Burnout. The ugly "B" word in ministry.
Every Catholic cleric, lay staff member, and even many of our volunteers will struggle at some point in their apostolic work with the effects of burning out. More than just physical fatigue, burnout is an all-encompassing experience best described as a loss of motivation and enthusiasm for the mission. The factors contributing to burnout are many: disappointment, things not turning out the way you had envisioned them while getting your degree, failure, fruit coming at a slower pace than you had hoped.
It can be overwhelming, when you are mired in the midst of burnout, or even just recovering from your latest brush with it, to think about trying to turn around your parish's culture form a consumerist one to one that aims all of its efforts at forming missionary disciples. These three reasons (and countless others) show why righting the ship can actually help to insulate you as a parish leader from burnout.
1) It focuses us on the core of our mission.
We often get burned out because we are spending too much of our time focusing on the less important aspects of our ministry. No one got into ministry to do spreadsheets and make permission slips. Prioritizing making disciples re-energizes that part of each evangelist's heart that wants to see people's lives changed by Jesus Christ.
Even more commonly in many parishes I encounter, the events that seem to lead most commonly to burnout are those sacred parish totems that have gone on forever and seem to have lost their "point" a long time ago. We clutter up our parish's schedule with "good things to do," burning out our paid staff and distracting ourselves from the most important mission of our parish: forming disciples.
2) It drives us to our knees.
A Catholic evangelist I look up to very much once told me that "burnout" is just a ministry buzzword meaning, "I stopped praying." While I think he was speaking a bit hyperbolically, there is a point in there. Making disciples is hard, and, in trying to do so, we very quickly remember that we cannot bear fruit alone. The greatest cure for burnout is being fed by the Holy Spirit in prayer. Attempting to make disciples should drive us back to that place if we have wandered from it.
3) It helps spread out our load.
As lay parishioners become missionary disciples, they will be set on fire to partake in the Church's mission. A competent and visionary pastor or lay staff member will be able to help direct this newly found zeal in ways that will then form more disciples who will themselves want to take up the Church's mission. See how quickly this can work?
Consumerist churches burn out their leadership. Hotbeds of missionary discipleship are entirely different. In these communities, leadership simply has to channel evangelical zeal in the right direction, a much simpler and more life-giving task.