My husband and I spent the last decade at our church wearing many hats. We filled whatever hole was vacant. We served, taught, led, shared, and gave all that we had to give. We have since moved away and now attend a new church. And now that we are in a new place, we realize we are tired. Exhausted. Empty and spent. Burned out.
Burnout is a common problem in ministry. One of the reasons for burnout is the tendency to try to do it all. We overbook, overcommit, and overtax ourselves. We fail to rest our bodies, our minds, and our souls. We try to function while on empty and push ourselves to the point where we can no longer function.
The Body of Christ
The apostle Paul used the image of a physical body to describe the church:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).
Just as the physical body has many individual parts, so too does the church. Just as the physical body needs each part to function, so too does the church. That’s why we are not all gifted in playing the piano or teaching two-year-olds. God has gifted each part of the Body to perform the necessary duties to build up the church. Each member of the Body is important and essential; no one is better than the other.
This means that we need one another. The church cannot function well if everyone doesn’t do their part. I recently injured my right arm. As a result, I haven’t been able to perform my normal duties—at least not the way I usually do. I’ve found myself using my left arm to do the work that my right arm does. But it’s not the same and often fails to perform at the same level. When one person in the church does the work that all the others should do, it’s not the same. Trust me, if I had to fill in for the pianist during Sunday worship, you’d know just what I mean! That’s why we need one another. The church Body cannot work without each member doing its part.
What this means is that we can’t do it all on our own, and God did not intend us to. He created us to be dependent upon Him and mutually dependent upon other believers. We are to abide in Him and draw upon His sustaining grace. And we are to work together with other believers, using the gifts we’ve been given to build up His church.
We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:15–16).
“But wait,” you say. “If I don’t do it no one else will.” That may be true. Perhaps there’s never a hole for others to fill because you always jump in to fill it. If people in the church always see that things are getting done, they won’t see the need to step up and help out. When you fill every role and meet every need, the church becomes a Body made of one instead of a Body made up of many.
Using Everyone’s Gifts
Ministry leaders, we need to find ways to incorporate the gifts of other believers so we are all working together.
- Create a gift-using culture. Create a culture in your women’s ministry where each person and their gifts are valuable. Have the women take spiritual gift inventories. Create opportunities and places for each person to serve in the church. Not everyone is gifted to teach a Bible study. How can you incorporate a woman’s gift of administration? How about those who are gifted in the creative arts? Or for those who are prayer warriors, how can you use them in your ministry?
- Reach out to those who are on the sidelines. There are always those few people who serve in ministry. What about those on the sidelines? Who are those women who attend your ministry but haven’t used their gifts? One often overlooked group is older women. It is usually the younger women who plan everything and carry out the events. Though older women are less active than they once were, they have much to offer our ministries and have a rich treasury of wisdom to share.
- Have leaders take breaks. Rest and times of sabbatical are important. Have ministry leaders take breaks, and use that time to bring in new people. In some ministries, leaders are expected to take breaks every few years. This helps prevent burnout but also allows new people to exercise their gifts. It also keeps the ministry from centering around one specific person.
- Ask for help. For ministry leaders who have a tendency to do everything on their own, learn to ask for help. Delegate. Ask others to keep you accountable to do so. Pray that God would bring women into your ministry to come alongside you.
It is a sad thing to see ministry leaders burn out and walk away from their ministries. Let us all work together; using the gifts God has given us, to build up the Body of Christ.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Rom. 12:4–6, emphasis added).
What others ways have you found to incorporate the gifts of women in your ministry? What were the results? How has your leadership benefited from learning to delegate?