To The Unrefreshed Leader
March 23rd 2021
As we start firing up our emails for the week, the opening statement often goes something like this.
Hi Joe, How are you? I hope you’re feeling refreshed after your weekend. [then onto business]. It’s nice. We like to start in an upbeat tone. Connect with the person, not just the task.
Unfortunately, despite having ‘time off’ over the Christmas period and public holidays, many of us find ourselves returning to work just as tired as when we left.
And that’s a problem.
We refresh in a variety of ways; better sleep, rest, nature, walks, time with God, exercise, nutrition, social gatherings, alone time, shopping, outings, church, quality time with family, time away from home. But with so many of these banned or limited for a good part of 2020, many didn’t take their usual leave, or if they did, were not refreshed in the way they might have hoped for.
We’ll skip the highlight reel of what happens to leaders when they burnout, I think you have a pretty clear idea of what that scenario can look like. What we are going to do, is seek a sustainable way back to rest and refreshment for the sake of ourselves, our families and those we lead. We all know that Jesus is not in the business of burnout.
Centre on Jesus.
Truthfully, most Christian go through seasons in their life where they struggle to feel connected to Jesus, to his Word, and their faith. Acknowledging when you are in one of those seasons is helpful. Each person connects with Jesus in differing ways, it is up to you to create that time and space. If you know that you need to be in nature with your bible to reconnect, then make time for just that. If you know that you need a Quiet Time routine each morning, then make time for that. Let’s work towards small steps of putting those connection points back into a healthy routine.
Do a ‘Burnout Check’.
It’s helpful to know the signs of burnout in yourself, have a candid conversation with a trusted friend or your GP and make sure you are on a path towards good mental health. If you’re doing OK, then at least you’ve identified your signs and if you’re in need of support, then you’re in the right room to get a support team behind you. Carey Nieuwhof has done an excellent post on this that has 9 signs of burnout related to ministry. You can read it here.
Find your Self-Care Routine.
Each person, whether they lead or not, requires self-care to invest in their health, the health of their leadership/ministry and the impact they have on those around them. Some items on popular self-care routines are listed below. Take a few minutes to list out how you are caring for yourself in each of these areas. Be realistic, but do set goals, for example, “I will go for a 30-minute walk outside each day.”
Rest & Recovery
Community & friendship
For most people in ministry, there is often an unspoken expectation that you will be constantly available. This is both unrealistic and unhealthy for any person. Unplugging is important for your mind, body and soul. Human beings were not created to have their faces glued to screens and in meetings all day. When all our devices are switched to ‘off’, we can breathe and reconnect with the elements around us. Some people go on regular retreats to ‘unplug’ and are immersed in a different geographical space, especially in nature. Don’t just dream about this, be intentional, set aside half a day, a whole day or a few days, lock in into your diary and protect it as a regular event. If you’d like to read more about the benefits of ‘unplugging’, Beyond Blue has some great information here.
Assess your Calendar.
Over-commitment creeps up on us, especially if we are the type of person who likes to get things done efficiently. The temptation to keep adding to an already jam-packed schedule is easy to succumb to. So, take a moment and really look at your calendar. Are there items on there that can be removed, pushed back or delegated? If so, do it. Think about what items get added to your calendar from then on – what requirements do they need to meet to enable you to say ‘yes’ to them? Take some time to figure out that filter.
Check your Joy.
This has two aspects to it. Firstly, take the time to assess how you’re feeling about the work that you’re doing. Is it aligning to your calling and passion still, or has it drifted? Sometimes a conversation is all that’s needed to realign your work so that it’s sitting in your sweet spot. Other times, it requires a more in-depth review with senior leaders or boards that see hard decisions occur, like changing roles or leaving a workplace. Secondly, we need to make sure we are not doing ministry to the detriment of our own lives. If our lives are so consumed with work that we’ve lost time for passion projects, family, rest or joyful activities, then something is amiss. When was the last time you engaged in a hobby or activity for pleasure? If you can’t remember, then much like your ‘retreat’ time, start to schedule it in without guilt.
From one leader to another, we can do this! Self-care is sometimes the best thing we can do for our leadership. I bless you in your ministry and most of all, your self-care.
Leah has a long history in local mission, starting with leadership at Christian Youth Camps Victoria from 1994-1999. On moving to Queensland in 2001 she served at Southport Church of Christ in the Young Adults Ministry, including a mission to China. Returning to Victoria in 2005 she began a Youth Dimension Internship and remained at Youth Dimension in various roles, predominantly around local outreach and ending as General Manager in 2019. Leah is a graduate of Arrow 21 in Australia with a Grad Cert in Arts (Leadership) and is currently studying her MLead. She is currently working for Arrow Leadership International as their Ops Manager.
Leah is married to Jon and is a mother to Eli, Zoe, and Hunter. Leah loves art, bric’a’brac markets, gardening, being in nature, and having friends over for long and delicious lunches and last into the night.