How Do You Avoid Overworking?

Interim Ministry Workshop, Tuesday-Thursday March 14–16, 2023, Heritage Christian University, Florence, Alabama

I observed in full-time ministry, the longer I stayed at a congregation, the more difficult my work became. I started out full speed and increased as time passed.

One of the joys of interim ministry is not doing that. I don’t take many jobs because the last preacher did them. I might not be competent to do what he did well. It may be something local people can do better because they know the congregation, and I don’t. If I take on too many tasks, often it’s after I’ve been there for a year or more. I can already see the end coming. I can put up with about anything for a few more months.

In my second full-time work, the hospital was only a few blocks from the church building. I started and continued my rules for visiting.

  • Visit everyone in the hospital every day, twice if they were very sick, three or more times if they were dying.
  • Visit nursing homes and shut-ins every month.
  • Arrive at the hospital before the patient receives the “happy shot” and have a prayer. Sit with the family during surgery. When they finish the surgery, the patient wakes up, pray, and go home.
  • Visit all visitors.
  • Visit newcomers to the community.

This was besides leading home Bible studies, teaching personal work training classes, and being an active member of a visitation team.

The church averaged 200 when I came and 300 when I left. With a 50% increase in members, there came more sick people and others who fit into my rules for visiting. It became overwhelming. I didn’t know how to change my rules. I didn’t discuss it with anyone. I thought if I decreased, people would think I was getting lazy.

Suggestions for Managing Time Better

  • Start out like you can hold out. Don’t start at 150% and plan to slow down later.
  • Decide what the most important tasks for a preacher, elder, deacon, or member are. Don’t try to do everyone else’s work.
  • Realize everyone in the hospital doesn’t want or need a visit from the preacher. Don’t visit people because you need to visit everyone every day, but to be helpful to those who need a visit. One way to learn who needs a visit is to establish good communication practices with others. Read more: Communication Rules.
  • Train Christians for ministry. The job of leaders isn’t to do all the work that needs to be done in the church but to train others for the work of ministry. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11, 12, NKJV).
  • Elders can help oversee the preacher and others. At one congregation, when I asked to do a new project, the elders would question, “What are you going to drop to have time for this new work? You are already working many hours. How will you take on this new task? What will suffer? What will you cut?”
  • When you get in trouble with time, ask for help and wisdom.

What have you done to deal with burnout (being “weary in well doing”)?

Comment below.

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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