burnout

The Cure for Burnout

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Have you ever felt burned out or bored as a leader? Have you ever thought seriously about stepping out of leadership for a season . . . or maybe even permanently? There are three things you can do to cure burnout and boredom.

1. Remember your purpose. Burnout or boredom are often byproducts of misunderstanding your role as a group leader. It's your job to create a safe environment where people can grow spiritually and connect with one another. You provide opportunities, but it's up to group members show up, join in, and be real.

2. Be proactive. When you're faced with a challenging group situation or difficult interpersonal dynamics, it's easy to become reactive. You may feel whipsawed and helpless. This can lead to a desire for a break from leadership.  Instead of running, re-engaged with a clear purpose. Remember why your group exists (to provide accountability, belonging, and care for every member of the group), and do something to engage in that purpose. Maybe you need to take on a service project. Maybe you need to shake up the way you pray for one another. Maybe you need to have a conversation about tensions within the group and make an effort to reset everyone's expectations of what being in group is all about. Being proactive can reinvigorated and refocus your group.

3. Ask helpful questions. Your job as a leader isn't to make people take the next step on their spiritual journeys. It's to offer encouragement and guidance. Taking the next step is up to them. One of the best ways you can encourage and guide your group members is by asking questions—questions that encourage them to move in God's direction and help them to own their spiritual growth.

Here are some examples of helpful questions:

  • If this group is the best group you are ever a part of, how will you be different at its conclusion?
  • What is holding you back from moving to a more intimate relationship with God?
  • When you consider the five things God uses to grow your faith — Private Disciplines, Providential Relationships, Personal Ministry, Pivotal Circumstances, and Practical Teaching — where do you see God moving? How will you respond?
  • What can you do to step out of your comfort zone?

Don't give up on leadership. Remember that God grows you through the ups and downs. Even when you face challenges and difficult, God will use that to grow you (perhaps he especially uses those times). Keep encouraging those you lead. Keep asking the questions that no one else is asking. Don’t let leadership get boring.

Thanks for all you do each week to help lead others into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Burned Out or Bored?

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Have you ever felt "burned out" and considered taking a season off from leading a group? Do you feel that way now? I understand. You aren't alone in feeling that way. One question can be helpful in thinking through the decision of whether to take time off from leadership: Am I burned out or bored?

The two feelings are similar. Both are accompanied by thoughts of quitting or a desire to escape.

The question of whether to continue in leadership tends to come up after ending a group in which you had to manage challenging situations or difficult interpersonal dynamics. There's a temptation to think it was a "bad" group experience and that you failed as a leader. But people are messy, so ministry is messy. Challenging situations and difficult interpersonal dynamics aren't a sign of failure. They're an opportunity for growth . . . for everyone in the group (including you).

Stepping out of leadership doesn't clean up messes. At best, it reduces your influence. At worst it ignores a stewardship opportunity. So, whether you're feeling burned out or bored, don't be quick to bail out of leadership. There are practical steps you can take to manage the mess in a way that makes you feel like you're making progress, that you're making a difference.

I'll dig into those practical steps in my next post. Check in later this week.

Encourage Your Way Out of Burnout

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[Today, Matt Driggers offers our second post about how to avoid or reverse leader burnout. Matt is a Groups Director at North Point Community Church—Ed.]

When we're low on energy and pinched for time, leading a group can feel like a burden. Our first impulse is to retreat. But God designed us to be in close community with other believers. Dropping out of leadership is rarely the best solution.

Your role as a leader is to help others to discover, develop, and use their gifts. This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to avoid burnout is to pour into the people you lead. Sounds exhausting, right? But it can actually recharge your passion for leading. That's because when everyone in your group operates from his or her core competencies, everyone in your group benefits . . . including you.

So here are three practical tips to help you encourage your group members' gifts and talents:

  1. Make encouragement a personal habit. During the Israelites' exodus out of Egypt, Moses found himself leading a group of grumblers. His people complained about their circumstances, while ignoring everything God had done for them. Sometimes you might feel like your group members do the same thing . . . on a much smaller scale, of course. Remember this: your group is made up of God’s workmanship. Every member of your group is made in his image. Look for the gifts and talents he's given them.
  2. Make encouragement noisy. When you see gifts and talents in your group members, don't keep it to yourself. Point them out to the whole group. If someone in your group has enormous compassion and empathy, in-depth knowledge about a specific subject, wisdom and insight, or discernment, say so. Maybe he or she wasn't even aware of that gift. Your pointing it out could be a major turning point in that person's life. Other members of the group may also benefit as they begin to lean into that person's strength.
  3. Make encouragement viral. If you make a habit of identifying and encouraging others' strengths in front of the entire group, it'll catch on. Encouragement is a group effort. Remind your group that, in addition to sharing struggles, community is about encouraging one another to grow. In his book, Making Small Groups Work, Henry Cloud suggests that leaders tell their group members, “As we get to know each other, we will notice not only one another’s struggles, but also each other’s talents. When you see one, mention it to the group, as someone may not even be aware she has that strength.”

When you encourage your group members to know and use their gifts and talents, your group will begin to pick up a self-sustaining momentum that strengthens the bonds between members and eases many of the challenges of leadership. And then you can really enjoy leading.

Delegating to Avoid Burnout

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This week, we'll be talking about something that a lot of us have experienced: leader burnout. When you've led for a long time, you sometimes hit a wall. You feel over-extended, over-committed, and exhausted. The responsibility, time commitment, and personal energy required of you as a leader have burned you out.

Here's what you need to know: burnout out isn't inevitable; in fact, it's avoidable. And delegation is one of the keys to avoiding it.

We all have limited supplies of time and energy. There's only so much you can do in a day or a week or a month or even a year. If you're going to succeed in the long term, you need to treat your leadership as a marathon not a sprint. That means conserving energy and using it wisely and where it's most needed.

Great leaders figure out those few things that only they can do, focus on those things, and delegate everything else to others. Delegation frees up your time, protects your energy, and gives your group members a chance to grow by taking ownership of aspects of the group experience. It's essential to great long-term leadership. It's essential to avoiding burnout.

I want to point you to a couple of different resources that talk about why delegation is important and explain how to do it. If leadership feels like a burden right now, these resources may help to ease the pressure. They can also help you to avoid allowing the pressure to build if leadership doesn't currently feel like a burden.

  • First, read (or re-read) this post from last month. It offers some practical advice about sharing tasks in your group. It also spells out the responsibilities that are unique to you as your group's leader. Remember, those are the things you need to concentrate on most. Everything else can be handled by someone else. Everything else probably ought to be handled by someone else.
  • Second, take a look at "The Fine Art of Delegation" at Michael Hyatt's Intentional Leadership blog. The post includes a 38-minute podcast in which Michael delves deeply into why delegation matters and how to do it well. He uses the example of Moses in Exodus 18 (one of the first instances of delegation in recorded history) to flesh out five levels of delegation as well as five imperatives that give you a framework for applying what he's talking about. It's a really great post—definitely worth 40 or so minutes of your time.

Have you experienced leader burnout? How did it happen? What did you do to combat it?