Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Avoid Burnout

Planters suffer from burnout. We work hard, long, and carry the load no one else in our church has to carry. The result over time: burnout.

Now, let's switch gears. If you really want to read about burnout get Wayne Cordeiro's great book Leading on Empty. Let's talk about impact here.

Have you ever wondered why some people have huge impact and others have just a little. There's a number of reasons, but one of the big ones is because there are two primary types of leaders: those who lead people and those who lead leaders. What differentiates these two? 


A system is a group of elements that "hang together" because they relate around a common purpose, continually interact with each other, and whose combined impact is greater than any of them could have individually.

For a simple example think of a click operated ink pen. It's got a few plastic parts, a spring, the ink tube with the ball point roller. Individually you can't do much with any single part. But put them together towards the intended purpose and viola! You have an amazingly functional tool.

Now think of a leader who is leading just four other people. Let's say that each of those people is capable of influencing one other person. That means the leader directly influences four people and indirectly influences influences four more, like this: 

Level 1: (1 x 4) + (4 x 1) = 8 people

Now if you are a leader who leads four leaders who in turn each influence four other people. The results look like this:

Level 2: (1 x 4 ) + (4 x 4) = 20 people

That's leverage! Now let's add one more level. What if you were to be a leader who leda leaders, who lead leaders? That's a three-tier leadership system. Here's what the results look like.

Level 3: (1 x 4) + (4 x 4) + (16 x 4) = 84 people

Wow! What a difference one tier makes. But what does this look like in real life? Suppose you're a church planter (funny that should come up). You want to see your church full of maturing followers of Jesus. You gather together a group of leaders whom you train, pray with, dream with, and energize to work together towards the common purpose (level 1). These leaders in turn become coaches of another level of leaders who, let's say, lead house groups (level 2). Each of these house group leaders in turn gather together a band of disciples who decide to live together, sharing their stories, serving their communities, and generally being a blessing (level 3). Now you have eighty-four people in a discipleship system.

Eighty-four people is a crowd, but that's typically not a long-term sustainable number for a church. What's the solution? Yeah, you know it, you add one more level.

Level 4: (1 x 4) + (4 x 4) + (16 x 4) + (64 x 4) = 340 people

Now you have a long-term viable church, being discipled well, that is able to make a significant impact on its community.

This is the power of a system. There is one final system criteria that I think needs to be added to our definition: no part of the system gets so over worked it quits or falls apart. That's how you avoid burnout.

Consider this: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:30, TNIV).

What do you think? Post a comment here.

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