How to avoid burn-out as a mentor
The Bible promises us that when we hope in the Lord, we will run and not grow weary. If mentors burn-out and no longer serve our Father in Heaven with joy and focus, then we need to ask ourselves if we’re giving ourselves enough rest – or if our issues run deeper.
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
While the Bible does talk about times when Jesus struggled, He always served with single-minded purpose – but never with spiritual fatigue. When we don’t rest spiritually in God, we easily fall prey to discouragement, frustration, and resentment etc. The burden seems heavy and difficult to carry. We may even start to feel “fed up” with our situations, roles, relationships or ministries!
Matthew 11:29-30 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.”
We all take our leadership roles seriously, and that this is good! It is when we take it too seriously and take it all upon ourselves that it is no longer a good thing.
There are some common internal attitudes and anxieties that burn us out.
1. Leave the work concepts at the office
It is very easy to confuse managerial and professional coaching concepts with spiritual mentorship.
Managers are made responsible for the performance of their subordinates. Work mentors encourage those they are mentoring to rely on themselves or business networks for career growth. Business decision makers conduct strategise based on their own intellect before making a move. Success brings glory to the person.
All these may work in an office environment, but they are based on worldly values. Be very careful not to behave as a manager who “rules the roost”, when it is God who is the master planner and who deserves all the glory! Remember that we are only a facilitator, the results depend on God.
2. Learn to say “no” wisely
Another workplace concept that we should not adopt as mentors is that achieving more is better. That is not what God values! More is not better, walking in God’s will is better.
We must be careful not to fall into the trap of being involved in too many ministry activities for the sake of doing “more for God”. It’s ever so easy to become a “Martha”, rather than to choose to be a “Mary”.
Luke 10:40-42 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It’s critical we learn to pray and seek God first before accepting more responsibilities or obligations, and how to say “no”. We need to seek to primarily move within God’s plan and providence.
3. Don’t focus on what we personally define as “results”
God’s ways are higher than our ways. He may be working in ways that we do not understand and cannot see. While there are overarching spiritual goals to work towards, keep an open mind about how God may bring about spiritual transformation. The results may not be what we expect, but as long as there is spiritual growth, that is already something worth thanking God for!
So don’t be shortsighted and don’t be anxious. Remember that butterflies that emerge before they are ready don’t survive in the environment. God knows each person’s perfect timing for “emerging”.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
4. Don’t neglect our own time with God and the Word
“Not having enough time for God” is a sure sign that we have set our priorities in the wrong place. If God is the one source of joy, love and peace, and every type of spiritual blessing, what does it cost us to just spend at least 15-30 minutes with Him everyday? The rewards far outweigh the tiny investment of time.
If we don’t spend time with God, how can we be “tuned in” to the Holy Spirit? Ultimately, how can we be a good role model if we don’t even invest in our own spiritual health?
Notice how inflight safety videos on planes remind adult passengers to put oxygen masks on themselves first, before placing one on a child? It seems almost counter-intuitive because our focus is a good one – it’s to help others who need the help. Helping oneself first seems almost “selfish”, but the truth is that we can’t help others if we are incapacitated ourselves.
Mentors need to grow and persevere in growing ourselves, because we too need to mature in Christ. No mentor will ever have “arrived”, we are all still “getting there”.
James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5. Beware our thought life
Mental, emotional or spiritual battles wear us out or make us feel weary. But how do they start?
Many start as confusing, deceiving, accusing or discouraging thoughts in our minds – and it is these thoughts that lead to anger, frustration, complaining, hurt feelings, isolation, disunity etc. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive. We can test our thoughts by asking, “Is this from the Holy Spirit?” and reject any thought that is ungodly in the name of Jesus Christ, regardless of its source.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
6. Beware the enemy’s schemes
In legal battles, a key tactic from any prosecutor or “accuser” is to discredit the witnesses who take the witness stand in court. In the same way, we want to be a good witness for Christ and share the gospel with others, but our accuser, Satan, wants to discredit us.
Remember that Jesus told one of his closest disciples, Simon Peter, that Satan was trying to create disunity and separation amongst the 12 disciples, and that He had prayed for them. Let’s not allow the enemy’s schemes to turn us into moody exhausted Christians, Christians who accuse each other, who bicker over petty issues, who can’t forgive and love others as Christ loves us etc. We have a Father in heaven who loves us very much and wants only the best for us. Let’s honour Him with all our ways and refuse to give in to the enemy’s schemes to discredit the Body of Christ!
Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Note: If you are having problems finding victory over certain areas of your life, please seek to undergo biblical counselling.
7. Don’t make everything personal, beware our own pride ….
If you have ever felt like those whom you serve take you for granted, doesn’t appreciate you enough, only calls you when they need something or is too self absorbed to even ask you how you are doing, we need to remember that it’s not about us! That’s not to say that these are good attitudes, but that it’s not a good reason to tire of mentoring. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, that is how we often treat God ourselves.
When we focus on how we should be appreciated, we make the entire mentoring relationship about us, and not how Christ can shine His love through us in spite of our own weaknesses. It can sometimes be hard not to want some form of gratification back, but that’s the entire point of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. He died for us, no matter whether we returned His love or not.
Christ reminds us time and time again, to love well and unconditionally.
It’s not about us, it’s about Him and His love! It is not about how well we mentor or how poorly. It is not how much those we minister to grow because of their time with us. It is not about how experienced we are etc.
8. Don’t be a “control freak”
Have you ever had such thoughts, “I need to step in because … they need me / they won’t know how to do this / I am the best equipped for this etc.”?
We all have an inbuilt fear of failure. Sometimes, God uses “failure” to teach us something – look at Moses’ and Joseph’s lives. Other times, we just need to let go and let people learn and figure things out on their own. In other words, “Let go and let God!”.
So don’t be a “helicopter” spiritual parent. Trying to control everything, so that things turn out how we like them to, can be very tiring and it’s really not our job! The outcomes belong to God, who watches over, and watches out, for every one of us.
9. Seek to be in community and have support
In the early church, the disciples were always sent out in pairs. They were not expected to work on their own. This is an important principle, because we need fellow believers to help keep us sharp and on course. We all have blind spots and can easily succumb to the wrong types of thinking and behaviour, without the counsel, prayer, encouragement and loving support of fellow Christians.
So please don’t procrastinate or be lax about finding someone who is spiritually mature that loves God that you can stay accountable to. We need support too.
10. Remember to always be thankful
Remember that God is always fully in control, in spite of any circumstance that we see, so we can be joyful and thankful in all circumstances as well.
God loves a cheerful giver and that includes us serving cheerfully. So beware when your joy in serving as a mentor seems to be slowly seeping away. No one will be encouraged if their mentor is worn out, frustrated or unhappy. What a poor testimony we will unwittingly become.
There are so many things to be thankful for. So with a thankful heart, let’s always share the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Jesus with joy!
2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
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