Burnout: What Is It and What To Do.

I’m resurrecting the blog! Why? Because I genuinely like writing. I’m not necessarily super good at it. I change tenses, will occasionally have a typo, and write conversationally, rather than formally.

But a podcast reminded me to quit listening to “the jerk.”

“The jerk” is the voice in my head saying, “don’t do it.”

Will I only get one – or maybe a handful of readers? Probably yes.

Is it all stuff you could read somewhere else or that you’ve heard before? Also, probably yes.

But it’s my blog. I like writing, and so I am.

When we left off, I had written about what burnout might look like. It doesn’t always look like a moral failure or something earth-shatteringly dramatic. Sometimes it looks normal until…BAM!

Didn’t see that coming!

I saw some warning signs with my son this summer and then one night…BAM!

He collapsed due to fatigue and dehydration, passed out for 5-8 minutes and we were on our way to the ER.

He’s fine now, and we were able to squeeze in a few fun things (would you like to go to the hospital via ambulance or via ferry boat on a sunny day?)

Within 24-hours of him collapsing and being taken to the ER, he was back on stage.

So today, I’m not going to give you all of the warning signs of burnout. When I tell you “how” to recognize it, the first thing I’ll do is tell you to surround yourself with people who will speak truth into your life.

My youngest son sometimes says, “Mom, put down your phone and talk to your family.” So, I do.

My youngest daughter sits in the front seat next to me in the car and when I’m tempted to check my phone at while at a red light, she stops me.

I’ve ceded control of my phone while in the car to whoever is riding with me.

Those may seem like small, minor things. But to our family, they make a big difference.

We’ve been operating in this mode for a few months – I’ve seen a difference.

Let me stop here and say that I have read – and I believe – that balance is a myth. I’m either growing or dying. Healthy things grow. Inactivity is stagnation. Stagnant things are dying.

However, I do believe in sabbath rest.

So, here are the ways I get there – and I’m able to do it on my busiest days when my “to-do” list seems endless:

  1. Surround yourself with the right people. I’ve already told you about my two youngest children. They are rock stars. My husband is awesome and so are my two oldest children. They tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.
  2. Set some hardline boundaries. I have about a 36 hour window each week that I absolutely will not work (at my primary job).
  3. Limit the side hustles for a season. If you’re truly on the brink of burnout, limit the side hustles. Focus only on your primary job for awhile. Another tactic: don’t accept any side hustles without first talking to your boss about how it may impact your work. If you’re not rested or your family is suffering, your work suffers. So if your side hustles mean you’re not truly resting and investing in your family, they’ll eventually impact your work. Limit them if needed.
  4. Look at hours, not days. If the thought of an entire day off seems like too much, take hours at a time.
  5. Compartmentalize your duties. There are aspects of my job that I don’t love. It’s why it’s called, ‘work’ and it’s why they pay me. I do those things during office hours only. There are other aspects of my job that I love. They are genuinely fun. Sometimes more fun than whatever sport my fantastic family is watching on t.v.. I’ll do those things at home. For fun.
  6. Add rest to your “to-do” list. Just yesterday, I added ‘read a book,’ and ‘take a nap’ to my to-do list.
  7. Use YouVersion. I’m in a YouVersion devotional with a few friends. Do this regularly to make sure you stay in God’s word.
  8. Make friends outside of church. Some of my best friends do not attend our church. Some of them work for other churches, some have other careers.
  9. Is it your church or your job? Before I started working at our church, I told my boss that my family had to be “all in.” We visited and they loved it from the start. My husband said, “THAT was a breath of fresh air.” My kids loved it, too. I know that even if I didn’t work there, our family would attend there and I’d likely serve the church by doing exactly what I’m doing now. If it’s only a job to you, I’ll be blunt: consider looking for another job.
  10. Remember the words of Romans 8:28. God works all things for good. Not some things. All things. Even crazy schedules and long to-do lists.

If you’re anything like me, the to-do list can grow out of control sometimes. It’s a challenge to keep it under control. But I also know God has called me to this crazy thing called “ministry” and I cannot imagine doing anything other than what I do.

It’s a weird cycle. I’m not defined by what I do – I know that first and foremost I’m a child of God. Don’t miss that. But I also know how God has designed me and wired me. I know my purpose.

I also know I’m in it for the long-haul, not the short-term so I have to find ways and times to rest, invest in my own relationship with God, and stay healthy, without falling into laziness or making excuses for things not getting done.

Hopefully this has helped you – even a little bit – if you’re struggling with boundaries or burn-out, send me a message. I’d love to talk to you.

For now, I’m preparing for next week and beyond.

New content coming each week: process, progress, assimilation, sustainability, forms, church management software, family, and whatever else comes to mind.

People (Continued)

As we’ve established, I love helping people take their next steps. Just yesterday – even after oral surgery – I was able to help someone find a small group and an area of service. It was energizing – even during the time of day that the oral surgeon told me I’d be tired!

But even with that being said, my comfort zone still falls squarely behind a computer screen. When dealing with people, I prefer email or text.

Gratefully, our Lead Pastor sometimes understands how my brain is wired and has allowed me to serve in a capacity that helps people take their next steps. At our church, we call it the “What’s Next” desk. It’s in a perfect place – out of the way, not obstructing traffic flow, and in a place where guests can stop by just before leaving the building.

For some special events, we might ask guests to stop by What’s Next and find out about our church.

For our last major event, we relocated the What’s Next desk to another part of the lobby (it’s on wheels). It was still off to the side – visible, but not obnoxiously in the way.

For Christmas Eve, we’ve had a donation of some cool coffee mugs, filled with candy and other treats. We’ll ask people to stop by What’s Next, sign our digital guestbook, and then we’ll draw names for some give-aways.

This is where it gets interesting.

I asked our Director of Worship Ministries where he’d like the What’s Next desk on Christmas Eve? His answer: Centrally located in the lobby.

Centrally located.

Centrally.

Really?

Yes.

Also, could you position it so that people can’t get behind it?

I’m pretty sure he hasn’t thought that through.

Or has he?

Because if people can’t get behind it…

and I’m a person…

then logic tells me that I cannot be behind it.

I came home and whined to my kids.

“People are trying to convince me that I’m a people person.”

“You are!”

I should also remind them that I pay their car insurance and their cell phone bills.

Would that make me a people person?

I do love helping people take their next steps.

Process.

Progress.

People.

Prayer.

As I pray, God is revealing that He’s using some special people (there’s that word again!) to help me take mine.

Rewind: A Recap

repeat remote rewind

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to lead Digital Bootcamp for my friend, Tom Pounder. Tom decided to have me revisit an article I wrote over a year ago for another friend of ours, Kenny Jahng.

I talked about using all of our digital assets to get people connected to, and assimilated into, the life of our church . But not just to church – we’re getting them connected to Jesus.

Here’s a recap:

Make sure your digital first impressions match what people will experience at church. If your church is fun and high energy, reflect that on your social media and your web site. If your church is a little more traditional, reflect that. Make sure you listen to each sermon and let your Lead Pastor set the tone for what you’re doing.

Use all of your digital assets available. We recently launched a texting service that allows us to connect with guests from the moment they walk in the door. We launched an online community group, and we have live chat available on our web site.

Make sure your internal communications (ie, workflows) are in order so that what you share externally is accurate. For example, if you share on social media that it’s time to sign up for an event and share a link, make sure that link is live and active.

Equip your volunteers. You’ve worked hard all week to make sure your web site and response/RSVP forms are live and active. You’ve created social media posts to promote events. Make sure you give all of your volunteers the information they need to answer guests questions on-site on Sunday. Avoid the “I Don’t Know” factor.

And finally – remember it’s about people. And getting them connected to Jesus. Stay on top of trends and listen to your guests’ stories. A few months ago, a printing error resulted in the ’email’ line being omitted from our response cards one week. No one caught it until after service on Sunday and I was moderately stressed. But just last week, a guest brought me a card with the email line blank. When I asked her for her email she said, “I don’t check my email, can you text me?”

In this fast-paced world, we have to be willing to adapt accordingly.

Our Pastor preached an amazing sermon this morning about what our church will do reach people. One of the things he said was, “we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

“we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

I’m grateful for a church that embraces technology, change, and people.

 

 

My Head In The Clouds (aka: the most fun blog post I’ve ever written)

girl cloud bubble

Today our church was a polling location. People in and out all today exercising their right to vote.

The polls open early. Really early.

County election officials would need access by 5:45am.

I offered to open the building. Our Executive Pastor told me that was fine as long as I promised to leave by 2:30pm.

I half-heartedly agreed.

I didn’t mind getting up early. I’m a morning person by nature and I got a lot accomplished in the quiet morning hours.

My commute was easier than ever. There’s not a lot of other traffic on the road at 5:00am.

I was going about my day and feeling productive – knocking several things off my to-do list – when our Executive Pastor appeared in my doorway.

“Time to go home!”

“I have things to do.”

“They will still be here tomorrow. Go home.”

“But I like it here.”

“I’m glad. Go home.”

He told our Lead Pastor who agreed with him.

“The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken. Go home.” (Yes, he referred to our Lead Pastor as The Great and Powerful Oz.)

forcibly ejected

kicked out

excommunicated? (no…that’s too strong)

I packed up my laptop and “to-do” folder and headed out the door.

It really was a nice afternoon. I was able to pick my son up at school, take him out for ice cream and have dinner on the table when my husband got home.

So…you’ve read this far…how does this relate to church management software, and progress, and processes?

As I sit here this evening and everyone is winding down, I have several data entry lists in front of me and I am getting caught up on a few projects. Because – although he escorted me out of the building –  the software is cloud based.

 

[I love the people I get to work with, love our church, and love what I get to do. In an earlier blog post I wrote about listening to others – allowing others to speak into your life. Today was one of those days and I’m grateful every day that God has me at this place.]

 

 

 

I Am Not Getting Fed

spoon candy

As the Master Administrator of our church management software, it falls within my scope of duties to make people inactive.

When I talk to my other friends who work in connections and/or database management at their churches, I know I am not alone in what I am about to write.

It actually hurts to fill in the data in the profile fields: “membership stop date,” or “reason left.”

The exact wording may be different from software to software, but – in general – it’s the same concept. There may be a date field, or a text field, or both. But it all boils down to: someone has left the church.

Believe it or not, in our church and in talking to my counterparts at other churches – the senior leadership cares about each person. In a larger church, it may be difficult to form deep relationships with each person, or even know each person by name. But Monday through Friday reports are being run and attendance in classes is being reviewed.

I know this because, not only am I asked to run these types of reports, but I am in regular communication with people at other churches who are also running these reports and discussing how we can do better at connecting with people.

And yet, this still happens – for many reasons. People move. God calls people with different strengths in ministry to different places to serve Him. But, the ‘reason’ that hurts is when people say, “I’m not getting fed.” (disclaimer: I haven’t dealt with this at my current church – yet.)

If you are mature enough in your faith to understand that statement, then you are mature enough to feed yourself. When my children were babies I fed them pureed baby food. On Easter Sunday, I watched them feed themselves prime rib roast.

On (rare) occasions, I will cook a large meal for my family – roast, sides, dessert – I labor over those such meals and it hurts when my family doesn’t like it.

Your Pastor (and mine) labors like that each week to bring a message to the congregation and while I have not confirmed this with my own Pastor, I would imagine that it hurts when someone leaves the church with the reason ‘I’m not getting fed.

In talking further to my counterparts, it is common to miss services on Sunday because someone inevitably has a database question, a communications question, or we just love serving with our guest services teams and helping people get connected. But most of us don’t need Sunday mornings to get ‘fed.’ We are connected in other ways – through small groups and listening to sermons online.

So now that we’ve determined that ‘not getting fed‘ can cause your database administrator to have a stroke (stroke jokes are flying around our office right now), hurt your Pastor, and that you have options to feed yourself, here are a few things to do if you feel like you’re going down that road.

1. Talk openly to your Pastor. Ask him (or her) to help you in your spiritual journey. Believe it or not, your Pastor cares about you. If it’s really time for you to leave, do so gracefully and do nothing to cause division or strife within the church.

2. Say no to anything that is keeping you from worship service for awhile. I am a huge fan of serving in the local church. Serving takes sacrifice, and you may miss a worship service or two (or eighteen), but when you feel like you’re not getting fed, talk to your service leader. Ask for a temporary break from service. Take some time to fill up before jumping back in to serving others.

3. Attend another church. Find another church that has alternate service times and visit every once in awhile. I, personally, would and could NOT do this regularly as I would feel too divided. I would also worry that I would eventually run into people I knew and rumors would get started. Ouch. But visiting another church can be good every once in awhile – not just to sit and listen – but also to talk to their leaders and get some ideas you can take back to your own church.

4. Listen later. Our church uses Facebook live video during each service and also has a podcast. I often listen to our Pastor as I drive to work Monday morning.

While I agree that it’s important for us to be ‘fed’ and to stay ‘filled up’ so we can pour into others, I also think that as we grow and mature in Christ, we need to take some responsibility for our own feeding.

I Am Not An Empire

listen neon sign

When I started this blog, I promised a few glimpses into my personal life.

It can’t be about church processes 24/7.

You’ll soon see why it’s critically important to ‘turn off’ once in awhile.

“I’m trying to save you from yourself.”

My boss (also my Pastor) has said that to me more than once.

“You need go relax or you’re going to have a stroke.”

My husband has said that to me multiple times.

“I’m not going to have a stroke.” – I said it with rolled eyes.

But, I did. Yes, I did.

Good Friday. Two days before Easter. Less than a week ago.

I. Had. A. Stroke.

Fortunately, it was small. If you’re going to have a stroke, this is the kind to have.

I have minor ‘deficits.”

I have numbness in my face and mouth – similar to when you receive novocaine at the dentist.

My speech is somewhat effected.

My typing is effected. I have to watch my hands on the keyboard.

I’ve already had one therapy appointment. It’s already helping.

I can drive, I can walk, my vision  hasn’t been effected. I haven’t lost memory.

I have a lot for which to be thankful..

One of my best friends recently wrote a blog post about saying, ‘no.’

“I’m trying to save you from yourself.”

“You need go relax or you’re going to have a stroke.”

I wish I had listened. I would be a different person today.

As I was leaving the office today for an appointment with a doctor (and discussing my recovery), our Executive Pastor commented, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Our Lead Pastor reminded me that I’m a human – not an empire.

 

 

 

Lead With The Authority You’ve Been Given

smartphone mobile hand coffee

While I write this from the perspective of a database administrator, this could apply to any communications role.

I walk into our Lead Pastor’s office.

“Question. In CCB…”

Before I can finish, his facial expression is changing…

He doesn’t care.

He understands the need for the database.

He may even want to understand the database.

But, he doesn’t love the database.

In fact, he understands enough, just enough, to know he doesn’t have time to learn more.

But me? I love the database. Maybe a little too much.

Not only do I understand it, I understand it’s inner workings. I joke in the office, “if this gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go into Church Management Software Forensics.”

“Is that a thing?” my co-worker asks.

“I could make it a thing.”

CCB has an online platform for other software administrators. They call it The Village.

My co-worker calls me The Mayor.

Back to our Lead Pastor.

He listens to my rambling question, and my proposed solution. I’m pretty sure he only pretended to listen.

Then he says, “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

Every. Single. Time.

I’m pretty sure I could start any conversation with “Hey in CCB…” and it would end with “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

“Hey in CCB, I want to buy a new car and book a vacation to a tropical island.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

He doesn’t care. He doesn’t have time.

But I don’t want him to care, nor do I want him to have time. I don’t.

Because, in reality, he does care.

And that’s why he hired me.

He knows I understand the structure of the church. He knows our family fully supports the vision and mission of the church. And most of all, he knows that on a scale of 1-10, my knowledge of CCB is a 12.

He also knows, a Pastor’s primary role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

I want him to make time for that. I want him to care about that.

I also want him to care about his wife, his children, his neighbors.

There are church members with real hurts and real needs. I want him to care about those. But I don’t want him to care about a database.

I often tell our Pastor, “go preach, pray, and write a book.”

He’s the leader.

And, every single Sunday he’s got to bring a message to a wide audience. Young, old, non-believers, new-believers, and strong-believers. Any given Sunday.

Why would I ever – ever – expect or even want him to be thinking about the database?

I was faced with a problem recently and I knew the answer. In my gut, I knew what to do. Yet, I sent a support ticket into the software company. Their solution was my solution. I’d been right.

Our Pastor has given me (his words), “a pretty big sandbox to play in” when it comes to the software. That just means he’s given me some authority and has promised to back up any decisions I make.

God has gifted each of us differently. For me, that means discernment, leadership and administration. Our Pastor is a Pastor. I am not.

But I hesitate before making the final decision…

And each time I walk into his office with a database question, the facial expression changes.

It’s fine. I trust you.

Today, church communicators – whether your primary role is with the database, social media, the web site, first impressions, or any other communication role – lead with the authority you’ve been given and support others as they do the same.

 

New

ocean close up sea water dawn sun

Have you ever seen dawn? I saw it this summer. My husband and I were on a cruise ship that was due to dock early one morning. We woke up and watched a new day break from our balcony. We were pulling into port just as the city was waking up.

It was amazing to see the start of something new.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I needed a day off. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My throat hurt. My eyes hurt. My nose needed running shoes.

But I really wanted to go into the office. There was work to do and I love what I get to do.

I took some vitamin C and ibuprofen, drank hot tea, used some eye drops and got out the door.

The morning didn’t go as planned.

I created and posted the worst social media post ever.

I cancelled a lunch meeting because I knew I just couldn’t get through it.

And I discovered a potential problem in our database that had me comparing the database to a life-threatening illness.

Knowing my love for the database, the problem was probably not with the database, but with my attitude yesterday morning.

And then I decided tacos and guacamole were the answer to all of life’s problems (nevermind the fact that there are stacks of Bibles in my office telling me that Jesus is the answer) so I convinced my co-workers to put me in the back of a car and take me out.

As we were driving back from lunch, I received a text.

My boss firing me for the aforementioned social media post.

It was from a friend I hadn’t talked to in months.

She wrote: “Praying for you. Isaiah 43:18-19.”

I logged onto my Bible app and looked it up.

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

How did she know I needed that?

She didn’t.

God did.

And God made everything new (although I’m still convinced tacos and guacamole played a small part).

My boss did not fire me for the ‘worst social media post of the year.’

He actually invited me to be a part of a leadership meeting.

I came up with a step-by-step action plan for fixing the potential problem with the database.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. I joked to our Executive Pastor that I would bring a cot and live there. He unjokingly told me, ‘no.’

Problems will come up in our days. The database won’t work in a way we expected. Technology may fail. We may just be having one of those days.

Be grateful we serve a God who promises to never fail us.

Yesterday I was grateful for grace and forgiveness.

I was reminded yesterday that Godnot tacos and guacamole – does make all things new.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Manger scene

Christmas Eve and Christmas services have started. My daughter’s church had their service last night. Another local church had a ‘living nativity’ last night. My son will play with his church band three times tomorrow. There’s a church nearby that has services today (they are having a hot chocolate bar and a photo booth!). A few members of our family are attending a service tomorrow morning.

At this point, you’re probably expecting this post to be about follow up, connecting with your guests, updating your web site, and helping your guests take their next step.

I think you already know how I feel about all of that. If not, here’s a recap:

  • Follow up should be immediate. Get those connect cards entered in Sunday evening and send follow up emails right away. If your follow up plan includes phone calls, you could let those go on Christmas Day, but don’t wait a week.
  • Connect with your guests. Have greeters and info people visible and over-communicate every step of the way during your service.
  • Update your web site. Remember that your visitors may go home with questions or wonder what’s next. An updated web site will help them find some answers. (Don’t forget to update your social media, too!)
  • Help them take their next step. A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution to go back to church. You want to have staff and key leaders available to help them do that.

But what this post is really about is permission to not do all of these things.

That’s right. Permission to let it go.

What if you get 50 connect cards entered into your system on Christmas Eve night, but haven’t stopped to pray with one person?

What if you say hello to 100 people, but don’t stop to ask any of them how they are doing?

What if you update your web site and social media Christmas Eve night, but don’t consider who might be seeing those updates?

What if you have all of the next steps in place, but no one takes them?

Use wisdom and discernment this Christmas season and find balance between working as unto the Lord, and letting the Lord work in and through you.

Merry Christmas!

My Favorite Tools

writing-implements-1285329_960_720

This morning I was talking with a client about a strategy we’re going to use in promoting an upcoming conference. One of the things I told her was that I wasn’t just going to do everything, but that I was going to include her in the why and how of everything I was doing.

I don’t want to just DO – I want to leave her with the tools she’ll need if she ever needs or wants to do it herself. I want to give her all-access to all of my tools. I want to leave her and this ministry better than I found it. We’re working on a conference for 2018. If she needs me for 2019, I’m happy to help. But even better would be if she is empowered to not need me for the 2019 conference.

Some would say I’m working myself out of a job. Maybe. Our real job is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

So, other than the database (by far my favorite tool I use for church connections, assimilation, and organization), here are a few of my other favorite tools.

1. Mission Insite. Empower your faith-based or nonprofit organization with the tools to answer today’s most difficult strategic challenges. You may already have access to this. Check to see their current clients: http://missioninsite.com/our-clients.

2. Canva. Create graphics, apply for a free business plan and upload your brand colors, fonts, and create templates. I love Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, and the entire Adobe Suite. It’s not always practical. There are a lot of churches that only provide programs like Microsoft Publisher to their admin. staff. Canva is great for creating and also team collaboration.

3. Heatmap tools. Real time analytics for your web site. This will help you see where and how people are interacting with your web site.

4. Ministry Designs. WordPress is awesome, but not always easy for the staff of a small-to-medium sized church. Ministry Designs helps me empower my clients to work on their own web site. I told my client today, I am going to hold your hand through this initial process. Soon you’re going to be able to say, “I do web sites.”

5. YouVersion Events. (Any of Life.Church’s resources are great.) Upload your event, add information about your church, Bible verses, a sermon outline, weekly announcements, a link to an online connect card, etc.

6. Google Keep. With Google Keep, I can create daily to-do lists and share the with collaborators so that they can see what I’m working on and add, delete, or comment on items. You can create lists with check boxes or in ‘note’ form.

Other tools I will use are TechSoup, GSuite for e-mail, Google/MyBusiness for business analytics, MailChimp, Asana, and graphics from graphics.church, Church Butler, and SundaySocial.tv.

Now it’s your turn. What are some tools you love to use?