Five Common Reasons Church Members Burnout


“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.

Posted on February 1, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Is it possible to be just tired ? Cause I’m tired. I joined the churhch’s work force out of pressure. And even if not about pressure, I’m really tired but I don’t know how to or who to confide in. Church people or family because then, they start preaching and preaching and then, they pray for you…. And, I fear, that’s what they will do.

    My local church is great and I’m probably using exhaustion as an excuse but, I just don’t want to do this anymore.

    Not Christianity but just this….. Isn’t being a church member enough ?

    I know they’ll Say “it’s all you” and it’s true, it’s me.

    I’ve really lost faith in God, honestly I’ve backslided, and apart from the pressure that made me join the workforce I just felt that maybe joining the workforce was not so bad after all. I mean, I was misbehaving and joining the workforce will maybe put me in order….. but then, I’m tired and I don’t know who to tell.

    Maybe a break, a really long break will do…..
    really hurts that I’ve lost interest in things generally, and it hurts to see my sis. on fire for God and I’m not. But then, I’m just exhausted.

    What do you advise I do ?

    • Flourish Orji says on

      Be honest with your church leaders,take a break and resume after 3 months..While on this, place yourself on spiritual regimen; fasting ,prayer and study of the word.

  • Tamara A Lee says on

    I am currently suffering from church burnout. One thing I have learned is that people will use God as a pawn to get what they want and need from you. I was minister of music of a church for over 25 years. I was also born and raised in a church. I’ve sang solo, duet, trio, quartet, ensemble, choir. I have taught music as well. I was once involved in a Gospel singing organization. And the list goes on. I’m tired. Not tired of serving God, but I am mentally drained from the rat race that church can sometimes present. A lot of churches nowadays are based on pleasing man and the religion instead of pleasing God. After 25 years of being a faithful servant as a minister of music, I was shown no appreciation. I then realized I was just being used. Due to the lack of security in the building, I carried my musical equipment back and forth to and from church every Sunday. If I needed anything pertaining to my equipment, for instance, cords, batteries, etc., I had to come out of pocket. I won’t take up too much more of your time because it gets really deep. I am a member of a church now that has recently merged and is under new leadership. But, prior to the changes, it was chaotic. Fights, arguing, etc. It was ridiculous. Now, I am numb. I no longer have an interest in church. It’s like pulling a sleeping mule to plow. I’m tired.

    • David Schafer says on

      Hi! I am going through the exact same thing. About 7 years ago, we had a change in Pastors. Unfortunately, he is a musician and has made things very complicated in terms of sound systems and all of the stuff that goes with music ministry. He has also added multiple groups to our Parish to play at the various services on the weekends. I have been there over 40 years and have always loved it. I feel this pastor is in our faces too much about the music and he is a narcissist. I feel we have lost our focus on congregational singing and have put music ministers in the forefront. I hate it!!!! It is all about Jesus!!!! I have thought many times of approaching the pastor and bringing this up, but being the type of person he is, you just wind up walking away mad, upset and ready to strangle him because of his arrogance. Sorry if I am rambling on. We had a great music ministry before he came to our church. I can sympathize with feeling numb as you described as I feel the exact same way. It is affecting my faith!!!!

  • JP c a l l o w a y says on

    I am no special case I’m 64 years old and was raised in a Baptist Minister’s home my parents were godly people I had no problem at all with integrating into the church life and serving God when I was serving as ministry music in the church that my father pastor I had no problems at all working in another Baptist Church is a youth leader from 1982 until 1985 at that point we left the Baptist Church and began tending a small charismatic church where I was youth minister I encountered a lot of opposition that was the beginning of conflict when I would go to a church sometimes it was my fault sometimes it was their fault but I could tell you things that would make your skin crawl I am very reluctant to go to a church because I become involved I know that I’m going to get nail to the wall I have a heart for God I want to be an evangelist but churches today seem to be about there are two different sets of rules for due to two different groups of people for the small-time guy who’s a blue collar laborer or somebody that works with their hands he doesn’t make very much money if you do something wrong they will beat you out in a heartbeat and maybe excommunicate you if you have money such as a doctor or lawyer or your powerful within the church or your church is prominent ly dominated by your family then you can expect little retribution no punishment no no jurisdiction and surely not any form of excommunication or church discipline this is not right church is today seem to be dominated by the desire to Big builder excuse me to build bigger buildings rake in the money have multiple pastors with ungodly high salaries and they keep milking the people for more and more money when the percentage of the budget that they spend on something that really matters such as feeding the homeless buying Bibles and clothes for people helping people learn skills and evangelizing door to door and funding missions projects overseas send a message that the building and the salary is more important than the evangelization process I do have a sincere desire to be an evangelist but I’ve been married before therefore I am not qualified to be a pastor because I’m divorced I’m looking for a conservative Protestant church where I can go and listen to the word of God you’re a piano and an organ instead of a rock and roll band and a disco check and feel that I have been in the presence of God and that people are reverent the world seems to have overrun the church the church has lost its power and the church has become corporate it’s all about money

  • Kuya Raul and Robbi Francisco says on

    Hello. The person referenced above who resigned from all ministries and left – is this a real testimony or merely an example of what burnout looks like?

    We are writing a book and would like permission to use the above “testimony.”

  • Church/ ministry burnout is not so much based on you as it is your concept of God and who he is.
    AW Tozer said in his book Knowledge of the Holy.
    “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

    For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …
    A.W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy)
    So who is God of your life? God or Burnout? Whos greater? How great is God’s grace and does his love reach thelowest hell? Remember the hymn ” the Love of God”?
    While I will, describe to you my own Journey with my own burnout and what I’ve discovered as well as others burnout what I have discovered. I feel the need to first of all inform you that there is a difference between church and Ministry burnout or spiritual burnout, its also called.
    There is a vast difference between Ministry burnout and having a dry season/ dry spell. Which is common. And can happen many times through our journeys. Usually caused by a idolatry/ sin in our lives we refuse to give up or that we dont realize is a idol or sin in our lives and the dry season is used to wake usup and realize thetes something God is trying to point out.
    Either way spiritual burnout and dry spells are usually caused by a obsoleteness or derailment or notkeepingin step with God/ the Spirit. Both can cause exhaustion. And that obsoleteness or misalignment can be because of you the individual or the church congregation or denomination is out of place somewhere. It is possible that your burnout only seems” to be you but the problem is actually within the congregation or leadership- you are being indirectly impacted by it.
    when you or anyone tries to address this issue with anyone of spiritual burnout have you ever noticed that you are always told to “do something” ?-
    ” try harder” ” do this current Church fad” ” pray more, study more, come to church more”….do, do, do….. in other words, the program.
    While all these things are good in and of themselves. With the exception of church fads.
    The truth is While most of these things are good in of themselves. Truth be told doing all these can create spiritual burnout and more so if you already have burnout can create and frustrated more. Doing anything is not the answer.
    It was the Apostle Paul asking the Church of galatia
    How they received the spirit. Was it because of anything you did or was it because of faith? How did you receive the spirit? It was not through anything you did. There is your answer-Faith.
    Faith is not something you do. I do not care what the name it claim it Faith others who tried to turn faith into a work say. Faith is not something you do.
    Faith can only gravitate towards what it has already seen. In other words faith is a natural response like gravity. It is not something you produce.
    And a lot of times we have to go back to our first love. We have to hear about God’s love and allow him to fill us with his spirit( fruit of the spirit) it is not up to us to produce anything. Regeneration is God’s job. John 3:6 ( notice the difference between the lowercase spirit and the uppercase spirit) & John 15.
    And as far as the fruit of the spirit goes first of all noticed that it is singular, not plural. Fruit, Not fruits
    2nd notice that its fruit ” of the Spirit”- meaning God produces it you don’t. And there are nine. That functions like a chain of command or like the domino effect. The first three have to do with your relationship to God or rather with God.
    The next three have to do with your relationship to your fellow man. And the last three has to do with relationship to yourself.
    You do not have to do anything but just let God love you. Christianity is not so much about” living for God” as it is learning how to let God live it through you.
    ” living for God” is religion.
    In water safety courses when dealing with a drowning person you were taught one vital key of protecting yourself. While attempting to save someone who is drowning you do not rush in while they are panicking and flailing about. Because if you work too in the process of them panicking not thinking in a moment of insanity they would do something that would harm you The Rescuer possibly drowning you putting you both in danger. So what they teach you in water safety courses is to stand back a distance while the person is not willing to Depend and respond to you. You stand back at a distance and allow them to come to the end of their selves.
    Only then are they pliable to do whatever you say.
    In the same way the holy spirit is standing back a distance allowing you to come to the end of yourself before you will become pliable at his Direction. It is only when you’ve exhausted your means. That you were willing to become dependent and submissive.
    So break free from the program of religion and be you.
    Allow God to just love you and produce through me.
    John 15. Just as the branches and leaves of the vine do not produce fruit of theirselves. And they dont stretch and move , struggle to recieve the sunlight. So you shouldnt. The branches and leaves doesnt do the producing of fruit.-The vine does!
    The branches only receives the powerful sap!
    So it is with us! We recieve the life sap of the Holy Spirit. We dont try to produce fruit or strain and struggle to recieve. We relax and take it by faith as it comes. Not try to mimic it. So who is God ? How big ishidgrace and does he not already see you and answers your situation. Trust Go, not the devil when he trys to get you isolated and internalizing your burnout. As long as your looking inside. You will only see darkness and the emptiness’ you will hear lies, and our minds do lie to us. Even recovering addicts know this-that the mind tells you relax ! Jesus sees you! And has you covered! He’s already answered you before you got into burnout. He know it before you were born! Relax, come to the end of you and the program. and your way and trust his way!
    I hope this has helped someone! Blessings!

  • Spiritual burnout by Malcolm Smith.
    I definitely do understand your spiritual exhaustion. I’ve been there and to be honest while prayer, Bible study, going to church, being active in church her all good things they can actually lead to burnout and even fustrated even more. Have you ever noticed that when you try to address this issue with people the response is always something you” do” .
    Go back to your first Love. Recieve him by faith.Let the Lord fill you with his Spirit. And Love you. Be YOU. Because you did not receive the Spirit by anything that you did .So Its not up to you to produce the works, thats God’s Job. John 3:6 & John 15. Regeneration is God’s job. Break away from the fads and ” the program” there is definitely spiritual amnesia in the church.

  • truths hurt says on

    Many people are obsessed with Churchianity, and not with Christianity. Church has simply become another “get together” club that “speaks ABOUT the word, speaks ABOUT God”, but has no WORD indwelling in them nor GOD the Holy Spirit indwelling in them. The place is not “inside” the church, but bringing the real church (born of the Spirit and the Word) out into the world. It is time to change our understanding of what “church” is and get off Constantine’s creation (institution, building, obsession with community first by Catholics and inherited by Protestants) and focus on what REALLY church is (a personal walk with God, in fellowship with others who walk with God).

  • Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so
    much, However I am experiencing difficulties with your RSS.
    I don’t know why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS issues?
    Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond?

  • 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!

    • Kuya Raul and Robbi Francisco says on

      Hi, Linda. I fully understand your frustration. I have been there, as well, on both sides of the pulpit.
      Would you give permission for us to use your comment in our book?

  • 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.

    • Brother Bryan,
      Oh my goodness brother I am so sorry to hear that. Not Just about your over workload, but the molestation issue. My heart and sincerest prayers go out to you for healings.
      I can honestly say that I definitely do understand your concern and I do apologize that I am replying approximately a year and 5 months after your comment due to the fact that I just seen it. But as I was stating I know personally what you are going through. So I am answering you with empathy and not just sympathy. Brother you sound exhausted from the church program more than likely because it is being brought on by force not by your will.. you’re wanting to do it. That in itself can take a toll on you a major toll. I have found with my own burnout in which I became dry and lost my awe and Wonder on the things of God. It became not only dry, but so boring and I cried out to the Lord many times about it. Never imagining that I would become so exhausted and burnout. Even reading a book called Spiritual burnout by malcolm smith. I felt like the Lord had told me to go back to my first love, go back to the beginning go back to his love and to allow him to just love me in a while the Fruit of the Spirit and being filled. Because I can honestly tell you brother I was simply tired of “the program”. Going through the motions and having spiritual anemia. However I will clarify to you that there is a difference between Church in Ministry burnout in a dry spell or dry season as it’s sometimes called .which is common amongst believers.
      I found the most of my burnout was due to my inability to reflect and absorb,think on and connect with what was being taught to me. I can honestly say I do not remember even one sermon. Largely because of the expectations placed on me way to soon and other well intentioned members who may not have realized there urgings and encouragings were actually causing me to stumble. Why too many things was placed on me and expected of me. My honest advice to you is break away from religion ” the program” fads of the church and be the person God created you to be at your own pace. Be YOU. Allow the Lord to fill your spirt with his Spirit John 3:6 ( notice the lower case and uppercase s in spirit and Spirit) it is not up to you to produce the works regeneration or ability is God’s doing( John 15) and the as far as producing the fruit it’s not up to you that God’s job. With the fruit of the Spirit in which fruit is singular, not plural.” Fruits”.
      Take notice that its not up to you to produce but fruit ” of the Spirit” its God’s job. Its on your Job to respond in faith. Because faith works by Love. Which is the first of the fruit. There are 9 fruit .the first 3 is your relation to God. Went thats in place the other 6 will fall into play like a chain reaction. But the next 3 is your relationship to people, the last 3 is in relationship to yourself. I did not mean for this to seem to turn preaching if so or lecturing. But I felt that I should tell you, as well others who maybe reading. what ive discovered. Just let the Lord fill you. Let him mold you, not religion ” the program” be honest with yourself. The grace of God will never lead you were his grace cant keep you. Feel free to drop me a email or reply back. If you wanna talk further so i can be of more accommodation I know specifically how to answer you. Love you brother! Blessings. [email protected]

    • Kuya Raul and Robbi Francisco says on

      Hi, Bryan. So sorry to hear your story. But we know that God is good and we can rest on that truth.
      Would you be okay if we use your story in our book?

  • 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.

    • Spiritual burnout by Malcolm Smith.
      I definitely do understand your spiritual exhaustion. I’ve been there and to be honest while prayer, Bible study, going to church, being active in church her all good things they can actually lead to burnout and even fustrated even more. Have you ever noticed that when you try to address this issue with people the response is always something you” do” .
      Go back to your first Love. Recieve him by faith.Let the Lord fill you with his Spirit. And Love you. Be YOU. Because you did not receive the Spirit by anything that you did .So Its not up to you to produce the works, thats God’s Job. John 3:6 & John 15. Regeneration is God’s job. Break away from the fads and ” the program” there is definitely spiritual amnesia in the church.

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