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Environmental Factors That Contribute To Church Employee Burnout

In this final of three articles on church employee burnout, we explore the environmental factors church leaders should focus on to prevent staff burnout.

There is little doubt that minister burnout is a symptom of an increasingly fast-paced, complex, and demanding church environment. Add to that the reality that mobile technology has created 24 hour accessibility and blurred the lines between home and church life.

And yet, churches are responsible for the well-being of their staff. Alleviating burnout is not only the right thing to do, it has multiple positive benefits for the employee, the church, and the kingdom. Gallup’s research suggests that churches can both maximize their mission and minimize staff burnout when they commit to addressing the root causes identified in What Churches Should Know About The Latest Study On Workplace Burnout and in What Church Leaders Can Do To Reduce Staff Burnout.

Additionally, Gallup’s research indicates there are controllable environmental factors within organizations that contribute to employee burnout. Here are nine things the church as an organization can do to provide a supportive environment that can reduce staff burnout:

  1. Provide training.

In terms of priorities, churches should focus on supervisor training first. Gallup’s research consistently shows that no one has a more powerful influence on employee burnout than a direct supervisor. Few church leaders are formally trained in supervision and how to prevent burnout. Secondly, training should be provided to all church employees on the causes of burnout and potential preventative measures.

  1. Place performance expectations and metrics within employees’ control.

Performance metrics tell employees and their leaders how they’re doing. Employees who strongly agree their performance metrics are within their control are 55% less likely to experience burnout. When church staff feel their work is being evaluated by individual, ministry, or church wide metrics that weren’t mutually agreed upon and that they can’t control, anxiety results. Metrics, which should be a way to track and celebrate success and show improvement, become a chronic source of despair and frustration.

  1. Reduce noise and interruptions.

 Workplace studies have consistently shown that when employees are frequently interrupted, both the quantity and quality of their work suffers. Of course, collaboration is essential in the workplace, but churches must provide quiet, comfortable workspaces where employees can easily immerse themselves in their work. Additionally, a culture that is flexible and allows employees to work where they want can help employees find their own ideal work conditions and help them to become more efficient and effective in their work.

  1. Design jobs to allow for autonomy.

 Job autonomy means having flexibility and control over how the job gets done. Employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in what tasks to do, when to do them, and how much time to spend on them. Although too much autonomy can be counterproductive, autonomy accompanied by appropriate accountability and flexibility can reduce burnout risk.

  1. Construct collaboration spaces that are inviting.

 Employees who have a space that helps them connect with coworkers are 26% less likely to feel burnout on a frequent basis. Without such inviting spaces, collaboration becomes so difficult that employees avoid it.

  1. Monitor workspace lighting.

 Natural lighting has been shown to promote calming, peaceful moods, and reduce stress. A lack of natural lighting or the presence of poor, artificial lighting can cause negative moods and depression among employees.

  1. Provide sufficient time off.

 Most ministers rarely get two consecutive days off. Many fail to take all of their vacation. Even fewer routinely take spiritual retreat days or get a regular Sabbatical. Ministry is depleting. A lack of sufficient downtime is a high predictor of church staff burnout. Supervisors and Personnel Teams are responsible for providing and monitoring policies that provide church staff sufficient time away.

  1. Offer personhood development resources.

 Personality traits, unresolved conflict, family of origin issues, and traumatic life experiences can impact an employee’s work performance and contribute to burnout. Churches that offer their staff access to trained mental and emotional health professionals mitigate one of the leading contributors to minister failure and burnout.

  1. Create soul care accountability.

Spiritual dryness is a leading cause of ministry burnout. Seminary training and weekly sermon preparation are no guarantees of spiritual vitality. Formal structures of soul care accountability and spiritual mentorship should be provided for every church staff member.

Every individual has their own preferences and needs for an environment that supports how they work best. Church leaders should find what’s best for the majority of their staff, while also providing as many alternatives and as much flexibility as possible for personal preferences.

For further information on Gallup’s surveys on employee burnout go to Gallup.org


Posted on October 8, 2019

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5