soul care

4 Ways to Prevent Burnout

Here is a look at the hidden causes of burnout and four powerful ways to renew your soul.

Bill Gaultiere

July 13, 2023

“I feel so distant from God,” Rev. Howard-John Wesley admitted recently. “One of the greatest mistakes of pastoring is to think that because you work for God, you’re close to God.”

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader I’m especially writing to you. But whatever your work is and however you serve God, you too could be vulnerable to spiritual burnout.

Most people think over-working is the cause of burnout, but that is normally not the case. In our “Re-Soul” series of podcasts and blogs, we’re unpacking five hidden causes of burnout. This week we’re focusing on the first cause of burnout: Becoming emotionally distant from God.

Everyone has times of not feeling God’s presence, but for D.C. area pastor Wesley it’s more than a passing emotion or spiritual season: He’s burned out on ministry. As he put it, “I am tired in my soul . . . and a nap won’t fix it.”

Why did this pastor burn out? Preaching 5,000 sermons? Being on call 24-hours a day? Extending compassion to people in crisis? Leading a church of nearly 5,000 people? Being a public personality with a reach of over 50,000 online? These things do take a toll.

But the real culprit to burnout is when working for God crowds out personal intimacy with God.

It’s an easy mistake for any of us to make. That’s because your ministry is urgently needed by the people around you. Whether you’re a pastor or a small group leader, serving God in the marketplace or at home caring for your children, the people around you need your loving presence, practical help, and encouragement. “Love your neighbor,” Jesus commands (Mark 12:30). How do we say no to that??

Actually, we need to regularly say no to the urgent demands of our work in order to say yes to enjoying “the Father and Son intimacies and knowledge” (Matthew 11:28, MSG). Jesus’ teaching is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30).

True self-love is like soaking your soul in God’s beauty and lovingkindness. When you’re finding soul satisfaction in Christ you’re not likely to burn out.

The best time to re-soul is before you burn out or go flat (2 Samuel 16:14).

Here are four little but surprisingly powerful ways to renew your intimacy with God (because it’s the daily soul care activities that keep us fresh):

  1. Share your real emotions and struggles with someone you trust to give you empathy.
  2. Get outside to run, hike, walk, or sit and breathe in the beauty.
  3. Make a healthy meal and savor it.
  4. Sleep or lay in bed for eight hours.

Probably you’re wondering, How are those activities intimacy with God? It’s in how you do them. Let’s go back through the list:

  1. In your soul talk, look to the presence of Christ in your friend.
  2. In the beauty of nature, pray a favorite Scripture.
  3. While you eat, give thanks to God.
  4. On your bed, be like the Jesus Farmer and entrust all your work to God (Mark 4:26-29).

About Bill and Soul Shepherding -

Bill and Kristi Gaultiere are Drs of Psychology and the Founders of Soul Shepherding, a ministry to help pastors, leaders, churches, and all those desiring to thrive with Jesus in emotional and relational health. In their Soul Shepherding Institute retreats and training they offer a certificate for serving as a Spiritual Director. They are also authors of a number of soul care books and resources. They have been speaking and writing about following Jesus in life and ministry since 1987.

Bill & Kristi are opposite in personality: Bill is a Type A thinker and Kristi is a relational feeler. They blend their styles and stories in their speaking and writing ministry, including Journey of the Soul, which was #1 on Amazon in Christian Counseling. Published by Revell, this book guides you out of the stuck places in your spiritual life and into the expansive areas of intimacy with God, emotional health, and loving relationships. Their next book is Healthy Feelings, Thriving Faith: Growing Emotionally & Spiritually Through the Enneagram, published by Revell and releasing later in 2023.

Read next