Avoiding Burnout (And An Angry Father-in-Law)

I know too many great people who found themselves burning out and then no longer able to contribute at all. For that reason, I thought I would re-post “Avoiding Burnout (and An Angry Father-in-Law).

I was reading Exodus 18 awhile back and something about the passage struck me as odd: Moses was so busy helping people (day and night) that he sent his wife and kids away to his in-laws.

We don’t know for sure if that is why he sent them away, but it sure seems like it as the passage mentions that Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was coming to see Moses and he was bringing back Moses’ family. Uh oh. Not a good move by Moses.

Here are some other thoughts on this passage:

Moses recounts his miraculous story of escape from slavery and Jethro worships God. What we overcome points people to God, but we can’t live on past accomplishments. Jethro saw what Moses did was great (freeing his people from slavery), but what he was doing was bad (trying to help everyone by himself).

Moses believed in ministry leadership myths which burn out leaders and create unhealthy relationships:
“I have all the answers or at least I know more than the others around me do.”
“It’s just easier to do it all myself.”
“People need me to connect to God.”

Jethro encouraged him to raise up other leaders. Leaders who could oversee 10, 50, 100, and even 1000 people. More people are capable than we think!

Jethro encouraged Moses to teach them the scriptures (emphasis on why we do what we do), show them the way to live (emphasis on who they become), and show them how to do it (job description, more the big picture). Moses could entrust to these new leaders how to do it (details – Moses never shared with these new leaders what to decide in each case), when, what, and where. We need to invest in leaders and entrust leaders.

Moses was still available for the hard cases (didn’t disappear). Sometimes the leader needs to make the hard decisions.

The result = the people were satisfied (the new leaders and those whose disputes were solved by these new leaders).

What changes do most leaders need to make to avoid burnout? What changes do you need to make?

For more on this topic, check out this message I shared at a Mosaic Alliance event in Zurich.

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