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upbeat but now are pessimistic, unusually quiet or withdrawn? Are your words becoming more nega- tive, cynical or flavored with frustration? Are you irritated by normal challenges and interruptions?

• Do you experience chronic fatigue from pushing yourself? Are you tired all the time without really doing much?

• Do you feel guilty about missing a church activity? • Do you have feelings of worthlessness? • Do you feel a separation or estrangement from God?

Causes of burnout To address and combat burnout, it’s helpful to understand and avoid its causes. • High expectations and perfectionism. Perfectionism is time- consuming and counterproductive. Claire Hoyem, former council president at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., saw this in herself and in fellow members with a need for perfection and control. “I think that’s quite a recipe for burnout,” Hoyem said. “A very hard lesson for me to learn was that sometimes a B+ is good enough.”

‘A very hard lesson for me to learn was that sometimes a B+ is good enough.’

ment because they may burn out, but also a barrier to others who may feel they can’t step forward and volunteer.”

• Unsuitable roles. Volunteers need to be positioned for success based on their skills, abilities and prefer- ences. Just because a person has a master’s degree in music doesn’t guarantee that he will be the best volunteer to work with the children’s choir. Perhaps he is a better fit for singing in the adult choir. If you find yourself in a role that is unsuitable, politely step away from it.

• Receiving too much responsibility too soon. New members need time to assimilate into the life of their congregation. Start with short-term volunteer opportunities before advancing to more challenging leadership roles. As an individual, take stock of these suggestions

and see where you can make changes to benefit your well-being.

Become volunteer-friendly If you are responsible for recruiting volunteers in your congregation, here are a few ways to make your congre- gation more volunteer-friendly:

• Can’t say “no.” Are you allergic to the word “no”? Does it hide deep inside just when you need it most? “Sometimes saying no to things is the healthier response than agreeing to do everything,” said Jessica Sutherland, former council president and current vice president of Trinity Lutheran Church in Worces- ter, Mass. “You have to take care of yourself first.”

• Overcommitment. If you’re in a job with high demands, raising children and caring for aging par- ents, adding heavy volunteer commitments may not be a good idea.

• Not taking a break. Spending years or decades in the same volunteer positions or being constantly engaged in ministry with no breaks may lead to burnout. Put some space between your commitments and watch how it changes you.

• Drawing from the same well too oſten. Every con- gregation has a few “yes” people who tend to fill all of the volunteer roles. Well-meaning members respon- sible for recruiting volunteers “know who has a tendency to say ‘yes,’ and they go back to those same people over and over,” Hoyem said. “What happens is that there’s a core group of people who carry a large load. Tat becomes not only a threat to their engage-

• Have a clear vision and com- municate it.

• Show appre- ciation in real time, not just during year-end celebrations.

‘Make sure volunteers know they can say “no” if they are overextended and overwhelmed.’

• Have a well-organized volunteer program with writ- ten job descriptions.

• Make sure the job is doable. Many congregational volunteer commitments will work better if they are cut in half and shared with another volunteer.

• Design commitments with specific end dates. Open- ended commitments can lead to burnout.

• Provide an off-ramp for your volunteers. Make sure volunteers know they can say “no” if they are overex- tended and overwhelmed.

• Match the right person with the right job by asking others about their passions. How can you match their passions to better serve God in the life and ministry of your congregation? 

Author bio: Brewer is a freelance writer in Elizabeth, Ill.

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