Burned-Out Volunteers

I'm exhausted by all the things I do at church, but I'd feel guilty if I took a break. What should I do?

For almost 20 years, I've been very involved in many of the ministries at my church. For some time, I've felt burned-out, exhausted, stressed, and depressed. I talked to the elders of our church, but they suggested I just needed more public recognition for my efforts. (I don't!) And they made me feel guilty about even considering stepping down or taking a break. Now I feel if I do, the ministries will fail due to lack of leadership and everyone will blame me. What should I do?

—Mary Jane, via e-mail

Unfortunately, Mary Jane, you are not alone. There are many super-volunteers like you, who feel trapped by all the ministry commitments and programs that have taken over their lives. Too often, church leaders (overworked and overwhelmed themselves) are only too happy to take advantage of a super-volunteer's sense of responsibility. It's so hard to find good help these days! Many Christians are content to warm the pew; they won't get involved and share in the work that makes the programs possible.

But from one end to the other, the Scriptures admonish us to take time to rest. Jesus Himself set the example, regularly withdrawing from His earthly ministry to spend time alone with God (Matt. 14:13, Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). The Bible is also clear that we are not to be people-pleasers. It's God's opinion and approval that counts (Gal. 1:10, Col. 1:9-12, 3:23-24). We're to look to Him for guidance, and then take on those commitments He has put on our hearts.

If after much prayer you sense God is calling you to step down from a ministry or program, do it! It may give others an opportunity to step up. Let them see what they have to offer and how God can use them. If no one steps up and things do fall apart, that may be the impetus the church needs to reconsider which ministries and programs the congregation truly has a passion for—and is willing to support—and which ones can go.

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May 25

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