There was a time when if you asked someone how they were, the answer was usually ‘good’. Now, the answer is most likely to be ‘busy’. Some busy is good, too much can lead to burnout.
A recent study by the University of Western Sydney wrestled with the issue of burnout for those in ministry. It has been a chronic problem with pastors, with a significantly high number of people who start out in pastoral ministry not finishing.
Rather than focussing on how to prevent burnout, it focussed on how to foster high levels of work engagement. They defined ‘work engagement’ as ‘a state of positive work motivation characterised by vigour, dedication, and healthy absorption in work.’ Burnout is not just an issue for people in ministry, it is a danger for any of us. So how do you offset the possibility of burnout and move to engagement? Here are some of the findings of the study.
1) Build both job and spiritual resources. In other words, engage in practises that help you walk closely with God, whether it be personal bible study, prayer, solitude, or joining a small group. Also approach your day with a mindset of what does God want you to do today? This will help stimulate positive thoughts about the meaning, importance, and significance of the work you are engaged in.
2) Identify the different job demands you face and how you experience them. Which demands do you experience as toxic and what may be challenging but positively extends you in your role?
3) Each day, take regular and effective breaks that allow you to emotionally recharge following peak periods of work. Taking a focused period of personal detachment from work to recharge daily has been shown to be most beneficial for daily engagement in work. Seek some time throughout your day to reconnect with God, whether it be a short prayer, listening to worship music, or reading a piece of Scripture.
Our connection with God is simply a key factor in our capacity to either burn bright, rather than burn out.