Avoiding Volunteer Burnout

Are you leading a team of Bible class volunteers who are unenthusiastic and seem to be putting in the minimal amount of effort necessary to teach their Bible classes? Or are you a volunteer Bible class teacher who has grown to dread teaching yet another lesson? Chances are good that burnout is a factor.

Burnout occurs in situations where volunteers work too hard for too long without resting. In the case of teaching a Bible class, burnout can also occur because of feelings of frustration or inadequacy or burnout can cause those feelings. When burnout occurs both volunteers and Bible class students suffer negative consequences.

Giving someone a quarter or a year “off” from his or her duties isn’t always the best answer. In fact, there are people who thrive teaching Bible classes year round for decades. There are things you or your ministry can do however, that will reduce burnout for everyone – including yourself.

  • Practice spiritual disciplines for personal spiritual health. Believe it or not, there is a difference between studying a Bible passage to teach it and studying it for your own spiritual health. When you only use the spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, reflection, worship and more for your students and not for your own spiritual health, you will eventually burn out. Carve out time for doing things to keep yourself spiritually healthy as well as your students.
  • Match gifts and tasks whenever possible. Volunteers often burn out because they have been guilted into volunteering for a task for which God did not gift them. There are some chores almost any Christian can and should do, but teaching kids or teens the Bible is not one of them. Do what is necessary to identify your gifts and those of other volunteers and then match tasks to people with those gifts. Everyone will be happier, more effective and less prone to burnout.
  • Recognize Satan as the father of discouraging lies. If someone is effective in teaching kids or teens about God, Satan wants to discourage him or her. Have people in your life who will be honest with you when you have doubts. Keep a box of things that encourage you when you get down. Find the encouragers and spend time with them. Prolonged discouragement can lead to burnout.
  • Take regular Sabbath type rest. We tend to forget Jesus rested from ministry at times and made the Apostles rest, too. The key to Sabbath type rest is both the frequency and what you do while resting. Spiritual rest is necessary weekly for at least a few hours and for prolonged periods after a major ministry event that leaves you drained. Spiritual rest does not come from watching Netflix for hours on end, but from sleep, exercise, spending time with God, spending time in nature or observing beautiful things and creative pursuits. If you don’t rest your body and soul, I can promise you from personal experience, your body will eventually force you to rest by becoming ill or too tired to move.
  • Do some godly strategic planning. This is different from a regular business strategic plan in that you let God lead it. Repeat after me. “I cannot do everything myself.” A godly strategic plan will help you organize your ministry (personal or corporate) and show you where God really wants you to spend your time ministering to others. Then, delegate the rest to others. Burnout comes from doing too much for too long without proper rest and encouragement. A godly strategic plan will give you a protective fence if done properly. Our website has a free guide to help.
  • Remember why you are volunteering. Sometimes we get so caught up in the various parts of preparing a lesson, we forget about those precious souls in our classes. Take a moment and really look at them. Absorb their joy, love and energy. Realize how important it is for them to learn everything God wants them to know to live a life that will end with an eternity spent in Heaven. Sometimes you can accomplish this in class, but often spending time doing something fun – like a class field trip – can give you the time to really enjoy and appreciate your students.

Taking care of your volunteers or yourself will help banish burnout. It is something that must be done regularly and intentionally. If you wait too long to take preventative measures, you will then need to heal. That can take much longer and your students may suffer in the interim. Start now to put routines of spiritual rest into your regular routine.

Categories Encouragement, Volunteer Management
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