Why your church staff burnout

Don’t pull an “Office Space” and smash work equipment

Has the slower US economy stretched our work force too thin and caused higher rates of burn out?

According to a new survey, 1 in 5 employees are burned out from their job. The USA Today reported the findings just how people feel about their work:

Since last year, the most significant growth in work priorities is no longer accomplishing basic responsibilities or improving their performance, but just showing up. “Being present” was the most important priority cited by 22% of workers — a 47% increase since the survey began in 2003 and a jump of 3 percentage points since last year.

Do we want people to just “show up” to work or feel empowered?

October is clergy appreciation month in many denominations and this brings added awareness to the epidemic of burnout in churches. In ministry employment, the problem of “pastoral burnout” is well noted, but many churches do little to combat it. Smartphones and social media have increased pastoral burnout, as The New York Times highlighted this problem back in 2010:

As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul… In the United Methodist Church in recent months, some church administrators have been contacting ministers known to skip vacation to make sure they have scheduled their time…

If these statistics, studies, and trends holds true, church staff employees are also feeling the effects of work burnout.

Don’t be a Bill Lumbergh

Many church staff in congregations perform several ministry functions even though they are not officially a “pastor”. Special attention to church staff (youth directors, associate ministers, musicians, office assistants, interns, educators, etc…) and their work wellness. Appreciating their work is not enough (a raise wouldn’t hurt). Pastors and church leadership need give more time off in a world where church staff have to do “more with less”. Micromanaging, low pay, unreasonable expectations, many evening commitments, and poorly managed church conflict all lead to staff burnout. Giving the standard “two weeks” vacation is another sure-fire way to burnout staff.

Years ago, Google allowed their employees to spend up to 20% of their work time on side projects. What if churches let church staff blog, create, dream, build, write, or encourage creativity through side projects? Allowing church staff to express themselves through under utilized skills or talents may help a church find a new ministry. In addition, it allows the church staff to explore and create – something that is innate within humanity. Suppressing creativity only leads to frustration. Churches would be well advised to use a Google-like project to guard against burnout.

It takes good leadership to set a culture of appreciation and empowerment. Exploring these ideas with staff will help them feel part of the solution to burnout and not part of the problem.

Get your copy of “The Work of the Associate Pastor” today. Amazon. Cokesbury. Judson Press. Barnes & Noble.

Alan Rudnick

Author's Website
About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education. http://alanrudnick.org

Read more posts by