Thursday, March 09, 2017

Burnout Is a Danger, Whatever Your Church Size

I exhausted myself trying to expand our little church, then again when I couldn’t keep up with the growth.

I became a pastor and started Embrace when I was 24 years old. It wasn’t my idea. I made myself available, and God had a plan.

The pastor who led me to Christ encouraged me to pursue ministry, so I went to seminary. As I began my final year, he asked if I had ever thought about planting a church. I thought it was a crazy idea! Yet he somehow convinced me to send a few emails inviting people to consider starting a new church. And sure enough, people were up for it.

We started with 32 people and within months grew to around 100, where we stayed for three years. As a small, young church, we struggled to remain financially viable. I tried everything to grow the attendance: Late nights. Long hours. Stepping out of my comfort zone daily. If we wanted to keep our doors open, we needed to grow.

At the time, we met in another church’s building. They worshiped in the mornings and our church worshiped on Sunday evenings. Around noon, after their service ended, they allowed us to put a large A-frame sign near the road that read “Embrace Church.” It took two large men to move it. I had the best volunteers, but we often forgot about the sign after worship. Each time we did, I would search for a friend to help me move the sign, but often I would have to haul it in on my own.

One winter night, a snowstorm came through. With a foot of fresh snow on the ground and more piling on, we still had worship. (Yes, we’re hard-core in South Dakota. It can be 40 degrees below zero with no visibility, and we’ll still have church.) After the service, we put everything away and went home. I drove slowly because of the snow and got all the way to my house before realizing the A-frame sign was still outside. It was late, and I was completely spent. But the sign needed to be moved. So I drove back across town through the snow. Then I crawled underneath the sign and began to lift it with my shoulders.

“God, what am I doing here? I’m tired! Why did we start this church in the first place?”

That night I hit my first breaking point. Read More

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