Battling Church Burn-Out and Exhaustion

rosemarychungphotography asked a question:

How do you deal with church burn out (exhausted from serving, attending church, etc.) and the pain associated with it?

Hey my dear friend, thank you so much for your honesty.

Four quick thoughts on church burn-out:

1) Please be absolutely honest about what’s going on. 

Please talk with your pastor, your leaders, your team.  I don’t mean that we can go around saying “This church is burning me out.”  But sometimes simply talking it out can both release your clenched burden and also help navigate your feelings.  While complaining can be toxic, keeping it in is even more unhealthy.  Have a time with your pastor when you can say every single thing that’s on your mind, no matter how small you may feel it is.

2) Consider taking a long break.

At the very least, please continue attending your Sunday service, but at the very most, please consider stepping down from any kind of plugged in ministry.  This feels impossible for most people because we think either things will fall apart without us or that we’re being unfair to the team.  But what’s more unfair to yourself is to keep serving despite emptiness, and the worst thing is that you would fall apart while serving.  Everyone needs a sabbatical.  Your church will be fine with or without our serving; God is still sovereign.  You deserve a break.

3) Consider serving in a different position or delegating duties.

I find that many people who burn out were serving in positions they were never meant for, or they kept serving too “broadly” by not delegating their responsibilities.  Ask your leaders to change it up.  Sometimes serving in a different position will also help you see what others are doing, which will help to resolve any bitterness you may feel towards other teams and members.

4) Please don’t give up, and pace yourself.

Serving is hard work. While the Bible will continually tell us to rest, to be restored, and to be renewed, there are also just as many passages that say we must do everything with all our might and to deny ourselves in service of others.  It was never going to be easy.  I’m certain you know this already, but I think the hard part is knowing our own pacing. We do need regularly scheduled rest and at least one sabbath per week. We also need to pour out our very best with the gifts we have.  So when you can rest, do absolutely nothing and be content with silence.  When you are serving, do absolutely all you can and be filled by His strength.  There’s a rhythm for this, and we all have a different tempo to recharge, and I pray you’ll find what works for you.

— J.S.

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5 thoughts on “Battling Church Burn-Out and Exhaustion

  1. One thing about burnout, is thinking that you have to perform for God or you are not a good Christian. Christ did it all for us and wants us to rest and not strive. No people pleasing but resting from work and enjoying Jesus. I have been there and earned my badge. Much better to rest.


    1. I’ve been there! My husband was the Sr. Pastor at a small church for 14 years. We were involved in almost every ministry because of the size. Sadly, my thoughts became so consumed with ‘this is never going to end’ rather than experiencing any kind of joy. I was e m p t y. It was when my husband and I started attending a Worship service at another (mega) church, on a night that we didn’t have anything, that my cup was filled again. I’m not saying this is the answer for everyone, but you HAVE to do something. Take a break, join some type of group with others who are in the ministry – SOMETHING. Most importantly – pray about it.


      1. Great answer. I think those who pour out forget to be filled regularly. We get consumed with doing instead of being. I know you’ve probably heard all those things before, but I forget as a pastor that I also need mentoring, counseling, accountability, and a service to attend. I try to attend at least a few services at another church per month, during the week. It sounds weird to say, “Try more church to help burn-out with church,” but for most exhausted ministry staff, this is exactly what they need.


    2. It can be tough for a pastor to find time away from their duties, but there’s no simpler way than to say, find the time to rest. Most pastors (including me) enter into a control-death-grip over ministry because we’re worried things will fall apart without us. I’m not saying that’s your case, but that’s very often our motive. There just has to be at least a day per week with family or solo where we can shut it all down. The church members have to respect that particular time too. All this can be taught if a culture of rhythm is properly cultivated. I’m making it sound easier than it really is, but if any of the burn-out is due to pride and an unwillingness to let go, that should be examined.

      Now if it’s a brutally punishing church culture, that needs to be addressed quickly behind doors. It’s a messy one-on-one confrontation that needs to happen. I hate it too. But the only way to get the elephant out of the room is to talk about it first. I know pastors who will go directly to the source of conflict or gossip or animosity and hash it out immediately. Too many pastors are afraid to do that, and while in the short-term we presume it’ll blow over, in the long-term it’s a time-bomb. I think we’d all be surprised how smooth things become after a few rough conversations to express our thoughts and misunderstandings.


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