Avoiding Burnout

I really enjoy listening to Andy Stanley – especially his monthly leadership podcast (available here).  Andy has some super lessons for leaders and aspiring leaders, whether in the church or business world.  See if you don’t find application in your life too.

Here are some notes I jotted down as I was listening:

If you experience burnout, it is not necessarily because you are too busy.   It’s likely because you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing – something that is not your gifting or calling.

Sure, we can be too busy, and that is something to be avoided.  We have to make sure our priorities are in line and that our life has margin, i.e. – time to relax, reflect, think and listen.  But, this observation really resonated with me.  Are we doing lots of things, or are we doing the right things?  That can make all the difference.

So how do we find what Andy calls our “sweet spot”?  Here are some steps he suggested to help you evaluate whether you are doing what you should be doing:

  1. Consider what things you do that seem effortless to you, but seem like a daunting task to others.
  2. In what areas do people consider you the go-to person?
  3. What things do you wish you could stop doing altogether?

The answers to these questions can give you a good indication what areas you are gifted in or called to.  They should also give you a good idea what things you have no business doing!

Finally, Andy suggested it is a good exercise to develop your ideal job description.  I don’t mean your ideal job.  Meaning, in your current situation, what would be your ideal description?  What would you focus on?  What would you delegate?  To whatever degree possible, see if you can implement this.  In the home it could mean passing chores to your kids or spouse.  If you are a leader, these could be things you could enact right away.  If you are an employee, these are things to bring up at your next review.

Someone who is operating within their giftings will be much more effective and will avoid stress by simply doing what they ought to be doing.

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  • In general, I agree, BUT I can't tell you how many times the Lord has put me in a place to minister where I was doing something I thought I hated or that I knew I was no good at, but that became one of my strengths under His anointing.

    Writing, for example: until I was in my forties I thought I hated writing. I knew I wasn't good at it. The Lord dropped couple of books in my lap and I found that I loved it (especially the formatting of the books I wrote. Now I do it full-time and love it. It's still an area where I need to rely on Him though. I can so easily get into the flesh and write self-centered garbage.

    That's the greatest danger of doing what you are good at—you can easily relax into just doing it because you know you can instead of relying on Him to enable you to do it correctly and effectively under His anointing.

  • Good reminder that discernment is always in order!

    I think the larger point is this (from a ministry/pastoring point of view): If you are not a 'people person', hospital visitation should not be your thing. If you are a horrible speaker, you shouldn't preach. You get the idea.

    But you're right. Just as God tapped Moses' shoulder, we need to be open to go outside our comfort zone if we and our close advisors agree that it is God's leading.

    Thanks!

  • Jknmama

    hey again! you know i really like your blog and i can wholeheartedly “amen” with practically all of it- but. but. but. something came to mind as i read this post. not that i don't agree with it, but something came to mind that made me wonder about andy's approach to avoiding burnout and his view on gifts and ministry. i used it in a post on my own blog: jenifesto.blogspot.com. if you care to read it. don't take me for being argumentative b/c that's truly not my intention. i am a big fan of your blogging.

  • Hey there jknmama – good to see you again!

    I hear what you and David are saying. And both of you make good points! It may seem like a nuance, but I really do think we're talking about two different things. You brought up the same example I did of Moses. But I think Andy's topic fits more with the notion of spiritual gifts and “parts of the body” spoken of in 1 Cor 12 than it does with Moses' calling.

    If God has crafted you to fit in a certain place but you insist on operating elsewhere, that will cause problems. Ears don't make good feet, and prophets don't make good administrators. God made us all to serve him, but often we do so in different ways.

    If God taps you on the shoulder, you should respond like Paul – not like Moses. I agree with you there. But, if we are actually performing duties simply out of obligation or pride, are we really honoring God?

    If we are neglecting the work he has given us to do, then we are not being good stewards with the talents he has given us. I guess the point is – it doesn't matter if we are doing good things if they are not the right things.

    So – if it is work that God has given you to do, then you should do it – however unpleasant. But if it is something you have taken upon yourself, it may be something that is actually distracting you from what God has for you to do.

    Does that make any sense? I hear what you're saying, but I think Andy is on to something as well. What do you think?

  • Jknmama

    the only thing i have to offer is this: i can't find any scriptural basis for andy's platform regarding gifts and ministry. what i do find is actually quite paradoxical to it.

    read 1 corinthians 1:26-2:5.

    although it sounds practical, reasonable and efficient to fit the gift to the corresponding ministry, i really believe that God calls us, and THEN He equips us. He doesn't wait until we are equipped to require anything from us.

  • I see what you're getting at. However, I would propose that we're still talking about two different things. You are assuming that this is talking about someone fighting against their calling. I would suggest that this would more likely be a case of someone operating outside of their calling.

    Remember – he is speaking to pastors primarily in this, as well as people in other leadership positions. Most of the time, leaders take tasks on because they think they need to. “If I don't do it, who will?” That is not being a good steward. For leaders at work, their bosses will not appreciate it if they take everything on and don't delegate to those better suited. For the pastor, God has gifted and called them to certain areas. Maybe preaching, maybe administration, maybe evangelizing… But you don't see God calling them to *everything*. Why did Paul work with Timothy, Barnabas, John Mark, Titus… Because he had his gifts and callings and they had theirs. Together they performed the work they had been given. Which brings me back to the parts of the body analogy. (No scriptural basis!?!?) 🙂

    How about this for another example in the bible. (Acts 6:1-7) The disciples chose Stephen and others to take over some of their responsibilities. “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” They were not uncomfortable delegating.

    I agree about your “God calling, then equipping” premise. I would argue that Andy's point is in figuring that out. If you have had a burning bush or talking donkey experience, fantastic! But for most people, the calling is much more subtle. So is the equipping, for that matter. Probably most of the problems that come our way are actually part of God's equipping. And how many people do you think are aware of their spiritual gifts? I'd wager very few. I look at Andy's points as suggestions for figuring out what you are supposed to be doing. If preaching comes “naturally” to you, then that is likely something God has given to you. If every time you try to do the books you screw them up and bills go unpaid… probably best to delegate that to someone God has suited to that!