Maintain A Healthy Balance: Habit #5 of Highly Effective Lay Ministers

You have probably heard many in ministry share about their phases or stages of “burn-out”. I have been in full-time ministry for 21 years and I can honestly say I have never experienced this. Being more worn out or exhausted after certain events? Yes, but never burn out. After all these years, I still wake up and pinch myself to think I have the privilege and honor of being with people during these sacred moments in their lives.

I do not share this to brag or to say I am better than anyone else. Quite the opposite. Somehow, God uses a fool like me to try and reach many vulnerable souls. I am not worthy and for that, I am forever grateful to be in the position that I am.

I do think a few things have helped me stay fresh and balanced. One is to take care of yourself physically. I religiously work out 5 days a week, eat pretty healthy and try and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Nothing crazy in my exercising – just balanced and consistent. I do not drink or smoke. I feel as strong and healthy at 48 as I did when I was 28. Doing these basic things helps a lot.

We all know we need to build and maintain our personal relationship with the Lord. Before I got into full-time ministry, I was an urban planner. Sometimes, I feel like my quiet time was better then. We go to work for the Church or volunteer heavily and we can lose our way. We cannot do anything apart from the grace and power of God. If you ever forget this, go back and read John Chapter 15! Do not substitute ministry for God.

To keep things sane, I would not give my cell phone to everyone – only to those you feel need it. If you are always “on call”, you will never have that mental break that you need to recharge.

Come up with a schedule and stick to it. Send it to other staff members so they know when you are in and when you are out. This will help organize your week and insure that you strike a healthy balance.

Find what feeds and energizes you. If puttering in the garden is life giving for you, then do it. Same goes for connecting with close friends, watching your favorite show on Netflix or reading a great book. Recreation in moderation is necessary for our wellbeing as God is “re-creating” us in His image. He does not want us tired and running on empty. His soldiers on the ground need to be well fed and energetic for the task at hand.

I think one trap that we can all fall into is the messiah complex – thinking the salvation of all souls depends on us and our efforts. In all humility, we need to remember that we are just one of many in God’s army. We do the best with what he has given us and the rest we need to let go of knowing that the Lord’s grace and power is always sufficient to reach all of humankind.

Bruce Baumann is the Director of Faith Formation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, TX. He received his Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and has been involved in professional youth ministry for 20+ years. Bruce is a certified catechetical instructor in the Dallas Diocese and a Life Coach for the Living Your Strengths movement. He is passionate about training ministry leaders and has had the joy of presenting workshops and retreats at conferences and parishes around the country.