Number Nine – Passivity, Indifference, Apathy and Church Burnout
Ministers can become burned out and churches can find themselves that way also. Passivity within a church is hard to eliminate and reawaken a sleeping congregation. Indifference within the fellowship allows for the few to dominate and the rest to stagnate. Apathy in a fellowship is a very dangerous component that encumbers church revitalization. Have you ever been in a church that was spiritually exhausted? I have! In these churches there is so much effort placed on trying to ride from one peak to another peak of activity, that the church never takes a moment to catch its breath and eventually it wears the laity out and they need a rest. That rest will come in one of a few ways:
The first way it will come is through a wise church revitalization leader seeing the early signs of burnout in the laity and taking the necessary steps to allow it time to recharge its batteries. If you are always pushing hard as a revitalizer it will either take a constantly renewing number of volunteers replacing those who you have burned out or it will take a slowing down for a few months to allow your hard chargers to catch their breath! Many a leader in renewal and revitalization efforts understands the Law of the Ninety Day Push. Here is the idea in brief. Work hard with your laity for three months and then slack off a bit (about a month) and get ready for the next ninety-day push. Most churches can facilitate three well thought out evangelistic pushes per year without burning out your leaders and causing apathy to become rampant.
Another way is for the people to take a sabbatical from service. When you have worked and worked and worked it is easy to get burned out a little and become apathetic. Even while the Holy Spirit is energizing you our human frailty can cause us to grow weary. When a church needs to begin the renewal process having a worn-out group of volunteers can mean trouble. Active members who are the strength of the work will often seek to impose an in service sabbatical just so they can refuel their batteries. That usually means that the church revitalizer has done a poor job in developing, enlisting, and apprenticing new leaders that could come along side of the existing leaders and give them a few weeks or month to catch their breath.
Lastly a departure from the church by key laity who have served faithfully is a sign of burnout and apathy. Burnout on the volunteers and apathy on the leaders to hear the call and do something about it! Usually there will be a clarion call for some time off from the deeply committed to recharge their batteries. When it is not heard, volunteers feel trapped and think they are faced with only one last option, that of leaving the church for good. A wise church revitalization leader understands that the rank and file may all actually be a little burnt out and that it necessitates the apprenticing of lay leaders who will eventually either start new things in ministry or take over those things that are presently going on.
These are some of the components that encumber church revitalization. If attention is not given to these areas it will hamper the possibilities of future success and renewal. Such impediments can halt your efforts for church renewal and revitalization keeping the church from engaging in effective evangelism and healthy ministry.
You can connect with Dr. Tom Cheyney and the RENOVATE Church Revitalization Coaching Network additionally via Facebook at RENOVATE Conference. Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization. If you or your church would like more information about how to be considered for the next series of Church Revitalization Applicants you may contact him at Tom@renovateconference.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.