20 Lessons from a Ministry Burnout

I’ve got to know Dave Jenkins over recent years through his various online ministries and podcasts (Servants of Grace, Equipping you in Grace, etc). He recently published articles about his own experience of ministry burnout:

Part 1: My Story of Ministry Burnout: Idolatry, Unbelief, and the Gospel

Part 2: Resting in and Being Renewed by Christ

Part 3: Accountability, Friendship, and the Gospel

Part 4: Care for One Another in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel

Dave will be joining me to discuss these articles today at 1pm on Facebook Live, but here are some of the most important takeaways:

1. Burnout can come from doing too many good things.

2. Burnout ofter results from an inability to say “No.”

3. Some of the most common signs of burnout are anxiety and depression.

4. Overworking is counter-productive because in the long run it leads to less work being done.

5. A godly wife is the best source of accountability.

6. Draw up your schedule with your wife.

7. If overworking is your default, you will always be vulnerable to burnout and therefore have to take active life-long measures to combat it.

8. We are Christians first and ministers second, therefore growth in grace is more important than ministry.

9. Burnout may be the consequence of resting in our own efforts rather than in Christ’s blessing on our efforts.

10. Ministers have an influential role in modeling healthy life-work patterns.

11. Anxiety and stress produce serious physical problems like ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc.

12. Conversely, inner peace is curative for the whole person—body, mind, and soul.

13. Prioritize spending quiet time thinking about the Gospel, meditating on Scripture, and praying.

14. Worship gives a new perspective and helps us to prioritize the most important things.

15. Be fully present with your wife (translation – get rid of the phone!)

16. Do a few things well and the big things first.

17. Turn of the laptop at 5pm each day to force yourself to have finished your work by then.

18. Gospel-centered friendships are vital for both encouragement and accountability.

19. You are not alone. There are lots of people in your situation.

20. You need the community of the local church – be open and honest with your elders and fellow-members.

I’d encourage you to read all four articles in full. See you at 1pm.

More Grace-Paced Life resources here.

Check Out


Our Family’s Experience with ‘The New City Catechism” | Besty Childs Howard, TGC
“We know in this world our children will face many troubles. Athletes begin training months before competition. Soldiers train for years in preparation for potential conflict. We want our children to be ready with a reservoir of deep theology when the day of trouble comes.”

5 Ways Exercise Helps the Leader’s Mind | Eric Geiger
Summarized from Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John Ratey.

Research Claiming Sex-Change Benefits Is Based On Junk Science | Walt Heyer, The Federalist
Written by a man who transitioned to female and back again. He now mentors people who struggle with their gender identity. A unique and first-hand perspective on the issue. “Sex-change studies base their conclusions on as few as 10 percent of study subjects. The truth is, many people who follow Caitlyn Jenner’s path will deeply regret it.”

Why United’s PR Disaster Didn’t Fly | Michael Hyatt
“While it’s good to see United’s CEO do the right thing, even belatedly, the rest of us can take a lesson right now from his mismanagement of the crisis. If circumstances ever force you to address a public disaster, take a deep breath first and remember these three facts.”

Interview With the Satanist | Rutledge Etheridge, Gentle Reformation
“I asked him, ‘Didn’t you realize that Satan hates you?’ His reply was simple, and tinged with just a little of the condescending tone I deserved to hear in my naivete:  He said, with a slightly pitying smile, and a glint in his eye which suggested fond memories resurfacing, ‘Yeah, we knew Satan hated us.  But he gave us power.’”

Who Would Jesus Abort? Confessions of a “Christian” Abortion Doctor | Russell Moore
“Willie Parker is an abortion doctor. He says he’s not ashamed of that. Willie Parker also says he is a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. That one’s more complicated. His new book on why Jesus would support his abortion practice shows us the end-result of a cultural Christianity in which the self can redefine anything: Jesus, the gospel, morality, justice, even life itself.”

Young People Also Need an Abundance of Counselors | James Faris, Gentle Reformation
“What follows are brief sketches of six older men who influenced me significantly through my high school years. The Lord used many other wonderful coaches, teachers, and family members, including godly women, to shape me, but these are six men that the Lord used in special ways:”

The Navy Captain Who Said No to the Dream | TGC
“Voresa Booker is a retired Navy captain who served our country for over 30 years. A graduate of Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, she now calls Memphis home.”

Kindle Deals

Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski ($9.99)

Salvation by Crucifixion by Philip G. Ryken ($2.99)

14 Words from Jesus by James Montgomery Boice, Philip G. Ryken ($2.99)


12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
Buy Tony Reinke’s new book of the same title here.

The Happy Fruits of a Digital Diet

Here’s Jake’s testimony to the positive power of a digital detox in his life. I hope it inspires you in similar ways.

A year and a half ago I visited Pastor Martin. My visit bore two fruits: one is that he had lovingly admonished me about the weight I had gained since he last saw me (about 30 lbs). Since then I’ve put off that weight. The second is that he recommended the book by Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.  I purchased the book from Amazon and began reading on my flight home back to Texas (yes, on my Kindle app). It changed how I viewed the internet and the impact of technology on the mind. Quotes such as this one stuck with me:

I can’t read War and Peace anymore. I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.

It alarmed me that the untrained use and unrestricted allowance of the interference of technology in my life may have impaired my capacity to think and reason. I could relate to these words. Somehow reading had become difficult and focus elusive. Rarely did I ever enter into a state of deep concentration. When I made the attempt it was more frustrating than fruitful. My natural memory was quite poor, although it had been good when I was a child.

Two-Phase Recovery
After I finished the book in the Kindle app (which, ironically, prompted me to rate and review the book) the germ of resolution was planted in my heart to not let technology rule my ability to reason, think, remember or concentrate. My “recovery” took two phases: one was to rediscover how it is the mind should work (ie. how it should have been working without the impairment of untrained use of electronic devices), and I did this by reading and listening to what I could find on memory, concentration, attention, and improvement of the mind. The second phase was a more aggressive digital detox.

My digital detox meant seeking out the unwanted intrusions of technology in my daily life, and disabling them. I turned off e-mail notifications on my phone. I silenced all text and WhatsApp alerts except for messages that I get from Lydia. I had a weakness for browsing Facebook, and so I set an near-impossible password which I would have to cut and paste from an Excel document to log in. It was the only way I could keep myself from mindlessly logging on for amusement and wasting a daily half hour on trivialities.

I took some aggressive steps at my job too. I disabled e-mail pop-up notifications in Microsoft Outlook, and I disabled the sound alert my computer makes when I receive a message. Now I do not know that I’ve received any e-mails unless I make the effort to check. I work long hours this time of year because I am a CPA, and so I’ve come into the office quite early (6:00 AM) and I began shutting my door so I cannot be interrupted. As for the rest of the day, when it wouldn’t be appropriate to have the door shut all the time, I put in earplugs. The response wasn’t so negative as I feared, and a few seemed to think it was wise. I also stopped listening to podcasts and sermons while I work.

Robbed by Multi-tasking
Before the digital detox, if a problem came up I would get frustrated and struggle to fix it because I could not keep my thoughts together. My work rarely felt satisfying, and I would check my phone as a “quick escape” from whatever bothered me at the moment. I also did not realize that listening to sermons or lectures or music was robbing me of much-needed energy for focus, attention and memory. I spent much time answering distractions (texts, e-mails) and spent precious time trying to get my bearings and to refocus again.

I saw and experienced real, tangible changes. After detoxing, problems did not frustrate me so badly anymore, and I could get into a mindset to diagnose the problem and confidently resolve it. I found great satisfaction in my work. I bought myself hours of time where nobody and nothing would distract me from my work, and I could enter that state of deep focus and concentration. I began to enjoy a world of silence, even absent of the roar of traffic on the tollway outside my window. This is where I found myself doing my best and happiest work. In the midst of a heavy busy season I could keep a cool head and tackle issues confidently and effectively. I also found I could no longer listen to sermons or podcasts while working, even for the most rote of tasks. It demanded a portion of my mental energies which I had now learned to wholly use on the job, and a divided attention was a fast drain on my mental capacity.

It’s made a difference outside of work. I remember coming to an appreciation of a world where the phone did not always interrupt, where conversations with my wife were not disturbed by a text alert.

Spiritual Fruit
I believe it may have also produced spiritual changes. I had noticeably less difficulty getting myself into a focused state for devotions, and the fruitfulness of my meditations increased. My mind wanders less when I pray. I can focus better during sermons, even with a two-year-old at my side. The frustration that I would experience thinking through hard spiritual matters wasn’t there anymore, or at least not to the same degree. The most wonderful fruit of digital detox is the enlarged capacity to be a happier, more joyful Christian.

More Digital Detox resources here.

Digital Detox Roundup

Here’s your latest links for digital detox. More digital detox resources here.

A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful than an Email | Vanessa K. Bohns, HBR

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.

Along similar lines, read Learn to Lead Through the Power of Presence, which highlights how technology has given us fantastic tools, but has diminished the leadership art of presence.

To be a leader in your organization you must embrace the idea that a call or visit is sometimes the prescription for moving the needle, managing conflict and building strong relationships.  Here are 5 principles you should incorporate in your leadership routines:

  1. Pick up the phone when projects are stuck.
  2. With critical projects, visit peers and leadership face to face.
  3. Speak face-to-face in tense or combative situations.
  4. Send feedback after phone or face-to-face meetings.
  5. Call or visit when nothing is pressing.

If It’s Hard To Imagine A Day Without Your Phone, You Need To Do It | Gracy Olmstead, The Federalist

We’re all about cleanses and detoxing these days. Sometimes we emphasize these things to extremes. But perhaps an occasional break can show us what we’re missing—and prompt us to foster better habits throughout our daily lives.

The idea of a “day without devices” would be a similar concept to the idea of Meatless Mondays, just focusing on technology instead of food. It could focus on a day trip somewhere fun—to hike, picnic in the park, visit a museum, go on a bike ride, or explore a new neighborhood.

Amazon launches new features aimed at making parents’ lives easier | Nicole Gallucci, Mashable
Amazon introduces a new way to keep track of your kids’ media time with their new “Parent Dashboard.”

10 Things You Should Know about Your Smartphone | Crossway.org

  1. Your smartphone is not all bad.
  2. Your smartphone is not all good.
  3. Your smartphone amplifies your addiction to distractions.
  4. Your smartphone pushes you to evade the limits of embodiment.
  5. Your smartphone feeds your craving for immediate approval.
  6. Your smartphone undermines key literary skills.
  7. Your smartphone offers a buffet of produced media.
  8. Your smartphone overtakes and distorts your identity.
  9. Your smartphone need not have these negative affects (sic) on you.
  10. Your smartphone can be a tool for knowing and enjoying God.

How to be a Tech-Wise Family & manage kids, technology & family | Andy Crouch

All the best things we want for our families—our children and ourselves—involve creating, rather than consuming.

And the best way to have a creative life, rather than a consumer life, is to make it part of the furniture.

Fill the center of your life together—the literal center, the heart of your home, the place where you spend the most time together—with the things that reward creativity, relationship, and engagement.

Push technology and cheap thrills to the edges; move deeper and more lasting things to the core.

Cellphones, conferences, entertainment, and hockey | The Upward Call
Kim was shocked at what she saw at a recent hockey game.

What If My Husband Looks at Porn? | Kara Garis, Desiring God
Kara offers an honest testimony and six points of advice for women who find themselves in this awful situation.

  1. You, sweet woman, are not in a battle against your husband.
  2. His sin is not your body’s fault.
  3. Embrace Jesus’ sovereignty and trust him for your husband.
  4. Your sin of bitterness is not justified.
  5. He needs you and your forgiveness now more than ever.
  6. Your husband is not your savior and you are not his.

Can We Gain the Whole World Wide Web without Losing Our Souls? | Amy Simpson

If the Internet doesn’t deliver on authentic connection, what keeps us coming back? Are we lured by the possibility of true connection, or have we become content to substitute participation and opportunities for self-expression? Perhaps we’re afraid of being left out or missing out on something we should know. Either way, most of online “connection” pales in comparison to the kind of connection we can find with people in the same room. Ironically, though, in our quest for connection in a virtual world, we often ignore the people we can see and touch.

Should we seek to burn out for Jesus?

I love energetic, ambitious, zealous young Christian men. What a gift to the church they are! And I want them to do whatever their vocation leads them to do—go for it. However, there are dangers if you make unwise choices.

What we don’t realize when we’re young is that we all have a limited amount of life fuel. And we can either expend all of it in the first decade of our working life and and then suffer for the rest of it, or we can pace ourselves, being refueled along the way as well. It’s something I wish I’d learned when I was younger that if you pace yourself, it’s not that you’re being lazy, it’s that you’re being wise.

Read the rest of this video transcript at the Crossway blog.