Zeal without Burnout, written by Christopher Ash, is a small book about an important subject: burnout in ministry. In the book, Ash seeks to provide clarification and counsel for pastors who are either burning out or on the track to burning out. The first three chapters provide the author’s own background on the subject and his rationale for writing the book. The meat of the book is found in section entitled “Seven Keys” in which Ash presents seven insights into avoiding burnout or recovering from burnout.
The book’s strength lies in the fact that Ash does give some very sensible advice and insight concerning how to avoid burnout and how to curtail it once you are in it. His advice to make friends inside and outside of your ministry context, get some sleep and Sabbath rest are all very sound and reasonable things and things which modern pastors, and modern people, need to hear. Modern society does not place a premium on rest or friendship (or should I say meaningful friendship).
The book, however, left much to be desired. The overall premises of the chapters were solid, but the practical advice was overall very lacking. The reader is given the vision of what needs to be done, but is not shown the path, which would seem to be an important element, if this book is written to those about to become burned out or are burned out. The vision that Ash lays out in the beginning of the book of wanting to help pastors address and understand burn out and then be able to address burn out in their lives seems only half fulfilled.
I also thought that Ash missed a golden opportunity to address the particular problems faced by bivocational pastors and burn out. It would seem that these pastors would be particularly vulnerable to burn out, yet Ash does not address this group. Now I am a bit biased (I am a bivocational pastor), but the issue of burn out seems so pertinent to the bivocational ministry that I am surprised Ash did not address it.
This weekend Courtney and I had the glorious privilege of attending the 2016 Family Conference at Rocky Point Baptist Church in Stephenville. The conference was excellent and I would definitely recommend that couples in the Stephenville-Granbury-Glen Rose area take advantage next year. One of the sessions we attended concerned parenting and the couple leading the session advised parents to model, model, model the behavior and the actions they want their children to do. If we do not do the behaviors and actions that we want our children to do is it any surprise that they do not do these things when they grow older. This morning I want to offer some suggestions for fathers and how fathers can lead their children to love and enjoy worshipping our Lord on Sunday mornings.
- Make church a priority. Does church or athletics own your Sundays? If six months out of the year, you do not attend church because your children have athletics or rodeo or something else, you are sending the not-so-secret message that church really is not that important. Make church a priority. Make sure that nothing, not athletics, not rodeo, not anything, comes in between your family and worshipping God with your church. The games will one day end, but your child’s soul will live forever.
- Sing. Many men are not comfortable singing. One problem is that many contemporary worship songs are written for tenors and most of us are either baritones or basses which means that they are difficult to sing. But remember, what our children see us do is what our children will do. Even if you are the worst singer in the church, still sing. You don’t have to sing loud or well. Just sing. The reason we sing is to express our gratitude and love for our Savior, so sing. Show your children that you care more about worshipping your Savior than saving your pride. Sing. Sing. Sing.
- Bring your Bible, open it during the sermon and follow the sermon. Your children need to know that the Bible is the most important book you own and that you take it seriously. So bring your Bible with you to the service and use it. When the pastor says, “Turn to Phil. 4:8”, turn to Philippians 4:8. When the pastor says, “Look at what Paul says at the end of the verse there.” Look down and follow along. Not only will you be feeding your soul and getting more out of the sermon, you will also be modeling for your children the fact listening to the sermon well and looking in your Bible are important parts of the Christian life.
- Talk about the sermon after the service. During the sermon, note (at least) one thing that the pastor said or explained from Scripture that spoke to your heart. Then in the car after the service or at the lunch table, tell your family what you learned through the sermon and how it spoke to your heart and life. Then ask your family, “What was something the pastor said that you liked or something he said that maybe sparked a question?” In this way, you will be modeling to your children that the importance of the sermon and the Word does not end at the door of the church, but continues into your daily lives.
Fathers, you are in the incredibly important position of leading your families. This includes leading your families well in the worship service and I hope that this post sparked some ideas for you to do this morning as you and your family worship together.