring about change in our own churches.

I think every church, in the very least, must keep the danger of burnout on the radar at all times. Even those growing churches that seem to have a handle on the problem are not that way because they have simply been passive about it.

A couple of quick thoughts to get the discussion moving:

A church that is not in danger of burnout on at least some level is a church that is not fulfilling it's mission. Just because a church can claim that it is "healthy" because everyone is happy does not mean that it really healthy in a missional, Biblical sense. While burnout is never a good thing, it can be a sign that a church is anything but stagnant (or "lukewarm" as the Bible puts it).

The "Simply Strategic" Series by Tony Morgan & Tim Stevens is an awesome resource for this topic. Especially look into "Simply Strategic Growth" and "Simply Strategic Volunteers" for lots of good stuff related to burnout.


MilePost13 said...

Hey you know what church model Shaun is talking about here?


shaungroves said...

I disagree with Milepost13, or at least with what I THINK he's saying, and I could be very wrong in my interpretation of his words I admit.

Burnout, or living on the edge of it, is not a badge of honor, a symptom of working hard for the "kingdom." If we define burnout as clinicians do - as a lack of vision, empathy, energy, life - then we can't at the same time say it is a symptom of serving a life giving, vision inspiring, compassionate God.

The issue of burnout is tied, in my experience, to many many other issues we're all afraid to address: What is success for a church? What is the mission of the church? What is the Good News, the gospel, the point of the Christian's, and minister's, life and work? Is it possible to be faithful and not "successful?" Why do we choose the jobs we've chosen as ministers? Why the churches we've chosen? Is the church today still engaged in the essentials the early church engaged in? Is the church today engaged in non-essenatials no church before it engaged in? What is expected of church members then and now? How should a church be run similarly to and differently from a corporation or non-profit? In what ways is a pastor a CEO and in what ways can he not be? What is the biblical model of church, of church leadership and of work?

It's dangerous to equate a church and a minister to a CEO and a corporation and draw the conclusion that a hardworking, dead tired pastor is one who is doing his job well. Wrong. THis may not be what you're doing, but in case it is...let me explain.

A CEO's job is, in part, to keep his job. A pastor's job, in part, is to replicate himself and replace himself, therefore, spreading out his work load over his force (disciples) and creating a more open-source egalitarian army of co-workers. This is very different from the individualistic Western model of corporate renegade we're trying to model in the church today.

Bi-vocational delegators making disciples, I believe, don't burn out as easily as do-it-all CEO/expert types trying to get all the work out of himself and 1% of the congregation and focussed mainly on numeric goals and self-preservation and with most of his effort/time/talent/money poured into this week's event/service, which does not usually yield the kind of fruit we're supposed to be yielding: disciples.

This issue, for me, isn't as much about getting pastors healthy as it is getting the church healthy. So much of the stress pastors feel comes from leading a church without understanding what a church is supposed to be and what a leader of one is supposed to be and not loving people who love them.

Figure out what's essential to being church and pastor. Do only those things while also loving kids and spouses and burnout dissipates. I promise.

MilePost13 said...

Hey, Shaun! Thanks for taking the time to post.

I couldn't agree more with what you are saying. I think we're talking the same thing in a different way.

My point, and it may not be a strong one, was this:

1) Burnout in and of itself is never a good thing. It is not a badge of honor or anything to be glorified. I know this from experience...

2) Burnout can be a sign of a growing church. Every growing, maturing, purposeful, missional, Biblical church experiences growing pains, and burnout is one of the most common of those growing pains. The "best" of churches identify the burnouts and learn and grow from them and learn to prevent them. While, no sane church or person wants to learn things the hard way, and I believe that burnout is not what God wants of us, He neither will waste that hurt on a church that is willing to learn and grow. Again, I know this from experience...

3) Burnout can also be a sign of a dying church. A dictator pastor, a democratic church govt., a program-driven strategy, a lack of Godly vision...these are all things that can kill a church by killing it's people. Unfortunately, I also know this from experience...

Several years ago, our pastor got up one Sunday night during a church conference and officially resigned. After the innitial shock, he went on to explain what he was resigning from...all of the small, everyday tasks around the church that he was doing because he felt they had to be done but that he had also come to realize were taking away from what he was really supposed to be doing. Our church is now one of the most balanced churches I have ever heard or seen when it comes to ministry. Nearly every member (above 90%) is involved in ministry (a reverse of the 10%/90% rule). Each of our pastors are focused on the roles that they have been gifted for. It's not perfect, but it's good.

And, now, we're beginning a transition into a true, missional church, in which every member is a true missionary. We're turning our focus outside the doors of the church. We're empowering everyone to minimize their time at the church doing ministry so that they can maximize their time in the community living their lives, doing mission.

I may be wrong, but, again, I think Shaun and I are talking about the same thing here (which is why I started this discussion).


MilePost13 said...

Read my lead pastor's latest blog to read a little more about our next big transition.


MilePost13 said...

bummer...was hoping that Shaun would continue the conversation here...oh well.