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  • Writer's pictureIan Ferguson

STOP before the burnout.

You don’t need a degree in psychology to know that prolonged stress with excessive demands made upon us puts us at risk of burnout, which is a state of exhaustion, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

When you find sleep hard to come by, when you no longer eat well, when you are emotionally spent and feel you have little more to give out, with the addition of feeling deeply discouraged in the work you are doing then it is time to STOP. Don’t allow yourself to go any further down that road. That road heads one way, namely to emotional, physical, mental and spiritual burn out.

During my time as a church leader, I found it difficult to stop, even though I knew I was not coping well. I felt I needed to keep going, to put on a face that said ‘I am OK’ when in fact I was not. In the end the decision to stop was taken out of my hands. My health deteriorated to such an extent that the call for ‘timeout’ was made by my GP. STOP

S Seek Help

T Time Out

O Open up to a friend

P Pray

Seek Help. There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help. It takes more courage to say ‘Help’ than it does simply carrying on till you can go on no longer.

Time Out. I know we sometimes think that we are indispensable and that if we take time out to get better, that somehow the church and ministry will stop. Getting yourself healthier is the best thing you can do for the church you serve. If you are married and have a family, it’s the best thing you can do for them.

Open up to a friend or to anyone who will listen. It is better to talk. Talking therapies can help you work out how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings and make positive changes. They can help people who are feeling distressed by difficult events in their lives as well as people with poor mental health. Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help you deal with times when you feel troubled about something. If you turn a worry over and over in your mind, the worry can grow. But talking about it can help you work out what is really bothering you and explore what you could do about it.

(See the resources page on

Pray. As a church leader we are in the business of praying. Prayer is often at the heart of our ministry especially praying for others. I found prayer challenging during those times when my mental health was poor. It was truly amazing how the Holy Spirit helped me during those periods of struggle and weakness. The Psalms were a great comfort to me. So often I read my own struggles in the Psalms.

The psalmist often asked where God was when he was facing those tough times. He often felt isolated and far from God. Yet he discovered rest and security.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will not be shaken. Psalm 62 v 5,6

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