One of the greatest threats to healthy churches, nonprofits and organizations is volunteer burnout. As a pastor, I get the pleasure of working with volunteers all the time. In fact, our church couldn’t survive without the support of these faithful people. But to be honest, volunteer burnout is very real at our church, which is why I hesitantly write this blog with fear and trembling. To be honest, sometimes I even find myself on the verge of burnout. Unfortunately, way too often I find myself sitting across from a volunteer with tears in their eyes because they are burned out. This breaks my heart because I know God wants His people to flourish while serving, instead of just going through the motions. The Word tells us to serve the Lord with gladness. (Psalm 100:2) That is impossible to do when you’re burned out. Therefore, one of my goals this year as a pastor and leader is to learn to set better boundaries for myself and for the people under my care so together we can avoid burnout.
Whether you are a volunteer at your local church, nonprofit or your kid’s school, you can learn to avoid volunteer burnout. If you practice the following tips, burnout will decrease and you will thrive while serving with your whole heart.
5 Tips to help you avoid volunteer burnout.
Refocus on your priorities.
Let’s face it, people are busier now more than ever and balancing their lives has become more and more complicated. Most volunteers work 40 hours a week and have to take care of their families, so sometimes they just feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life. Sometimes it is easy to get off focus and forget about prioritizing our time the way God tells us to do: 1) God, 2) family, 3) work and 4) volunteering (in that order). When our priorities get out of whack it is time to take a step back and refocus. As we refocus on our priorities we must resist the temptation to throw in the towel and give up. Instead, take steps to focus on what matters most in your life.
The Right Fit for you.
I have found the volunteers who last the longest and don’t seem to burn out are the ones who have found their sweet spot; they are on the right seat on the bus. They are the ones that help your organization go to the next level. They are the secret sauce to the ministry. The reason these volunteers are able to go the long haul is that volunteering to them doesn’t seem like work. It is fun and joyful. They are doing what they love. I encourage you to help the volunteers in your organization find their passion and put them to work there.
Recoup after a big event.
One thing I have realized to avoid burnout is it is important to schedule post-event resets for myself and my team in order to recoup and be refreshed. Every year I oversee a banquet for our church that helps raise awareness and funds for the inner-city work we do. I could not pull off this event if it were not for the volunteer committee that I work closely with 9 months of the year. After our event is over we have one last meeting to make sure we are following up on pledges, new volunteers, etc., but then I encourage people to go on vacation or find ways to intentionally slow down. I make sure to plan at least 3 days to a week for a “staycation” or a mini get-away, and I encourage my team to do the same. We also make sure we don’t plan another big event at our church for the next month. This keeps us healthy and it builds a rhythm in our ministry, church and families.
Rest in Christ.
Rest is so important in our walk with God, especially as we juggle our 40-hour work week, family life and volunteering. If we want to effectively volunteer and pour our lives into other people we must find time to take care of our own spiritual health. I can’t overemphasize how important it is to spend time in God’s presence. Get into your word and pray daily if you want to be successful in the long haul and be effective for the kingdom of God.
Remember your purpose.
Most people volunteer because they are committed to Christ and want to help expand His kingdom through purposeful ministry. It is our job as leaders to remind them of the purpose of the church or organization you lead. Remind them they are making a kingdom impact and that you appreciate their efforts and more importantly, God sees what they are doing.
As a final note, remember volunteers are busy people who give freely of their time, resources and energy. Leaders should help volunteers avoid burnout by encouraging them to focus on their priorities, help them find their sweet spot, create time for them to recoup and rest in Christ and remind them of the bigger picture. If we encourage our volunteers to do these things we will help them avoid volunteer burnout and instead continue to serve with joy and vigor!
Galatians 6:9 (NIV) 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.