Does Battling Burnout Get Easier Over Time?

This post is the last in a series titled Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: 20 Years Later. Listen to the full conversation below. 

Kevin Halloran: Bill and Craig, you wrote the book on burnout, so that means you’re perfect in this area, right? Just kidding. How has fighting burnout or discouragement in ministry gotten easier as time goes on, and how has it gotten harder?

Bill Mills: You know, Kevin, for me, I think of the battles of ministry: maintaining ministry schedules, being productive, being effective. Craig is always challenging us as a staff to go deeper to get better, and I appreciate him so much in that. Facing all those calls and challenges to me, I think the battle has gotten better. Even as I’ve gotten older and continued to maintain a rather heavy travel and ministry schedule, I find the battle less challenging. I think the things that I have learned by God’s grace have built in patterns in my heart and life: the patterns of responding to the Father rather than asking Him to enter into what I’m doing and make it happen. There’s some level of affirmation that I desire. That has been less and less an issue. I think learning to rest in the Lord in the work, rather than from the work, has been a pattern that has really been helpful to me and made an incredible difference.

I think of learning what the writer to the Hebrews talks about when he calls us to enter into God’s rest and uses God as an example. God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day. Why did He rest? Not because He was exhausted from the hard work of six days of creation. He rested because His work was completed. He was finished with the work of His first creation. That’s what it means for us to enter His rest – to cease from our works. But the thing that I learned the most, and this is one of the great realities for all of us in this ministry, is the power of the Word of God. Because the writer of Hebrews in that fourth chapter carries us to the place, after calling us to enter into God’s rest, to the place of saying that the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Our God is still at work. He’s still at work in the same way as in Genesis 1 – by His Word and His Spirit. Since God is at work, that means I can rest. How is God at work? The same way through all of history: through the power of His Spirit. So, that’s the thing that has sustained me.

Craig Parro: I would say it’s gotten harder. Burnout or discouragement has gotten more difficult for me as my leadership responsibilities have grown. There’s the responsibility that our ministry has 29 staff members. Having leadership responsibilities for those precious folks is challenging at times because of the battles that they face: some physical challenges, surgeries and so on, struggles with kids, financial challenges . . . there’s a weight to all of that. I would love to wave a magic wand and cure all of those, but I don’t have the power within me to do that. Leadership Resources doesn’t have bags full of money that we can throw at every financial struggle that our staff faces, for example. So in many situations, prayer is the only response – and it’s an appropriate response – but it’s also a response of weakness rather than strength. It’s an acknowledgement that we don’t have – that I don’t have – the answers, the resources, the solutions to the problems facing us. And so we pray out of our weakness and dependency – which is, of course, a healthy place to be at the same time.

Buy Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout on Amazon or our web store.

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.