The word burnout means “the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.” It can also mean “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” Both definitions are applicable when it comes to ministry burnout.
One of the big reasons for ministry burnout is our inability to say no. I don't mean saying knowing to God. If God wants you to do anything he gives you the resources, including the time, and energy, without pressure, to get it done. I’m not talking about saying no to your spouse or children. Saying yes to them is almost always filled with blessing and satisfaction. I’m talking about our inability to say no to; bosses, coworkers, friends, Christian brothers and sisters, pastors or spiritual leaders.
When you’re in ministry you are expected to be a servant, and you are, but because you are, some perhaps most people, think that you should do anything they want or need need, at the “drop of a hat”’, no matter what else is going on in your life.
Whenever you want to say “No, I’m tired” or “No, I just don't want to do it”, you feel guilty and think “I chose to be in ministry” or “I chose to volunteer, as a minister or volunteer. I'm a servant and that means to serve, no matter what”. Whether you want to admit it or not, you think that you have to say yes even if that service is detrimental to you or our family. Because you feel guilty you don’t say no to those outside our families but say no to the people closest to you. You might even try to justify it by saying that “Satan never takes time off”. Satan should not be your example.
Burnout can be experienced in a variety of ways and they can have a compounding effect on each other:
Start Saying No It Is Not A Sin
There really is grace, love, acceptance, and freedom in Christ, and if you want to find it, start by saying no. It’s not a sin.
There are a lot of great ministries out there, but that doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to be a part of all of them. I know saying no is especially difficult when a pastor or church leader asks you to say yes, because we are to;
Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
That scripture goes right along with;
Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
These scriptures and others when used to manipulate us to get us to say yes, even to good things like ministry, ignore another scripture that I think carries much more weight;
Acts 5:29 (NLT) But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.
God commands rest.
The Bible says that those who will not rest are disobedient .
Exodus 31:14 (NKJV) You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
Deuteronomy 5:12 (NKJV)12 'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.
The Commandment with the most written about it is the one commanding rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NLT)8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
Shabbat is the original Hebrew word for our English word sabbath. It comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tavand means “to cease, to end, to rest.”
Here’s something that I read a couple of years ago in a blog post by guy named Steve Graves about the balance between work and rest. It’s an excerpt from Work Hard Rest Hard.
I believe we are all designed to have a balanced rhythm of work and rest. Here are ten insights that have helped me recapture and maintain that sense of balance in my life’s journey. They’re not rocket science, but I’ve found their simplicity and clarity helpful:
You have specific gifts and passions, along with limitations on your time, energy, and financial resources: obey God, rather than men, in how you will use them.
Start saying No! It's not a sin and it can save you from ministry burnout!
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.