Five Common Reasons Church Members Burnout

February 1, 2016

“I just did not have the energy to keep coming back to church.”

Though my consultation with the church took place many years ago, I remember vividly my interview with a member of the church who had recently dropped out. Her departure stunned the members and leadership. She was the one member you could count on. She was there “every time the doors were open.”

And then she never showed up again.

She simply sent an email of resignation of all ministries and left.

This church member experienced classic church burnout. And, as a consequence, she put herself on the sidelines of local church ministry, unsure if she would ever come back to active church life.

Burnout among church members may not be as obvious and dramatic as this example, but it is real. Some members gradually become less and less involved until you don’t see them anymore.

Such are some of the symptoms of church member burnout. But what are the causes? Here are five common causes.

  1. The church does not have clear purposes or vision. Many times the busyness of church life is not the problem; it is the lack of clarity of the vision of the church. Give church members a clear “why” to the ministry they do, and many will never grow weary of the work.
  2. The church has certain activities because “we’ve always done it that way before.” Few things lead to burnout more quickly than asking a member to be a part of something that has ceased to be useful to the church. “I was on a committee that met every month,” one church member told me. “But our committee never accomplished anything. If the committee disappeared tomorrow, very few people would notice.”
  3. Too few members doing most of the ministry. This issue is both a symptom and a cause. In most established churches, about 90 percent of the ministry is done by one-third of the members.
  4. The church does not celebrate enough. Celebrations are great motivators to continue the labor and ministry. They remind us of God’s provisions and His victories working through us.
  5. The church has no clear expectations of membership. In most of our churches, we expect little or nothing of our members, and that is exactly what we get. It is imperative for churches to have a new members’ class or entry point class that provides both information and expectations.

Burnout is common with so many church members.

But it does not have to be.

Let me hear your thoughts.

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  • Linda Christiansen says on

    I’m am feeling burned out and exhausted. I love the Lord, I love my church and I love my community. We are a small church in a small, rural community.. for the last decade we have had pastors who are good men, godly men… but they do not see the importance of connecting to the community we live and work in. They also are of the mindset that pastors teach… so Others do. While that is not a wrong principle, in a setting like ours, you have our few families doing everything. And I would say 95% are willing to do whatever is needed… joyfully…. but we all have more than full time jobs… I think there is one person who has a job with “normal business hours.” The rest are involved in agriculture, trucking and oilfield jobs… which are more like 89 hours a week, we have a full time Pastor… who is compensated very well. We are juggling jobs, family, and all of the duties of the church ( except preaching on Sunday morning). We are visiting the sick, taking meals, putting on VBS, doing nursing home services, doing community outreach… all things our pastor wants to have happen. Our church is financially generous… but in our small town… many do not even know who is the pastor. Or that he is married. Or that she is the only piano player and the main worship leader. We are tired! I haven’t been out of town or had a break because 75% of the time I or another person need to lead worship because the pastor or his wife are out of town! They are wonderful people… and it isn’t just the current pastor, the last 15 or more years it has felt like we have a church without a pastor, because of the philosophy of “ we will teach, you will do”! I don’t plan to leave or quit my church, and I believe in the mission of the church and ministering to others, especially in our community, but would really welcome if the clergy would step up to the plate and lead by example…. work alongside us and share the load!

  • Bryan Wallace says on

    I need prayer for direction. I want to leave my current ministry. I am drained and burnt out. I can’t leave on vacation unless it get approved and most times it’s discouraged. I can’t work on church days. I sing on the praise team, my profession is media so I do all the video, and motion graphics for free but they treat it like it’s a job. I am not voluntary on 5 different teams that I am required to be at all meetings. I was called yesterday for missing a meeting and not calling for work. Then I was told to swear before God I would accept my new assignment by force. I have been a member for 11 years. I came because my old pastor molested and I was at 18 involved in a same sex act also. I came for deliverance it is a Strict church but it helped me find my deliverance. But spiritual and physical I am tired. I feel like a zombie when I go I just sing and do camera and I when I say I need help they say just keep coming. Is it my flesh? I need prayer for guidance.

  • This is a good discussion! Burnout is no joke, and I and working through a few areas of concern with my current church. I started to have symptoms of burnout, and it caused a shift in perspective of my church. I realized I had been clinging to it too tightly, and other areas of my life were suffering as a result. As I am quietly exploring other local churches, I do not feel distant from God or angry at my church. I feel more determined to give Him my absolute best. If he is moving me to a new place in order to serve Him, then I know it is the best thing for me and my family. My biggest fear is disappointing my current pastor and church family, but maybe that’s also the best reason for a change!

    Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

  • David Henry says on

    I’ve been a Deacon now off and on for over 30 years. I have seen a lot of things not done right in church, maybe not sin but attitudes and actions that are not right. I’m to the point of burn out, I have health problems where I’m worn out by the time Wednesday night service starts and don’t really want to be there. I’ve endured preaching that was not exactly biblical, tired of always hearing how hard or bad preachers have it. Its like a lot of pastors have a disconnect on reality. As a regular Christian I work almost a 50 hour week, teach a small group, show up on Sunday mornings and take up the offering and count it and am in charge of communion. I know I need to be closer to God but right now it’s a struggle. I’m just tired and don’t want to be a part of church politics any more. I want to go to a church where no one knows me to be honest. And no I’m not trying to kick preachers and I’m not perfect either.

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