Group Blogging Project: Mad Church Disease | Day 1

Today is the first day of a Group Blogging Project about the book Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic by Anne Jackson.

The idea of this project is for each of the 11 chapters to have discussion led by 11 individual bloggers. You can read more of the details at this very poorly written SEO Anchor Text here.

I am really excited about kicking off discussion about Chapter 1. First off, Anne expains what Mad Cow Disease is, and how it compares to a disease that you will find in many churches today.  Hey, the phrase “Mad Church Disease” got my attention too. You’ll have to pick up the book to read the comparison. It is spot on. Instead of me rehashing the chapter, I’d like to apply my takeaways. But before I do, I think I need to explain who I am.

I am not employed by my church. I am a volunteer in an organization that doesn’t have a great structure for volunteers. I recognize that we desperately need some structure and safe guards put into place to guard our volunteers from burnout. I’ve been right up to the edge of burnout and found myself wanting to quit it all, but God has, as he always has, brought me out of it. I have seen many who have fell victim to burnout and are now missing in action.

Takeaways from Chapter 1:

  • Burnout will go unnoticed for quite a while. In fact, we fleshly humans are part of the problem, because our selfish drive and ambition will often overload us to the point of collapse. We do, do, do until we’re done.
  • When we’re sick with MCD, it will affect our Physical, Social, Mental, and Spiritual Health.
  • Does working at this church interfere with your communion with Christ?
    • Wow that statement that is found on page 38 caused me to stop in my tracks. I think the first time I read the book, I had to stop here and wrestle with this question for a week before I could continue. 
  • When we’re sick, we often contaminate those around us.
  • When we’re sick, how can we show a dying world heath?
  •  Satan ONLY come to steal,  kill, and destroy. However Jesus comes to give us life to the full.

So… my question is simple. What do you do to protect yourself and your team against burnout?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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33 thoughts on “Group Blogging Project: Mad Church Disease | Day 1

  1. What do I do to protect myself against burnout has to be I go to my mentors. I explain the way i feel, and allow their wisdom and encouragement to give me a quick fill to get me going again. It's very humbling to allow someone to see you in this stage, but the more vulnerable you are the more open you are to being recharged.

  2. Wow. Chapter one left me slack jawed. Awesome stuff. I think step one is absolutely accountability. We need to have people in our lives checking on our alone time with God and our time in scripture. I also think we need to make sure that our time away is proportional to the size of the projects we dive into. Doing two weeks of camp and mission trip? Take more than just one day off. You've just spent 14 doing moment by moment ministry.

    There's a statement I hear a lot that says that 10% of the people in a church are doing 90% of the work. Generally speaking I find this to be true. Most of us that work in a church fill several roles and even have our own projects on the side. We have got to make sure, based on the immediate needs of each one, that we measure and gauge which one to focus on. If we try to give all the projects the same amount of attention then we are guaranteed to fry. Also, I've found that most of us are so passionate about the work that we head up that we try to be involved in every aspect of it. This doesn't work. We have to learn how to delegate and when we need to be focused on other parts and trust the people we work with to take care of theirs.

    • Good Point about heading up our passions. I like the way that Andy Stanley talks about replacing ourselves. I have not done this enough. Chances are there is someone that could do the job better than me, if I only took the time to look around at where those people are. Their likely on the edges and if we encourage them, they could step into the center and do things that we can not.

      Delegation often allows us to see the gifts that God has given others grow.

      • This is where I let pride get in the way by thinking that no one can do it like I want it done or that the amount of time it would take to train someone to do it then I could have already had it done. Of course in the long run it's better to grow a team…even Jesus didn't do it alone.

    • I love the idea of being bringing proportions into the picture: balance the amount of days you worked to the amount of days you take off. I've thought of something like that before, but whenever I try to or want to take a day off, I have that hankering guilt that says, "Dont be such a baby! Look – No one else is taking a day off!" All the while everyone else is burning out!

      No wonder the rest of the world is facing burn-out; those of us who are supposed to be the example can't even get it right! It's a delicate balance but it is imperative that each of us find it.

      • "No wonder the rest of the world is facing burn-out; those of us who are supposed to be the example can't even get it right! It's a delicate balance but it is imperative that each of us find it." This is SO true! Those of us in leadership are supposed to be modeling having our priorities right but so often we don't! I wrote a post about the importance of the pastor's marriage relationship recently. I touch on this issue. Check it out: http://kevinmartineau.blogspot.com/2009/05/as-goe

      • A couple of ideas for proportion:

        The "12 hour rule" in ministry. Don't return to the church until 12 hours after you left it. For example if meeting runs until 10:00 p.m. – don't go into the office the next day until 10:00 a.m.

        "Chunk" up the day into 4-5 hour parts and then only work or serve 2 chunks per work day. (i.e. Part 1: 8 am – noon; Part 2: noon – 4 pm; Part 3: 4 – 8 pm and so on). Helpful for those days that you have a morning staff meeting and an evening youth event.

  3. That is so true! Being transparent with those who have taken their time to mentor you is so important.

    I know I have trouble admitting when I am out of control or that the demands of ministry and the expectations of a pastor/church member are too much. I feel like the confession will only emphasize my weakness and discredit my ability to serve God. Silly…I know, because it's in our weakness that God shines through. (2 Corin 12:9)

  4. I found myself nodding in agreement to SO much of the first chapter of this book. I laughed out loud when I read, "I (proudly) didn't take a single vacation day during my first year on staff." My personality lines up so well with that statement. Somehow I find myself thinking that people will actually take notice of when I am punishing myself for the good of the cause/ministry. I've had this bizarre mindset for a long time — I can remember that I didn't leave class to go to the restroom in 7th grade because we had to sign-out to go and since there was a hand-written record of in-class potty breaks I thought that some kind of acknowledgment or prize might be involved at the end of the school year for the student dedicated enough to stay in class and hold it. BTW, I was incorrect about that, however I have still continued to punish and neglect myself physically and spiritually in the hopes of gaining acceptance, approval, praise and whatever else Satan has tried to convince me that I need from others.

    • I know exactly what you’re talking about. Often, I think I need to bring my superman cape out and handle all the woes and ills that come up. I think God has created me uniquely to handle a lot of stress (which serves as a problem sometimes because I’ll miss the breaking point too often)

      This is why I think it is critical to surround each other with folks who will tell us that we’re in danger.

      Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about Sabbath lately. We need to purposefully put those times of rest in place from all distractions.

      • If Sabbath has to be on Sunday then that's a difficult task for those in ministry in the church. That's a HUGE reason I left ministry in the "traditional church". I just couldn't balance church, family and ministry. I refused to let Daniel grow up disliking church because his mommy was ALWAYS there.

        • Sabbath does NOT have to be Sunday's. For those of us in ministry it is NOT Sunday. Sabbath is simply any day of the week that we choose to stop, rest and rejevenate. I take my Sabbath on Fridays. It is a day that my church has learned to respect and I am very thankful for that.

          • As Christians, we are all in “full time” ministry, but if you’re like me, you have another full time job too.

            I think more needs to be spoken about this for volunteers. We’re often coming out of jobs and families that take most of our time during the week, and then we put on our church hats to do that “job.”

            Burnout will happen with this pace.

            For me, Sabbath is something I am working on. No answers yet, but definitely needs to be instituted.

          • This is something that I am learning to understand more and more. This year is the first time in my adult life that I have been a member of a church without being on staff. I see things so differently now…including how quick you can burnout a volunteer.

            While I was working in the church I was so focused on filling holes in the ministry plan that I forgot to make sure that it was good fit for the volunteer. Bill Hybles talks a good bit about this in "The Volunteer Revolution" (which I am also reading). He refers to volunteers finding the right place to serve as their "sweet spot". Even when a volunteer finds their 'sweet spot' the church needs to respect that volunteer's time.

          • Thanks for the clarification Andy about ministry. Ironically, this is something that I have been working hard at fighting against (i.e. sacred and secular divide in life) and here I am promoting it. 🙂

            I 100% agree with you about volunteers. Just as my church respects my Sabbath I need to respect other people's Sabbaths. One thing I am learning is to give people permission to say "no" to me. Just as much as I need my Sabbath, the rest of the church does too!

  5. What we have to realize is that no one CAN do it like us, because everyone has their own way of doing things based on the way they see it. Often times when we step back and let others do their work we find new possibilities open up because of the way that they went about it.

  6. I must say that I wish I had read this book three or more years ago! I can relate to everything that Anne describes in this first chapter. Just over two years ago I went through a time of burnout. It was the most painful time of my life. Thankfully, God transformed me in incredible ways during that time. Some of the things that I immediately implemented to avoid burnout again when I returned to work were: (1) taking two days off a week (pastor's it IS possible!) (2) getting a written job description (this was huge in establishing expectations) and (3) I found a coach/mentor (this has been an absolute necessity for me).

  7. Obviously, I have experienced burnout – but God healed me and got me back in the game where I then burned out again. I am in a new place in ministry now and I refuse to fall into the same patterns. I am beginning a new ministry position that involves volunteer development, so learning how to protect myself and our volunteer team against burnout is VERY important.

    All of that to say, I'm not sure about HOW to protect against burnout. I'd personally love some ideas. =)

    • And I’m happy to see you back at it! Excited to see your passion and what you’re doing.

      Thanks for joining the blogging project.

  8. I'm pretty certain that where I work, burn out is nothing something that is seriously considered. So I'm learning that I have to monitor this myself. No one is going to tell you to take a day off, that it's okay to go to a parent/teacher conference, etc. This is my second time going through this book. I was so broken up and crying reading it the first time…couldn't believe that someone actually understood.

    I'm not in a leadership role, but a supportive one so when I need to call volunteers to ask them to participate or lead a particular project, I try to give them the option to say no and not make them feel guilty about it. It's the best I can offer at my pay grade. 🙂

  9. I'm pretty certain that where I work, burn out is not something that is seriously considered. So I'm learning that I have to monitor this myself. No one is going to tell you to take a day off, that it's okay to go to a parent/teacher conference, etc. This is my second time going through this book. I was so broken up and crying reading it the first time…couldn't believe that someone actually understood.

    I'm not in a leadership role, but a supportive one so when I need to call volunteers to ask them to participate or lead a particular project, I try to give them the option to say no and not make them feel guilty about it. It's the best I can offer at my pay grade. 🙂

    • I wonder how many churches have some sort of volunteer coordinator in place. My guess is it would be a low number that has someone guarding the volunteer pool.

      I would like to see some volunteer plans that other churches have in place. I’d like to help implement something at Norcross. Anybody? Anne, what does Cross Point do both to get, keep, and guard volunteers?

      • We've got a Volunteer Coordinator, but his role is to FIND volunteers. Not to monitor their "health". I think the intentions are to find that 80% that aren't volunteering so the remaining 20% aren't carrying the burden, but many volunteers I know are wearing more than 1 hat.

  10. Wow, this chapter blew me out of the water! I know that I have walked very close to the burnout line. I know that I need to monitor my ministry health, but I really needed an in your face reminder. I am setting up some trusted people to monitor me and I am even now creating a system to monitor those who will be on our staff in the future. Thanks, Anne for putting your thumb on it and thanks Andy for your challenges!