The Relational Leader S1: This Is Exactly What Leads to Burnout

Burnout is a real thing. There are pastors and church leaders all over the world experiencing burnout right now. They blame it on the world’s circumstances and turmoil. Yes, perhaps on the surface that may be the cause; it is definitely a contributor. However, I believe there’s another reason - a better reason - a deeper reason - why so many are feeling burnout. Lack of fulfillment is at its core.




We all know someone who is so needy everyone runs from them. Right? We see them come through the church doors and we quickly find someone to talk to - or we duck out and go to the restroom – any direction except toward them. Just admit it! You know what I’m talking about because you’ve done it! It’s these very people who give the word “needy” a bad rap.


No one really wants to be perceived in this way. So, we tend to distance ourselves relationally from people. We’re good at showing love and care and empathy to others. Yet, we rarely allow others to come in close to us, to show us the same love and care because we just don’t want to be labeled or perceived as needy. Many times there is an even deeper root issue at our core.


Here’s the problem, though. People cannot truly know us until they know our vulnerabilities and our needs. If we are going to have life-giving relationships, it is vitally important for us to be “needy.” We have to allow people to give to us. We need to share needs on a two-way street.


The Bible is full of examples of our need for others.


Genesis 2:18: “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”


This scripture is often used in the context of marriage. Yet the crux of this scripture is that man nor woman should be alone. We need people. Even Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to “tarry ye here, and watch with me” in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew He needed others around Him to provide support during one of the darkest times of His earthly life.


There are a lot of similar scriptures to these. The bottom line is simple: We need to be needy. We need each other. Jesus modeled this so well for us. He surrounded Himself with the twelve; He brought three of them closer still.


Church leaders are usually really good at helping others – meeting the expressed needs of other people - because it brings fulfillment to our lives and ministries. It is something that drives us and motivates us to get up every morning. It’s amazing how we sometimes even complain about the energy and time required to help others, when it is actually the fuel that drives us. It is the cause of the gospel - helping others find the help they need from God.


There is a thing called “relational nutrients.” If we are only giving to others and not allowing others to give to us, we will find ourselves in trouble. By not allowing those relational nutrients we give out so freely to be replenished by others we can – and will - eventually run dry. If it goes on too long and we don’t take measures to take care of ourselves, this eventually leads to ministry burnout.


Here’s an alternative: When we supply the needs of others and, in turn, we allow them to supply our needs, there’s a phenomenal, life-giving, life-replenishing connection that happens.


We need to allow ourselves to be needy and to show it. We need each other. It is God’s design. Having someone supply our needs is not a luxury; this is a basic necessity of life. We have to be aware of what we need. Then, we have to allow people in our lives to help supply those needs. We have to have the capacity to be able to make those connections.


Do you want to be effective in God’s Kingdom for years to come? Then you need to be needy now! We need those healthy, deep, and meaningful relationships in our lives; they will sustain our ministry life for many years to come.


I’ve been working with a pastor of another church in leadership coaching. One of his biggest struggles in his ministry is pulling people in close. He has a phenomenal interpersonal sensitivity. (It is possibly one of his greatest strengths – definitely much greater than mine.) However, he allowed people to feel that warmth and compassion from him to a certain extent, then those around him would invariably relationally hit a wall with him. As I worked with him and we dove into what he was experiencing, we realized he was not allowing those people to meet his needs. He would provide for them and meet their needs; yet, he was not being vulnerable and transparent with his own needs.


The top tier leadership team in his church would literally feel the relational wall he put up. As he became more aware and started making small changes, he began asking for his relational needs to be met. This immediately impacted the connection and bonding felt on the team.

There’s no time here to tell you more about that story, except to share with you the bottom line: It is God’s design for you to need others. It is God’s design for you to need others and allow them to supply your relational needs.


Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

If you’re a church leader, I know you're a phenomenal person who cares deeply for others. In all probability your team knows you care, feels your support, knows you want to encourage them.


My questions for you today, though are these:


Do other members of my team know my vulnerabilities?

Do they know my needs?

What’s one step I can take to move a little closer in

sharing my personal needs with my team?


Take a chance with the people in your closest circle and I promise it will make a difference in the enjoyment and fulfillment of your life. It will also make a difference in the longevity of your ministry. It will literally change the environment of the ministry you lead.

We need God. We need relationship with Him every day of our lives. However, God created a system wherein we not only need Him, but we also need one another. We need to need each other. We need those healthy, deep, and meaningful relationships in our lives.

Take a chance . . . let someone in. I promise it will be worth it!


Copyright © 2021 Ryan Franklin. All rights reserved.