“Oh no…Pastor Brian’s name just came up on my phone…what does he want THIS time?”
What does your team think when your name comes up on their phone? Are they excited or indifferent? Empowered or exhausted?
If you’ve been around in church long, you’ve most likely been burnt out by a leader. As the ONLY electric guitarist at my church growing up, I vividly recall years of rough leadership, Sunday after Sunday, that left me spent and discouraged. I remember promising to God that if I were ever called to ministry, I would make sure I never burnt my people out.
How the tables turn…It turns out it was way harder than I thought.
At 22, I was handed a team of volunteers and set out to never over-schedule them, always listen to their needs, have donuts and coffee every single week. But as our church went through a transition, personnel changes, and a shrinking band, I started to rely on them more and more. Some understood the ride we were on, but others…not so much.
Soon, the same drummer was playing every week. If the ProPresenter operator was gone, I was scrambling and calling in favors. Many times it was either my wife or no female singer at all. I felt like I existed in a constant state of free-fall, and couldn’t understand why no one was available to serve the church and ease the burden! Didn’t they know what I was going through?
And then I realized, I forgot what I learned as a 15-year-old kid. I projected my feeling of being let down onto my teammates, creating distance and division.
If my team saw my name pop-up on their phone, I bet they thought to themselves a big “oh no…”
So what can we do as pastors to prevent burning our team members out?
The feeling of burnout starts with team members being overcommitted and ends with them feeling under-appreciated. But truth be told, it’s not being over-scheduled that’s the core issue. Rather, it’s almost always the result of a lack of a relationship. If I’ve learned anything from being a husband and a father, it’s that every important relationship needs constant nurturing and maintenance.
Now, to be sure, pastors aren’t the only cause of a team member being burnt out. Family stress, financial worry, and unexpected emergencies are all a part of living in the kingdom. But can you see why it’s so important to have an actual relationship with our team members? How can you support your team if you never got to know them in the first place?!
Here’s what YOU can do to prevent burnout on your part. I’ll call them, the “3 BE’s:”
Be a pastor first.
People first, people! Pray for your team often and find ways to connect with them on a regular basis. Team nights, coffee meet-ups, and time that isn’t directly related to worship band stuff can be incredibly life-giving and inspiring for your team. Give your team the space they need to deal with life and offer whatever support you can. In the words of Romans 12:10, outdo one another in showing honor. How can you show your team honor this week?
Be a consistent communicator.
Reach out to your team regularly. Write down their anniversaries, graduations, and celebrate their accomplishments. Mourn with them. Laugh with them. Whatever you do, it can’t be done if you aren’t communicating. Healthy boundaries are good, but not so “healthy” that you can’t be reached or seem disinterested. Demonstrate that you can be there for them. Romans 12:15-16 encourages us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and live in harmony with one another.”
If your church is going through a time of transition and you need extra support, keep it real with your team! Set a goal with your church to get you through that tough season. You’re not superman or a one-man show. Plus, the more your team members feel like you know them for who they are (and not what they do), the more likely they’ll be willing to rise to the occasion. Above all, keep Romans 12:12 in mind: rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
If you can come before God and say you did these things, however imperfectly as we all might, I can guarantee you’ll be the type of text, and leader, that brings a wave of relief to your team.