We've written about leader burnout before on this blog (see here, here, and here). It's an important topic because everyone's leadership journey includes periods of exhaustion and that nagging question: "Is all my effort making any difference whatsoever in the lives of my group members?" As leaders, we all hit the wall at some point. I know I have. Last year, Mark Howell wrote a great post about hitting the wall called "Top 5 Reasons Small Group Leaders Quit." If you're experiencing any of the five things Mark wrote about, don't just wait around for things to get better. Reach out to your Groups Director and have a conversation about what's going on, how you're feeling, and what you can do to get back on track.
As long as we're on the subject of burnout, I'd like to add a sixth reason group leaders quit. It's a doozy . . . maybe the biggest one of all.
They view group leadership as a weekly task instead of a ministry. Leaders who see themselves as "discussion facilitators" usually burn out pretty quickly. That's because they think leaders grow the same way group members grow: through group studies and discussion. And when things go wrong in the group or group members aren't dedicated, these leaders take it personally.
But the primary path of growth for leaders is leadership.
The personal growth of a group leader kicks into high gear when he or she puts aside the role of "glorified group member" and begins to treat group leadership as a ministry. Group leaders who view what they do as personal ministry, partner more dynamically with God in the process of leading.
They recognize that it's not their responsibility to grow group members. Their job is to help and encourage the people they lead to take a next step on their spiritual journeys. That removes a lot of the pressure of leadership. It also makes you a better leader because you're able to focus on loving others well without feeling the weight of responsibilities that belong either to God or a group member.
There's a paradox at the center of leadership:
Great group leaders are more aware of their dependence on God, not less.
Group leaders who actively depend on God (and let him control the stuff only he can control) tend not to burn out.
How do you currently feel about leading? Does leadership drain you? Do you daydream about freeing up a night of the week by dropping out of group?
If you're struggling, it may be time to think through the things you're holding onto that are really God's responsibility. The first step to treating group leadership like personal ministry is often to recognize that you can't change your group members, but you can play a role in God changing them.