Loving, Burning Out, and Despising Ministry

There’s a fine line to be walked between being passionately in love with ministry and despising it entirely. It doesn’t take much to peak my interest in helping out with a church project. An evening or weekend without something on my calendar means time I can volunteer. I can’t help myself. I say yes. “After all” I tell myself “If I don’t do it no one else will”.  I watch as the “Honey Do” list grows and home projects sit unfinished while I’m running around chasing after ministries. It catches up with me.  I’m over committed.  I feel like I’m not able to give my all, so I disappoint others and myself. It’s followed by resenting the people who asked me in the first place. “At least pastors get paid to do this” plays over and over in my mind.  I burn out and wish I had nothing to do with any of it.

This past weekend was one of those moments. I was asked if I would participate in a church event that I said yes to without thinking as usual. The timing wasn’t going to work, having events on either side of it and little time to prepare, but I convinced myself I could do it. The time came and I forgot. Exhausted from what felt like weeks of non stop activity I hoped no one would notice my absence. “I didn’t get enough communication and the level of information I needed to plan accordingly” I told myself, trying to reason away the guilt.  Nonetheless, I’ll never forgive myself.  I don’t know if I can face those I’ve let down.  Rather than say “no” the first time, I fear disappointing by saying no and just delay disappointment until later.

As I feel myself getting sucked too far in and fail like this past weekend, I withdraw.  I say no to everything.  I disappear into my shell.  Yet as the weeks go by and I see things occur around me I feel selfish spending so much time working on my yard and enjoying movies on my couch.

I go through this about once a year.   I’m well aware of my limits and I push them to the brink, then pull myself back like a game a chicken.  The business of service is a lonely one.  You volunteer and serve because of the love you have for that project.  Yet as time goes by you take on more and more because you realize the need is so great.  The project consumes you and finally you say “enough with this”.

“Then he said to them, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few'” Luke 10:2

Several years ago I was at a conference for youth ministry where the speaker said “40 percent of you will be out of ministry within 2 years”.  I found it unbelievable at the time and now wonder why I’m still doing it.  What keeps me continuously burning myself out for all these years?

The reason is that I love it more than I despise it.  And there are so many people who have been burned by ministry who resent it because deep down they miss it and love it still.   Like a lover who cheats on you, the more you love them the more it hurts.  I’ve seen this happen with so many other people.  They love being involved in ministry and service.  However, they either have the scars of a church family who abuses their commitment or they have witnessed those scars in others.  So they decide it is better to have never served in the first place.  I get it.  But isn’t it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?

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