There is a sign in my house, to the left of the front door, my mom put it up there to see when she leaves for work in the morning. It reads,
“Today’s agenda, to get through it.”
We all fall into this mindset sooner or later-we’ve been burnt out.
I’ve been working with Church A/V teams since I was 12. When I started college I got involved there as well. About two years in, I was tasked with starting a team to run our Friday night programs and church service as well. Completely student run and led. I had never been a leader in my life and here I was thrust into that role. That school year I only had three weekends off.
I am a workaholic, perfectionist, control freak.
I think to be an A/V tech you kind of have to be, but you’ve got to learn how to control it otherwise you’ll never not be working. After my first year of running the teams things got better, I had more people and I had a striking realization. I needed time off. It got to the point where church was work. I’d show up and do the program and go back to my dorm room and fall back into bed for most of the day.
Because of this my spiritual life disappeared.
And I started to go a bit crazy I think. I would get stressed out about little things, avoid people and spend time in my room watching TV because I needed to relax. I didn’t know it, but I was burnt out. I had pushed myself to the max and then some.
In his book Hamlet’s BlackBerry William Powers presents a maxim that we live under in the current digital age, even if we don’t realize it.
“It’s good to be connected, it’s bad to be disconnected….our philosophy has two corollaries.
First corollary: The more you connect, the better off you are.
Second corollary: The more you disconnect, the worse off you are.”
We are digital maximalists. We like to be connected all the time. And when you work in the Church in a technical aspect, you’re always working.
I had an internship in Orlando, FL two years ago. On the weekends I’d go to church with some friends I knew from school. Something like the third weekend we’re sitting in church and there’s just a bunch of problems on the screen with the words, and I tense up.
You all know that feeling, something’s wrong and I have to go fix it. Our knee-jerk response is to go to the back look over someone’s shoulder and ask, what’s wrong? Then proceed to fix the problem. The second I tensed up, one of my best friends put her hand on my arm said and said, relax it’ll be ok. I hadn’t realized until that moment that switching off for me was close to impossible. It took almost the two months there to finally be able to sit in church and actually worship and not critique what was going on, or want to fix the problems I saw.
Wanting to fix the problems we see isn’t a bad thing, but it can be rooted in some things that aren’t healthy. We like to feel needed and important and when you’re working in a group that follows the idea,
So the last will be first, and the first last.” – Matt 20:16 (ESV).
In doesn’t always bode well to be someone who needs to be needed. I got thrust into my leadership role having never been a leader before and I learned a few things from it. Mainly a leader has to be humble. If you’re humble a few of the other things will work themselves out. But it took time. I had to learn to let go and let my guys learn. They had to walk eventually. I had to accept that some days, everything was going to go wrong and there was nothing I could do about it. Taking the time off calmed me down and showed me that I was not nearly as important as I had made myself in my mind. It also showed a different way of doing things.
We need space.
In the first ChurchMag podcast the guys asked the question what would the Church look like if we practiced Google’s 20% rule? Basically Google engineers are encouraged to take 20% of their workday and work on something that interests them personally. Basically what Google is doing is creating space for their employees to be creative.
Creativity needs two basic things: time and space.
You need time to be creative and you need space to do it in. This means disconnecting. What if this rule applied to our technical callings as well? Maybe not exactly 20% but what if we decided to take time and disconnect-to not work a weekend and just worship instead.
I did my tech job at my college for about 6 more years and it definitely took its toll. It got to the point where I had to go to another church on the weekends so I could worship and not be pulled into fixing a problem or filling a hole. I still try to suppress that impulse today whenever I’m at another church.
Burnout is a real problem and we need to be aware of it.
We need to monitor ourselves and know when it’s time to take a break. If our goal as Christians is to become more like Jesus than He shows that this is exactly what we need to do.
“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 5:15, 16 (ESV)
Even Jesus knew the importance of disconnecting. If we want to become better, more creative, and more productive people and techs and experience less burnout we need to create some time in our life for space. And when we finally have that space, we need to make use of it, connecting with our friends, our family and most importantly, connecting back with God.
Have you experienced Church tech burnout?