As leaders, many of us (myself included) have this idea that when the organization reaches _____ level that we'll no longer feel the pain of burnout. Yes, we'll still do as much work, and we'll still be overwhelmed with all the new things to think about, but somehow, it won't affect us or our relationships nearly as much as it is now.

Yet every time we hit that level, things never get better. The burnout is still burnout, and even though the problems may change, the feeling never goes away.


Kelli Wommack posted a great article on Tony Morgan's blog talking about leadership development, and what that means for churches. She asks a great question that I think many leaders of small or growing organizations still have to ask:

Why did we maintain a level of care for over 25, 50 or sometimes a hundred volunteers instead of empowering other leaders to lead? I recently came up with a few reasons:

1.  THE NEED TO RESPOND - “It is our responsibility as staff to care for our area of ministry and our volunteers. How can I ask a volunteer to do this?” Many staff members feel like it is their responsibility to care for all areas of ministry and all volunteers. We often feel obligated because we are paid to do it all. We just don’t want to overburden our volunteers. We want them to have very little responsibility.

NEW THOUGHT: When we invest in the leadership development of our volunteers, we are giving them something of great value. We are training them for leadership and life. And more than anything, we are giving them the opportunity to be part of Kingdom work that has eternal value.

2.  THE NEED TO RELATE - “I like to know everyone individually that is working on my team.” Many of us like to have a relationship with each person who is serving alongside of us in ministry. Though psychologist Robin Dunbar says our brains have the capacity for relationships with 150 people at a time, he also acknowledges that our innermost circle of connection is more like 3-5 people with a maximum of 10-15.

NEW THOUGHT: Truly meaningful relationships cannot happen when we try to connect with over ten people at a time. When we focus on developing five to seven leaders and investing our time and energy with that group, we can maintain a level of intimacy that promotes soul care.

3.  THE NEED TO RULE - “It is just easier if I do it myself.” Leadership development is an investment of time, energy, money and resources. It is not easy. It is often messy. Our egos and territories can sometimes keep us from sharing leadership with others. We delegate tasks at times, but never fully empower others to lead.

NEW THOUGHT: Developing our volunteer leaders frees us as staff from overworking. Even though our volunteer base is made up of people who work full-time elsewhere, they want to invest their free time wisely – into things that really matter. We have an investment opportunity that will bring lasting results as they grow as leaders and then in turn develop others.

For me, there's great freedom in the idea that the people who choose to be here, are also willing to take on some of the burden of responsibility that usually falls on me.

What about you? Are you feeling the burn of having too much to do? What would happen if volunteers in your church not just lead ministries or groups or events, but could also be volunteers who oversee multiple events/ministries/teams?