How to Be Generous without Burning Yourself Out
You love the story of Jesus. You want the church to lead the way in creativity. After all, you serve the One who created it. You see everything that needs to be done… Your ministry team keeps asking and asking… You want to serve them well, so you do it with no time on your hands. You pour yourself out into the work, over, and over, and over.
And then you burn out. You find yourself exhausted, with a loss of passion and loss of peace. You still desire to make the church the most creative place on the planet, but you have nothing left to give.
This happens all the time in churches; it may be happening to you right now. How do we stop this? How do we balance all the revisions, changes of scope, and last-minute requests but keep our spirits alive and generous? It breaks into three areas, in this order.
It all starts with this: To find balance, you must have a healthy relationship with those that you are working with. It starts with being open and vulnerable. People need to see who you are as a person – not as a designer or creative director, but as a dad, a wife, a parent. You’re someone who also has dreams… Someone who also cries at that commercial. And you have to go first. When you lead with openness and vulnerability, people will open up to you too.
I’m a pretty strong and confident guy at work. I know where we need to go and what it takes to get there. Lately I’ve been working on recognizing that. But I was talking with our HR Director about something way outside of work, and I cried a little. Our HR Coordinator was with us at the time. I didn’t think anything of it, but later on our HR Director reflected back to me that people need to see that softer side, because others will think like our Coordinator did, “Wow, he’s human.”
People need to see your humanity. It’s that common core that fuels relationship.
As you build relationship, you also build trust, which also means you’ve earned the right to communicate clearly and honestly. It’s on you to communicate what it takes to accomplish a task or what happens when things come in last minute. Don’t just take it and harbor frustration. I promise you that if you do, it will only harm you. Part of your job is to teach others what it takes to accomplish the things you do. Make it clear.
I was only a few months on the job and was pushing our Senior Pastor to get his notes in on Thursday by noon. He wasn’t just the Senior Pastor, he was the Founding Senior Pastor of a church of 15,000 at the time and had been in that role for 23 years. And here I was, the new kid on the block, putting more stress on his plate. He called me. He wasn’t thrilled with the extra stress. I explained to him what happened when he got his notes in late– that it meant people were staying until 9 or 10pm at the church on Friday night. He could’ve told me to deal with it. But he responded with, “Now that I know that, I’ll make adjustments. You’ll have the notes in by noon.”
Did I love having that conversation? No. Was it fun? No. But by explaining what was happening, it allowed him to see the full picture and make a good choice for everyone. Remember, your ministry team are humans too.
You’ve built relationship and you’re communicating… Now it’s time to introduce a new word into the vocabulary. No.
Don’t lead with no. That’s going to shut people down (I know this from experience). Start off by recognizing the idea and that it’s a great idea, but finish with, “As much as I’d love to see that happen, we don’t have the resources to pull it off in the time allowed. What if we instead…”
The key words in that sentence are what if we instead. You’re saying no, but ending in a possibility. By making it a question, it disarms everyone involved. By ending in we, it makes it about the team – not you, not her, but both of you together.
Please don’t continue to move forward building and creating great things but burning yourself out. Pause long enough to restructure the how of it all. Create a better and healthier process for making the church the most creative place on the planet. With these steps you can begin to change the atmosphere of the creative process. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve watched it change over the last five years now that I’m on staff at a church. It can be done. It’s not easy. It will take change from everyone. But it’s worth it.