An early warning can save a life. I live and pastor in Los Angeles, California. Here in SoCal, we are no strangers to earthquakes. This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. The 6.7 magnitude quake killed 57 people and injured more than 8,700. There was no warning. At 4:30 AM, most people were asleep.
On January 2nd of this year, an early detection app was launched to give people up to 10 seconds to prepare for an earthquake. ShakeAlertLA will work with the US Geological Survey to help people on the West Coast be ready for the worst.
I’m grateful for the early warning of an earthquake, but there is another type of shaking we can experience. It is the “quake” of burnout.
I previously wrote a post called, Resources for Pastors Struggling with Burnout, but lately, I have been thinking about the indicators, the dash lights, and the warning signs that a pastor is facing burnout. What if you could do a prayerful evaluation and detect the early warning signs that you are not taking care of yourself?
As I reflect on a season of burnout I experienced in 2007, I recognize I had greatly overestimated the pace of effective leadership. I was burning the candle at both ends. As I poured my life into ministry, I gave all of my energy and strength to revitalizing a plateaued church, as well as completing a building project.
I can honestly say, I was unprepared for the repercussion. Small signs began to present themselves that I was not in a good place, but I dismissed them. Ministry requires sacrifice, I thought. As time progressed, I found myself unhealthy. The burnout didn’t just affect my ministry. It impacted my physical and emotional health, my marriage, and my relationship with God.
I’m very thankful for God’s grace during this challenging season. I recovered and discovered ways to fulfill my calling and stay healthy at the same time. A loving wife, a wise denominational leader, a counselor, and a coach were all a part of restoring health and balance.
I also learned the importance of Proverbs 4:23 - “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
How nice would it have been if an app on my phone could have alerted me to the coming crisis?
I’m sure there are many warning signs of an approaching burnout, but in my experience, these four should have informed me of the coming danger. You might be struggling with exhaustion if you are experiencing these indicators.
1. You find yourself constantly irritable, negative, critical, and judgmental.
Have you become reactive? Are you often angry? Do you speak ill of others? Do you tend to believe the worst, instead of the best in people? Do those you love the most seem to experience the worst of you?
2. Marital strife is becoming the norm and not the exception.
The stress, tension, frustration, and weariness we experience in burnout are revealed to those who are the closest to us. Constant venting and arguing move to resentment in the home. Unresolved conflict creates distance in our relationships.
3. A lack of consistent prayer has led to an empty spiritual life.
Have you become so busy doing ministry that you have ignored being with Jesus? Fruitful ministry comes from the overflow of our relationship with Jesus. Spiritual power is gained as spend time before God on our knees. As we commit to personal prayer we recognize the truth of Jesus’ words in John 15:5 - “…apart from me you can do nothing.”
4. You have become hopeless that your church can move forward.
I’ve heard pastors say, “I’ve done all I can do here.” A sense of hopelessness can be a result of burnout. You find a way to shoot down every new idea. You don’t believe any ministry initiative will work. Your outlook has become pessimistic.
I pray that every pastor who reads this post will search their hearts for symptoms that indicate they are in an unhealthy place. If you see these warning signs in your life, please know you are not alone. Have an honest conversation with God, your spouse, and a trusted friend. Begin to take the necessary steps to regain your spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational health.
Remember this truth: God is more concerned with who you are in Christ than what you do for Christ. The being precedes the doing.
Comment Below: What have been the warning signs of burnout in your life?
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past