Having a church job, which is so closely connected to your faith, and that you are so passionate about, carries with it a high risk of ministry burnout. That’s why it’s important, at the start of your career in the Church, to have a plan to keep your drive to serve the Church without burning out. Here are a 3 steps that can help.
There are many potential signs of burnout, and they vary depending on the person. But if you notice any of these “symptoms,” it might be time to take a step back and consider how you’re taking care of yourself:
If you think you’re heading toward ministry burnout in your church job, try to figure out why. Do you have more work than available time to finish it? Are you working longer hours than you’d like? Do you have a difficult boss or co-worker? Is someone asking too much (or not enough) of you?
Once you’ve figured out the cause of your ministry burnout, make a plan to deal with it. It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, such as a significant other, family member or friend. They may have some helpful advice, but even if they don’t, it can be helpful just to remind yourself that you have someone who cares about and supports you.
Becoming friends with your co-workers can also help. Office friendships make work more enjoyable, and having someone in the parish office whom you can trust can help you find help if your work load becomes too demanding. Take advantage of working in a Catholic workplace, and see if anyone wants to join you for a rosary once a week (or even once a day). Praying together is a great way to become closer as colleagues while making time during your day for God.
If the cause of your ministry burnout has to do with what — or how much — you’re doing at work, talk to your boss. Find out if there’s anything he or she can do to help manage or lighten your load. If your boss isn’t supportive, find someone else at the parish you can talk to.
Learn new time management techniques to help you balance your schedule. Whether it’s a paper planner or a digital calendar, to-do lists, or something more formal and extensive, having a method that works for you will help you prioritize your tasks and finish them successfully.
Stress management is also important, particularly in a church job, where you might be overworked, underpaid … and totally committed. Effective forms of managing stress include exercise, eating healthy foods, learning to say no, and a regular (and sufficient) sleep schedule. If you’ve tried these methods and are still struggling with stress, it’s almost always a good idea to talk to a therapist.
Meditation is a popular form of stress management and ministry burnout prevention. For Catholics, though, it goes deeper; meditative, contemplative prayer can help you with your stress levels, but, most importantly, it will bring you closer to God. Keep your rosary at your desk, and schedule one or two breaks during the day to go outside, take a walk and talk to Mary. Ask for God’s help; after all, you started this work to serve Him, so pray that He will sustain you in it.
There’s a patron saint of job stress whom you can turn to: St. Walter of Pontoise. He earned a prestigious position as an abbot of a monastery, but all he wanted in life was silent contemplation. His continuous attempts to live such a life were thwarted, and after the pope himself told him to stop those attempts, he accepted his public vocation. Anytime you feel the urge to run for the hills (assuming it’s not a genuine call to a contemplative religious life), take a deep breath, ask St. Walter for his intercession and keep on going.
One simple prayer that’s easy to say in the hustle and bustle of a stressful day is, “Jesus, I trust in you.” This one-liner is part of the image of divine mercy Christ gave to St. Faustina Kowalska, the young Polish nun to whom He appeared in the early 20th century. Sometimes, just telling God you trust Him can help you actually build that trust and put your stress in His hands. (If it’s not … give it time. It will.)
Your desire to serve in a church job is good. Treasure it. Honor it. Get ahead of any stress, and ask for help when you need it (there’s no shame in asking another person for support — quite the contrary, as it builds humility and community). Pray without ceasing, and remember that those of us who don’t work for the Church are grateful for those of you who do!
About the Author
Taryn Oesch DeLong is an editor and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and works in digital media. Passionate about supporting women in work, in life, and in health, she is the managing editor of Catholic Women in Business, assistant editor and contributing writer at FemCatholic, a contributor to Live Today Well Co., and an almost-certified fertility awareness educator. When she’s not helping writers craft stories and writing her own nonfiction and fiction, you’ll find Taryn reading Jane Austen and drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea, playing the flute or the piano, or volunteering. You can follow Taryn on Instagram and Twitter @tarynmdelong, on Facebook, or on her blog.