Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Leadership Conundrum: Burning On without Burning Out

Outreach Magazine's article Confessions of a Megachurch Pastor (which interviews Joel Osteen, Craig Groeschel, and Bil Cornelius, among others) includes the question "What aspect of your job do you least enjoy?" Groeschel responds:
... The loneliness of leadership is a very real and constant weight. It’s an honor to suffer for and with Christ, and yet, often my wife and I feel very lonely in ministry.

And yet, I don't think one has to be a megachurch pastor, sitting atop the cream of the crop, to struggle with the loneliness of leadership. I have a few friends who pastor small churches, churches where the power struggles and the toxicity of sin are taking root and taking over, and these guys essentially have no place to turn for help and encouragement. Looking to someone inside their church for help would be opening themselves up to further scorn and personal attacks. When people hate you for suggesting the church no longer make visitors where name tags, they will definitely hate you for saying you are dealing with depression.

The burn out factor among pastors and pastor's wives is epidemic. Many of them seek help with outside counselors and therapists. Many of them can't afford it financially; many of them can't afford it professionally (meaning, if word got out that the pastor needed counseling, it could be very bad for one's job security).

So leaders are expected to keep on keeping on, maintain great spirits, continue pouring out for the community, maintain strength and passion and vision day in and day out, and sacrifice time and energy for those who cannot resupply it. Leaders are typically the only members of a community who feed without being fed.

The system is broken, no doubt.
But people are broken.

Where does a leader go to get filled and supported when he can't look to those he's leading?
How do you keep going and giving "on empty"?

By extension, a related question: How does a leader effectively prevent burnout among his team and fellow leaders?
Picture a new ministry largely if not entirely run by volunteers subsisting on a paltry, if not nonexistent, budget. The system is set up for either a miracle or failure. If miracles are not abounding, how do you keep up the spirits of those around you?
Or do you just close up shop?

What's the line between faithfulness and failure?

What well of energy and fulfillment do leaders and ministers draw from in order to energize and fulfill others?

I think I have some ideas, but I want to hear from you!

The Leadership Conundrum series is the place for you seasoned leaders, pastors, and ministry directors to weigh in with your advice and tips and practical ideology!

Previously in this series:
Leadership Conundrum: People
Leadership Conundrum: Rescuing the Trampled On
Leadership Conundrum: Transitioning Generational Ministries
Leadership Conundrum: Challenging Apathy

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