Recognizing Burnout

Recognizing Burnout

Ryan Raflowski Advisors & Student Leaders, Leadership, Personal Development 0 Comments

This one is tough for me. As a mental health professional, I have training in self-care and recognizing some signs of burnout. That being said, it can still be challenging at times to admit that I need to take care of some of my own needs before I am able to adequately meet the needs of others. I see this struggle all the time in both myself and in those that I work alongside. It takes humility to recognize that you have to hit the breaks and pull in for a pit stop.

Ministry work can lead to burnout for several reasons:

  • Lack of self-care and self-renewal
  • Unrealistic expectations for self
  • Poor stress management
  • Sense of perfectionism
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships
  • Lack of recognition for good work
  • Too many responsibilities
  • Need for control
  • Doing work that may feel monotonous or unchallenging

These are but a few of the risk factors for burnout. It is important to note that there is a difference between stress and burnout. While unrelenting stress can lead to burnout, too much stress does not always indicate burnout. Stress usually is characterized by too much; it involves the many pressures that demand too much of your physical and psychological resources. Burnout is usually characterized by not enough; it involves a feeling of emptiness, no motivation, and you are beyond caring. People who are experiencing burnout see no hope or positive outcomes that will change their situations.

If unrelenting stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up.

We are typically aware of being consumed with stress—we are less aware of burnout when it happens.

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few indications that you may be experiencing burnout:

  1. You feel tired and drained most of the time. You lack focus, motivation, and clarity of thought. You have overloaded expectations and experience a constant block for mental energy.
  1. You lose passion for your work and ministry. You dread conducting meetings and the other responsibilities. It becomes more of an obligation or commitment, rather than a passion in your life.
  1. You go from being a leader to being a manager. Leaders have vision. Visionaries are at their best when they receive instruction from God at the top of the mountain and come down and give vision to the organization. When experiencing burnout, a leader does not have a capacity for any more vision. All forward momentum comes to a hard stop, while the leader goes into management mode to try and hold everything together. Managers focus on the details, the processes, and the different parts of the organization rather than the whole. They do this, all the while with a small hope that they will receive a burst of energy to take their organization to the next level. However, this is a deception; unless the leader takes adequate steps toward self-restoration things will only get worse. Additionally, you may see people leave the organization. Unless there is a compelling vision coming from the leader, the people will scatter (Read Proverbs 29:18).
  1. You isolate yourself from others. When experiencing burnout, you are exhausted. You create an emotional distance from others because you simply lack the energy to have lengthy conversations or minister to their needs.
  1. You lack patience for the monotonous. Your work becomes boring and you feel disenchanted from the work that you are doing. You lack the patience to deal with the mundane things necessary to maintain oversight of staff and organizational responsibilities. Relationship challenges become petty and the grace you once had for the immaturity of the saints is now gone.
  1. You shy away from new challenges. Unless you take the necessary time for self-care and self-renewal, your organization’s growth will become limited. You may shy away from new challenges, renewed vision, and forward momentum. You are also too tired to problem-solve.
  1. You would rather call it quits, than take on a new mountain. When you are thinking about laying down your weapons, rather than going off to war to defeat your foes, then you know you need to be renewed. Anyone who is living for retirement is an individual who has already stopped living! God calls leaders to minister out of abundance and overflow—not out of the fumes of an empty tank!
  1. You view ministry as work rather than a calling. You may feel undervalued and underappreciated. Please know that the work you do is eternal and life-changing! As Galatians 6:9 says: So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. It is the greatest privilege and honor to be used by God and as an overseer of a ministry or organization. It is not a job, but a calling.

How can we recover from burnout?

  • Take a day of rest! This will most likely not fall on a Sunday, but making a day of rest a priority is key to a healthy work/ministry-life balance.
  • Spend time with God. This seems obvious, but do not underestimate what a single moment in God’s presence can do for your overall quality of life!
  • Make time for life-giving activities. What energizes you? Extroverts are energized by being around others, while introverts need alone time to recharge. Prioritize your time with God, with family & friends, your hobbies and interests, and for your physical health. Make sure you are not missing meals, getting a good night’s rest, and are exercising. You cannot effectively help others if you are not taking care of yourself first.
  • Refocus on your calling and God’s vision for your ministry. If you are feeling lost, you must find your way back to why God has called you to minister. Find focus in that and realign with the vision for your ministry.
  • Stay accountable. You are not meant to be an island. Leadership can be lonely and it does not always have to be. Connect with other leaders by reaching out for prayer and encouragement. Be honest about your victories and your failures. We must sometimes reach out for a little bit of help!


Mattera, J. (2015, April 21). 10 Signs of Leadership Burnout and 5 Ways to Recover. In Ministry Today.

Smith, M., Segal, J., Robinson, L., & Segal, R. (2017, April). Burnout Prevention and Recovery. In HelpGuide.Org.

About the Author

Ryan Raflowski

Ryan is a school psychologist and co-advisor for the BASIC Chapter at SUNY Oswego. He desires to see a generation of young people recognize God's purpose and plan for their life. He tries to live "Kingdom-minded" and longs to see revival fire sweep across college campuses. You could probably find him walking around town playing Pokémon Go with his wife Kdee or indoors with their two cats Oliver and Lupin.

Leading With Confidence

Liz McNeill Advisors & Student Leaders, Leadership, Personal Development 0 Comments

Liz McNeillHello, BASIC leaders! My name is Liz and I am currently a BASIC Intern. BASIC first became a part of my life in 2015 when I had the opportunity to establish a chapter at Roberts Wesleyan College. Though it was scary, it was beautiful as we saw God change lives through BASIC. Chris asked me to do a guest post for the BASIC Blog this week, and I feel entirely privileged to share what God is speaking. God is faithful and He has plans for your campus!

Do you remember the day your BASIC story began? I remember sitting in my kitchen, my senior year of college starting in just two short weeks. My dad (and pastor) was leaning against the stove in our kitchen. “Liz, it looks like the BASIC group won’t be happening this year. We just don’t have a leader.” Immediately, my heart sank. “But the students need to know Jesus! They need to know Him personally and now there’s no BASIC group to help!”

There was silence in the kitchen. Then more silence. My dad blinked at me, cleared his throat, stared at me some more. Then it hit me: God was calling me to lead. That was the day I became a BASIC leader. I said yes because I felt God calling me.

Some of you might feel like God shoved you off the boat into the raging sea. Others may feel like it was the day your life finally began. Regardless of how your BASIC story started, there are times when we question why God placed us in this position.  There were days when I said, “God, what have I gotten myself into?” Rather than admonishing me from heaven, God gently took my hand and explained His purpose to me.

When I was overwhelmed with the thought of leading BASIC, God brought my attention to Joshua 1, where He commissions Joshua to lead. Not only does Joshua have to replace Moses, he has been called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Talk about stress. Yet God saw that stress!

Even more beautifully, God didn’t ignore it, but addressed the very feelings Joshua was experiencing. God said “be strong and courageous” a total of four times in that chapter. God hears our cries, and though He may seem silent to us, He speaks to us through His word.

When we say yes to God, He starts saying yes to us. When we step into leadership, we lead in submission to God. However, through that submission God uses us to further His Kingdom on the earth. Just think: God had a plan, saw you, and chose you to see His plans through on the earth. Psalm 2:8 calls us to “just ask” and God will place the nations in our hands, and the “whole earth” will be our inheritance.

This verse speaks of a partnership. While God is all knowing and omnipotent, He wants us to ask.  He wants to work alongside us as we seek to bring His Kingdom to earth. This is the God we serve! We are not alone because God has chosen us and wants to work with us daily.

The thing is, it’s easy to forget that we are leading alongside God. When I hear “it’s easy to forget” I immediately grab my phone and make a list of ways to avoid forgetting. However, let me give you permission to let go of a stress-motivated relationship with God. Let the striving go, because as soon as you do, you’ll find freedom.

Talk to God in the car, on the way to class, or on the way to get the mail. Say a simple sentence of prayer before approaching a new student, before teaching, or before leading a worship set. Sit down with your Bible and read one verse. You see, when you take those tiny steps, Jesus takes a leap to be by your side. He will kindle that fire for Him, and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself reading a chapter, or saying paragraphs of prayers to Him. But all it takes is that one step. I’ve seen it in my life and I know that God is faithful to meet each one of us wherever we start.

There will be days where you feel inadequate. Don’t let those words settle in your spirit. Remind yourself that God has chosen and commissioned you. He saw you, your gifts, and your heart, and decided you were perfect for BASIC. He sees every problem that’s coming your way, and He has a plan for each one.


About the Author

Liz McNeill


BASIC first became a part of Liz McNeill's life in 2015 when she had the opportunity to establish a chapter at Roberts Wesleyan College. Though it was scary, it was beautiful as they saw God change lives through their BASIC group. She is currently attending Elim Bible Institute & College while interning with BASIC.