Stop, Drop, and Roll
By Rev. Lisa Hammonds
Clergy burnout is real. I’m hearing more and more of my ministerial colleagues complain about being overwhelmed and at the brink of quitting professional ministry. They are mentally tired, suffer from health challenges, and are spiritually weary. The statistics are clear. Clergy suffer from everything at a higher rate, including divorce, suicide, addiction, depression, and every health ailment.
Too often, clergy take on too much. We personally assume the weight of our church’s success or failure despite having members who may or may not be invested in the ministries and vision; take on the weight of our congregants’ daily issues of birth, death, child rearing, and marriage; maintain secular job(s) because our church’s compensation package is oft inadequate to support our livelihood; be visible in the community as a voice for social justice and action; and be an active member of our own family as spouse, parent, child, and sibling.
More than occasionally, the threat becomes real that we are unable to continue the endless juggling act that all these things require. It is at those times when the first few words of Kurt Carr’s popular song with the same title ring true, “I almost let go, I felt like I couldn’t take life anymore.” Many worshippers concentrate on the next verse, “But God held me close so I wouldn’t let go.” Circumstances can drive us to want to let go. If we are not careful, we will let go. In order to avoid that happening, we must engage in self-care.
When I was in elementary school, the local fire department visited our school and shared the life-saving technique of “stop, drop, and roll.” If we ever found ourselves on fire, we were to “stop” what we were doing, “drop” to the floor, and “roll” over and over to extinguish the flames.
In order to “save ourselves” from burnout, it can be helpful to follow the same suggestions of “stop, drop, and roll.” It’s ok to “stop” doing so much in the name of ministry. Learn and embrace the concept of Sabbath rest. It is important to find the balance between work (read: ministry and secular responsibilities) and rest (read: play). The biblical witness is full of examples of how we should be intentional about taking time to rest. That may manifest as a dedicated off day per week or some time each time. Remember to make time for relationships, sleep, exercise, relaxation, and fun.
After we “stop,” it becomes important to “drop” some of the many things that drain our time, energy, and strength. Begin to utilize the word “no.” God is not glorified by the many committees you are on, meetings you attend, worship services and revivals we preach or attend, or the other “stuff” we do. It is not the quantity of things in which we are involved but the quality of the ministry we offer on behalf of God. Drop some things that are not receiving our full attention or effort! It is interesting that so many people fail to begin living until they learn that they are dying. To be sure, however, the moment we are born, we begin to die. Therefore, it is imperative that we live each day as if it may be our last and that means being the best we can be—not the busiest!
Finally, after we “stop” and “drop,” we can “roll” into being better-adjusted persons for ministry and life. We can “roll” over the new leaf of self-care by resting and only being involved in those things we are truly called to do and can do timely. We “roll” into being available anew for the Divine to restore, replenish, and redirect us. Instead of burning out, we become refreshed and open for new opportunities for doing ministry and can actually possess the capacity, passion, and energy to pursue them. So, when approaching the cliff and considering jumping over, remember to stop, drop, and roll.