How I Overcame Burnout — Part 4 Accountability and Community

Here’s the quick recap:
I’ve been burned out in ministry before.
You must take responsibility for your spiritual health. This means you must be taking steps everyday to grow closer to Jesus and further from sin.
You can’t always be “ON”. There needs to be times for you to receive at church and you need to honor the sabbath. For me that means one day a week I am off and not thinking about work. This needs to be the same day my wife and kids are off. It’s family fun day and we get to relax and be with each other and friends.
Learn when good enough is good enough. Strive for excellence. That’s the best you can do with your time, talent and tools. Too many times we strive for perfection and it’s based in the sin of pride. Focus on making Jesus look good in our work and our lives. He needs to look good both places.

Let’s finish this series up with our need for accountability and community. Just as our work can get out of balance, we will drift one day at a time from walking with Jesus and away from community and accountability. These relationships with others that go deeper than “How are you doing?” and “shop talk”. These deep relationships are not natural in our culture.

The biggest reason I’ve drifted out of community is my culture is addicted to busyness. We’re lazy and we look for shortcuts. In essence we’re living dietary supplements and Red Bull. Supplements and Red Bull are not bad in moderation. But if you’re skipping meals and just taking vitamins you’re not going to last long. If you’re skipping sleep and relying on Red Bull you’re not going to last long. In addition to a balanced diet and proper sleep, suppliments and Red Bull can be good, even beneficial. Well I have my doubts about Red Bull but I say that while I’m drinking a latte I just made.

The biggest shortcut that affects our relationships is technology. Technology should be a supplement to our relationships, not a replacement. Social networking should add to our relationships, not replace them. For a great book on the dark side of technology and social media check out Shane Hipps book Flickering Pixels. I’ve found great benefit to Twitter because it has allowed me to connect with other church media/ tech guys. It’s resulted in face to face, genuine friendships. Check out Church Tech Director’s Round Table as an example. While technology can keep me in touch with people far away it can also drive me away from those closest to me. Our culture drifts towards connivence instead of community.

The biggest reason I’ve drifted out of accountability is I’m ashamed of sin in my live.. In a culture that’s busy, it’s easy to hide. In a culture that focuses on how you look on the outside, it’s easy to hide. If we’re ashamed of sin in our lives, we hide from intimacy. Small groups are not the solution to overcome shame. I’ve been ashamed of sin in my life and in a small group. But I just put on a front and said I was fine, never admitting to my need of dealing with the hidden sin in my life. It’s not a small group we need it’s the cross of Christ we need. That is where our sins are forgiven and covered in the blood. It’s where we can stand up as Paul says in 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Once I got things right with Jesus I realized my sinfulness pulls me away from God and away from accountability and towards the dark.

1 John 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that ​God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and odo not practice the truth. But ​if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is ​faithful and just to forgive us our sins and ​to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, ​we make him a liar, and ​his word is not in us.

When I got honest about my sin. I brought it to God to be forgiven and talked to my wife and a friend for accountability I found freedom. The power of that hidden sin was broken. The temptation may still come I know I have people I can be honest with. People who love me and will pray for me, encourage me and most of all will call out the sin they see in my life with love. I’ve set up accountability with them. I use on my computers and they can see my iPhone browser history anytime.

Some practical ideas for application:
– Is technology and social media enhancing relationships or tearing them down for you?
– Set up some boundaries for technology/ social media. Have times each day/ each week where you go dark and are not checking email, IM, texting, twitter or facebook. Instead focus on being present with the people you’re with.
– Are you accountable to someone? Are you honest with that person? You need someone of the same gender who you can be honest with. Someone you can trust to love you, accept you and kick your butt to step up and be a man (or woman) when it comes to dealing with sin.
– Is there hidden sin in your life? You need to get real with Jesus. Then begin to walk in the light and confess those sins to someone you can trust.

I pray my story can be an encouragement for you. At the least it’s been very cathartic and freeing to get my story in the light.


October 23, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Personal Growth. 3 comments.

How I Overcame Burnout — Part 3 When It’s Good Enough

So I’ve shared my story of burnout in ministry.

I’ve started a series about how I overcame burnout and what I’m doing to stay healthy. In part 1 I talked about how you need to take responsibility for your spiritual health. In part 2 I talked about how we can’t always be “ON” at church.

Today I’m going to talk about learning that sometimes good enough is good enough.

Like many things in life we need to learn to live in balance. Like many people in an artistic job who work in a create on demand atmosphere it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way.

My personality want to create the best product I can. Whether it’s a graphic I design, a video I create, a mix I make, a system I design or an event I produce I want it to be the best. The best by my local church’s standard and the best by the world’s standard.

I believe Jesus deserves the best. I think He’s gotten a lot of bad PR from people with good hearts but not enough budget, not enough talent or not enough time to put together a creative and artistic element to honor Him. I believe art created for Jesus should be the best in the world.

Or do I? Is my desire to produce the best really an expression of worship or is it pride? Do I really want this piece to point people to Jesus or do I really want the recognition? Am I just a modern hypocrite that Jesus called out in Matthew 6:2- & 5 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may u be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” After all I even post my work on this blog. Am I doing this out of a heart to promote Jesus and encourage others in the church or am I doing this for me to be recognized?

I’ve spent hours finessing individual frames of a video edit or animation when my wife is waiting on me to finish to go on a date. I’ve put in the extra hours after the kids go to be working till 2 or 4 in the morning on top of a full day of work only to turn around and do it again the next day and the day after. I’ve worked on my days off because I couldn’t finish a piece to my standard.

So what should my standard be? The buzz word we’ll all respond with is “Excellence”! But what does this word mean?

I think we often confuse excellence with perfection. It’s not the same. Excellence is also confused with being the best. But it’s not the same. Here’s my working definition of excellence: “Doing the best you can with the talent, time and tools you have“.

Let’s break this down:

-Doing the best with the time you have: I’ve heard people say every Sunday is the Super Bowl for the church. While it’s true that every Sunday is important. Hopefully every Sunday your church is seeing salvations and people taking steps to move towards God and away from sin. But the Super Bowl is the biggest production of the year.

The NFL (a multi-billion dollar business) has ONE Super Bowl a year. From a production standpoint they have a year to work up to it. They have a couple of weeks off leading up to it. And they have an off season! And guess what even the best in the business with the best resources have technical difficulties and make poor artistic and communication decisions.

The local church can not sustain the pressure to have that level of highly produced service every week. Every Sunday can not be the best ever. Not to mention the negative aspect of what a highly produced event can say about the church: you’re a spectator, bigger is better, we’re here to entertain you.

From my experience Sunday comes around every week. Not to mention other services and events your church may have during the week. We don’t have an off season. You must recognize what is sustainable. Busy seasons will come and need to go. I’ve heard people compare their church to a freight train. It doesn’t accelerate or brake quickly, doesn’t turn quickly. It’s got momentum that is just going to keep picking up and it’s not going to change or turn easily.

Here’s the problem with that pace. You never get to recharge physically, mentally, creatively and spiritually. You need to refill your tanks or you’ll be running on empty. You won’t have a reserve to draw from to create something fresh. You will burn out.

We want to hit the artistic and creative standards we see at the Super Bowl, Grammy’s or any large event. But our production schedule is often more like the nightly news. Last minute and rushed to meet the deadline.

I believe I have the video production and motion graphic talent to pull of broadcast quality work. But I can’t always hit that standard in the time I have. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to lower the quality to make sure I have a finished piece. I’ve had to make videos simpler and in my eyes at the time not as good because I realized I was working on a 60 hour solution when I only had 20 hours left in the work week.

When I’ve talked to my boss about not hitting a standard I’ve always been told to get the content down and add the eye candy latter.

Think about it: teaching pastors can ad lib, worship pastors reuse songs but new creative graphics and videos are expected every week.

I need to be realistic with production schedules. If I have the time to create something great then that’s awesome. But most the time I have a tight production timeline and I need to create the best I can in the time I have. Is it the best I could do? No if I had a month instead of 3 days the product would be drastically different. Is it the best I can do in 3 days? Yes.

Let go of the pride of having to be the best.

Some practical steps:
– Look ahead at your busy times (new series starting, holidays, tech upgrades/ building, large extra events) and plan some down time before and after.
– Don’t forget that after that large event and big push is another Sunday a week away.
– Make the most of your time by planning ahead. We’re working on laying out the 2010 teaching calendar so we know what we’re focusing on as a church and gives me production time to pull everything off.
– Look for simple solutions
– Set aside time to “sharpen your axe”. You must be taking time to refill your creative tank and to sharpen your skills. This not only makes you better but more effective.

Doing The Best With The Talent You Have. Like many guys on staff at a church I’ve become a jack of all trades and a king of none. I have a natural curiosity and love to learn so I like learning new skills. But I’ve learned I can’t be great at everything. In fact since the nature of my job requires me to have a broad skill set I can’t be great at one thing. Business tells you to find a niche and excel at it.

But I recognize now where I’m good at and where I’m not. I think I’m good at motion graphics and video production but I’m not the best at coming up with creative ideas on my own. I think I’m good at graphic design and layout but I’m not the most creative. I am strong at technical setup and trouble shooting A/V/L but I don’t have a strong musical ear for my mixes.

I’ve focused on developing my strengths and I delegate my weakness to volunteers or we outsource them if possible. Technically I can do web design but it’s slow and painful for me. Most the time I’m doing web design and development I’m thinking about how being poked with sharp sticks would be more fun. So I outsource all but basic web design out.

I need to be comfortable with my talent and stop trying to measure up to someone else’s talent. In 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul tells us that we are one body made up of many parts. Don’t be jealous of another part. So I focus on being the best me I can be.

Again am I wanting to create the best because I want to honor Jesus or am I doing it out of pride?

Some practical steps:
– Focus on developing your strengths
– Look for volunteers to delegate your weakness to or possible outsource those weaknesses. If you don’t see anyone you can delegate/ outsource begin to pray about it. This is God’s church, not yours. He loves it more than you do and He can provide the talent that’s needed.
– Learn on being content with who God has made you and stop trying to compare yourself with others.

Doing The Best With The Tools You Have. I know it’s easy to look at megachurches with gear lust. It’s easy to think that if we just had this camera, this audio system, this mixer, fill in the blank with that piece of gear you’re thinking of, then we could create something awesome.

Honestly this is a great time for the media production in the church. The prices are falling and the quality is rising on almost every piece of gear I use. It’s a great time. I’m very thankful for the gear I get to use at Lakeshore on a weekly basis. It makes my job easier.

There have been times when render times on a video have prevented me from going down certain creative paths. I could have waited for the render but that would have meant working on my day off and being away from my family. That’s a limit of the gear I have. So I chose a simpler solution to meet my deadline.

I’ve worked with consumer level gear, prosumer and I’m thankful I’ve been able to work with pro level gear for the most part. Don’t let the gear limit you. Do the best with what you have and move on. Focus on what you can do, not on what your tools can’t do. Play to your strengths.

But I need to be thankful for what I have. Do the best with what I have. And stop comparing myself to what others are working with.

Some practical steps:
– Learn to make the most of what you have. This usually means reading the manual for gear. Learn your software.
– Focus on learning your tools so you can use them creatively (example- does your video camera allow you to over/under crank? Do you know how to do it?, does your still camera do time lapse? Do you know how?)
– Budget and plan for the tools that will give you the biggest ROI, not just flashiest piece of gear or newest software or plugin.

I think a lot of this boils down to two things. The first is pride. Pride in being the best. Pride in comparing ourself with others. The second is busyness. Our society is addicted to it and we think the busier we are the better we are. I’m not talking about being lazy or taking the easy way out. Work hard but establish some boundaries so you can sustain the pace. It’s a balance between working hard and being a workaholic. A line that is drawn between your identity being wrapped up in your work or in Jesus.

When I was burnt out my life was all about improving my media production. If you didn’t want to talk about media production I struggled to carry on a conversation. Media had become the most important thing in my life. My wife tells me now that during that time I talked at her, not with her. Now I recognize boundaries. My identity isn’t in my job or my work it’s in my God.

October 21, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . Personal Growth. 1 comment.

How I Overcame Burnout — Part 2 You Can’t Always Be “ON”

So my blog post about my burnout generated a lot of hits and has led to a few conversations the last few days. I thought I’d write a series about what I’m doing to take care of myself when it comes to working in the tech arts of a large church.

We started with Part 1: You’re Responsible For Your Walk With God

Today we’re focusing on Part 2: You Can’t Always Be On.

Most church tech guys are always “on” during a service. This means they are never free to receive during a service. I know I’ve been there. But when I changed jobs I made a conscious decision I was going to sit with my wife and worship together. It doesn’t always happen but I have to say it does about 80-90% of the time now. In 6 months I can count on one hand the times we haven’t sat together compared to 5 years where I could count on one hand the times we did sit together.

There was a season of life where not only was I on every service but I was out 5 nights a week at church events/ activities. It was early in my marriage. We didn’t have kids and my wife was with me a lot of the time but I wasn’t in a place where I was not receiving on a regular basis. I was only giving out.

Granted I’m not at a church that has a highly produced weekend service, we don’t do IMAG or broadcast and there was a great team in place before I got here. But I’ve made the conscious decision to not schedule myself and to trust in my team and Jesus to do a good job. I’ll be very hands on during practice. I’ll give feedback in between services. But during the service I let my volunteers run with it. And that means sometimes I let them fail. I’ve sat with my wife and we’ve had light cues goof up, wrong video cues play, audio cues missed and lyrics get off! Instead of jumping up out of my seat I let my volunteers handle it and learn from it. I’ll take time between services to talk to them and those mistakes have been great learning opportunities for my team. And those mistakes have not been repeated.

I used to freak out and stress out about the smallest mistakes during a service in the pursuit of excellence. But it wasn’t excellence I was seeking perfection. Yes details are important but does it really matter if that light cue was a 5 second transition instead of 6 seconds? I work with a few personalities that can get very uptight over the smallest details. But I’ve taken a much more relaxed attitude. An attitude that focuses on training, equipping and releasing my volunteers instead of me micromanaging everything. An attitude that says excellence in production can honor Jesus but it can’t change lives. Jesus alone changes lives.

As a result my teams have stepped up. They take the ownership. They strive for a higher standard because they take pride in their work not because it’s a fear of failure. As a result they’re free to be more creative (within some guidelines).

Here’s what I focus on:
-Prepare your team well by having systems and training in place to set them up to succeed.
-Practice ahead of time so everyone knows what’s going to happen and how to make the transitions.
-Pray because a church service is not about us. It’s about Jesus and people being drawn closer to Him and being changed by Him.

This has led my to trusting in my team to execute and trusting in Jesus to use us to make an eternal difference in someone’s life, not just entertain them for the morning. My job is to use my talents faithfully. Jesus job is to grow His Church.

There is a balance that must be found between excellence and perfection. No service involving fallen people using technology and gear created by fallen people will be perfect. But we should strive to do our best with the time we have, the talent we have and the tools we have. I strive to always improve but what’s the cost for things to go to the next level and is it worth it? This leads us to another post in this series: “When is good enough, good enough?” But first let’s close this out and make it very practical.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

When and where are you gathering together with other brothers and sisters in Christ to be encouraged? Are you, in your life, growing in love and as a result of an inward regeneration by the Holy Spirit, good works?

It’s not convenient in the production side of ministry but it’s essential. I know some guys don’t feel like they can be at church and “off” ready to receive. Well here are some practical ideas I’ve heard from other church tech guys:
– Talk with your boss about what’s reasonable. Where can you receive? You may be on staff but you can’t be expected to be “on” 100% of the time. You need to receive.
– How many hours are reasonable? I work hard, I’m passionate about what I do. But I need time off every week. For a season I had Friday afternoon off, Sat morning off, Sun afternoon off and Mondays off. If you added it up it seemed like plenty of time. But for me half days off don’t work. And is my off time the same time as my family?
– Some guys are always on on Sunday and can’t be off. Is there another service your church has that you can make sure you’re not on. Where you have no responsibility and can just be there to receive?
– Can you rotate weekends or services of when you can be off?
– Some guys work on multi-site churches and will visit another site to receive.
– Get involved in a small group! You need non tech relationships where you can process through life and your relationship with Jesus.
– I know some guys who visit another church on a Sat PM or Sun PM when they don’t have a service just so they can receive.

Your relationship with Jesus is the most important part of your life. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t lead where you haven’t been. You can only fake it for so long before things begin to crumble and break. Don’t let this shipwreck you faith and your life.

October 20, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Personal Growth. 2 comments.

My Story Of Church Burnout: The Dark Side Of Media Ministry

I have to say one of the most damaging decisions I’ve made in regards to my spiritual health was to come on a church staff full time. I’ve been on staff at two churches. The first for almost 10 years and the second for just over 6 months.

At my last church I can now look back and realize how burnt out I was. Here are some of the symptoms I had:
– The only time I was reading the Bible or thinking about the Bible was when I was preparing a sermon.
– I would have a fantasy that I would be in a car wreck. One that was serious enough that I’d have to go to the hospital and I’d miss the weekend at church. It would give me a viable excuse to not have to worry about my attendance numbers in junior high.
– Most of the spiritual highlights of my life personally were before I was on staff.

After 5 years of behavior like that I transitioned out of a pastoral position and into media. I felt a relief of not having to produce attendance numbers. Relieved that I wasn’t being a hypocrite standing up and talking about the power of the Bible to change lives which I wasn’t experiencing.

But moving into media didn’t fix my spiritual problems. I was so focused on the production aspect of services that I was not engaging in the services. I didn’t worship because the mix wasn’t good or the band was off. I didn’t listen to the message because I was brainstorming an idea to improve a technical aspect of the service.

It didn’t stop there. Over time my heart grew bitter towards the church. And as a result it grew bitter towards God. Eventually I didn’t worship because I didn’t want to spend time with God. I didn’t listen because I didn’t care what the Bible had to say. I stopped tithing and giving. I was a practical atheist.

On the outside things may have looked OK but I was dead on the inside. During this time my wife and I had our first and then second child. The additional stress of less sleep and the challenges of raising kids squeezed me. And when I was squeezed I didn’t like what was coming out. I’d be angry towards my kids and unkind to my wife. I was selfish, moody and sinful.

I looked for ways to escape. I threw myself into learning video production and motion graphics. I threw myself into video games, movies or TV shows. I even fell back into a pre-Christian habit of looking at porn on line, only to be caught by my wife. Being caught was a wakeup call. I realized left on my own I wasn’t just hurting myself but I was hurting my wife and my kids.

I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. That we needed a change. I realized I needed to change. This was the Fall of 08.

At my last church my wife and I never sat together during service. We weren’t involved in a small group. And I felt like I couldn’t be real with most the guys I worked with for fear of my job. I felt like no one cared about me personally, only my performance on the job. So we new we needed a new church home and I needed a new job.

I was fine taking a job that wasn’t at a church. Applied for a few but didn’t get an offer. We finally landed at Lakeshore in April of 2009.

During this time we went through a television fast that got me reading again. I focused on reading books to help me with my spiritual walk. One of the books that really opened my eyes was Mad Church Disease. It was a painful mirror for me to evaluate myself and my life by.

At Lakeshore I’m able to sit with my wife during service and worship and listen to the teaching. We’re able to be involved in a small group for the first time in a long time.

Over the last few months I’ve gotten into the Bible for the first time in a long long time. I have a hunger to know God, to spend time in the Word and worshiping for the first time in at least 10 years.

The podcasts that I listen to are 80% preaching and 20% other. Compared to 100% media/ tech/ etc.. a few month ago. My favorite are Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler for the expositional teaching through a book of the Bible, the solid theology and the clear call to a radically different lifestyle. And John Ortberg because of his great communication skills and practical approach to spiritual disciplines.

I’ve invested money into a new study Bible (it’s the ESV Study Bible and I’m really enjoying it by the way) and Logos Bible software to deepen my Bible study. On a side note I have a fear of how much my American, consumer mindset influences my view of the Bible. So I’m reading the Bible and digging into commentaries to make sure I’m not taking the Bible out of cultural context and historical, orthodox interpretation.

I know I’m not perfect. I’ve still got junk I’m dealing with. But I have to say for the first time in a very long time I feel healthier. My relationship with my wife is the best it’s ever been. I’m more honest with myself and in turn God.

It’s all too easy to get so busy doing stuff for God that we’re not being with God. It’s a cliche but it’s true. I hope my story can encourage you if you’re realizing you’re burning out in ministry whether you’re on staff or a volunteer.

Take an honest look with yourself. Your relationship with God is too important. If you need to make changes make the changes. If you’re dealing with sin. Get over the fear and talk to someone. I can’t tell you the freedom I’ve experience once I talked through these struggles with some friends and my wife.

October 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Personal Growth. 15 comments.