Episode 170: From Burnout to Balance: Tame The Sunday Scaries and De-Stress Your Ministry

On today’s episode we’re tackling the specific anxieties faced by ministry leaders and volunteers, offering practical solutions to tame that stress and create a more sustainable ministry experience for staff and volunteers alike.

Show Notes:

  • Sunday Scaries in ministry might be “Saturday scaries” – the anxiety you feel before you go back to work.
  • In ministry, often Sunday is not only a day we “go back to work” but might be “the biggest work day” during the week as well. It also comes in the morning, so there is very little time after we wake up to get in the zone and feel ready.
    • There are also multiple things in motion, many of which are dependent on other people, not on just us!
    • There might be a text or call that we get at the last minute that throws things off.
    • We also want to “do right by people” in our ministry.
    • In a teaching role, there is also the desire to come back to it and feeling good about it before Sunday morning, yet it’s still Saturday and many fun things are happening! “Sundays affect Saturdays when we’re in an important role!”
  • One of the challenges can also be that we feel like we SHOULDN’T feel these kinds of things. We judge ourselves when we feel nervous or anxious about it. We need to remember that there are quite logical reasons to feel those ways! It can be helpful to “give ourselves permission” to feel those things.
  • Consider the weekly experience of the weekend, but also the seasonal rhythms: Christmas, Easter, Summer, etc.

4 simple ways to mitigate stress and anxiety in your ministry:

  1. Preparation can be a huge help, especially for the procrastinators among us! Often the weekly or seasonal anxiety or stress can be brought on by us not being ready well enough in advance.
  2. Also, prepare for adversity! Expect that something will go wrong or someone will have to cancel last minute and build something into your system to account for that.
    • Example: Have a good substitute list!
    • Example: Send out an email on Tuesday night and remind people: “Here is who I’m counting on for this weekend. Please let me know if anything has changed!”
    • Analogy: living paycheck to paycheck vs having an emergency fund.
  3. Create a checklist for those big moments: everything written down that you want to make sure gets done when you arrive and start walking through that moment. That gets it out of your mind so you can sleep better the night before. (Avoid “busy dreams” the night before.)
    • Much of these feelings are simply caused by the mental traffic of things we are trying to remember. The more we can get out of our minds, the better!
  4. Remember that you’re in a church family. There will be some failures, but there will also be some grace shown to us by the people that we’re serving.
  • Sometimes, we as ministry leaders can also be causing ministry to be more anxiety-inducing than it needs to be! Consider how you can streamline, simplify, and build in guardrails for your volunteers to take the pressure off of them.

7 ways to help relieve stress and anxiety for volunteers in your ministry:

  1. Example: Instead of giving a kids ministry volunteer a large packet of curriculum and having them pick and choose what to use, consider choosing it for them and only giving them what they absolutely need.
  2. Also, remind them that we all have good and bad weekends. That’s true whether we’re pastors or volunteer leaders!
  3. We don’t expect you to be perfect. No family or child will leave over one mediocre experience. Prepare in a way that honors Jesus and from there, just trust Him!
  4. Work to have more varied volunteer roles. Some people can’t be the “leader” or the “teacher” but might do well as a helper, assistant, or administrator. Find the right kinds of roles for your people rather than just forcing them into the roles that we already have by default.
  5. Give your people lots of time to prepare: give people a calendar or curriculum very early so they can get to it early if they want. Send out the reminder email mid-week along with the curriculum/details/announcements/etc. so the last-minute people can prep more easily. Try to customize your approach depending on the personalities of your volunteers. (One person might want the email heads up a month in advance, and another might want a text message reminder the day before.)
  6. Give volunteers a clear job description. That helps them know whether or not they’re doing a good job and meeting expectations.
  7. TELL them when they are doing a good job! Share with them when other people tell us they had a great experience. Sometimes staff and leaders can forget to pass on general praise for guests to those who serve with us.
  • If you tend to be someone who is resistant to having good systems in place, consider how that is working out for you. How is it helping or hurting your anxiety or stress level? (Hint: it’s hurting!)
    • A good system empowers you to care for and minister to people well!
  • What should we be watching for or listening for to know whether we might need a little more help or rest? Maybe someone needs time with a counselor or therapist or some extended time off.
    • When someone is just going through the motions. Giving less-than-healthy excuses for not being there when they said they would (or canceling multiple times). Maybe hearing from attendees that a particular volunteer isn’t as kind as normal. That might mean that they need to move on to some other kind of ministry.
      • Remember: We are not just shepherds but overseers: We must be protecting the flock and keeping an eye out for their health along the way.
    • Altered sleep is something to watch out for as well. Not just “losing sleep” but an altered sleep pattern beyond what is normal for you. That may be a signal that it’s a bigger issue. If your regular job is causing you to experience altered sleep every week, figure out a healthier way to do it. That shouldn’t just be “the cost of doing business.”
    • Regularly talk to your people and encourage them to self-identify when they need help or are feeling drained or anxious around things.
  • Contact Mike Crain: mike.crain@ministryarchitects.com
  • Contact Doug Ranck: doug.ranck@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Brandon Collins: brandoncollins.orgbrandon.collins@ministryarchitects.com
  • Connect with Renee Wilson: renee.wilson@ministryarchitects.com