71 - The Weary Leader's Guide to Burnout, Part 3 - Sean Nemecek
Tom, Sean, and PIR Executive Director Roy Yankee discuss part two of The Weary Leader’s Guide to Burnout. They cover the necessary steps to recover from burnout and develop resilience and discuss the theological heart of the book – what it means to be in Christ.
The Weary Leader's Guide to Burnout: A Journey from Exhaustion to Wholeness
Visit wearyleadersguide.com to preorder the book and get some bonus content!
About Sean Nemecek
Sean Nemecek is the West Michigan Regional Director for Pastor-in-Residence Ministries, where his primary focus is on coaching pastors through burnout and recovery. He also serves as a co-host for the Hope Renewed podcast. Before joining PIR, Sean served as a pastor in a local church for almost 18 years.
In the next episode, the guys will be again be joined by PIR Executive Director, Roy Yanke, to explore the final section of the book.
You can learn more about the book at wearyleadersguide.com
Tom and Sean talked about this book in Episode 44 -4 Questions to Diagnose Burnout (note this was before the book had its final title. At the time it was Better After Broken). See also Episode 34 – From Burning Out to Burning Bright – Jason Eddy.
Transcript of the Interview with Sean Nemecek:
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Sean Nemecek 00:00
Jesus talked about being the vine and we’re the branches. And so often in ministry, we focus on what’s the fruit of my ministry. I got to produce more fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit. But Jesus says, apart from me, you can do nothing. Our focus should be on connecting to the vine, connecting to him, abiding in him, learning his ways, knowing His commands, just being with Jesus produces fruit, naturally.
Joe Chambers 00:33
Welcome to hope renewed helping you find new hope when ministry leaves you hopeless. The hope renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR ministers. Here are your hosts, Tom Jameson, and Sean Nemecek.
Tom Jameson 00:53
Sean, it’s, it’s great to be together again to have opportunity to discuss your book that’s coming out in late March the wiry Leaders Guide to burnout, a journey from exhaustion to wholeness. And again, we’re excited to welcome Roy Yankee, Executive Director of PIR Ministries as interim co-host. Thanks for having me back to be our guest. Well, it’s great. So, Sean, as we did before, if you could just kind of give us a 10,000 foot flyover of the three sections of your book, and we’re going to dive into the second section today.
Sean Nemecek 01:31
Yeah, last time, we covered section one, which is really about understanding burnout. If this whole thing is a journey, that first section is the “you are here” part of the map, just understanding where we are so that we can plot a course to where we’re going. Part two is the journey, it’s really all about the work that we need to do in order to recover from burnout. Part three, kind of describes the last end of the journey or the destination that we’re we’re moving toward. And that’s resilience against burnout in some of the spiritual disciplines that we need to have in practice regularly to make sure that we never burn out again. And it ends with just the picture of what a healthy leader looks like, and how we can create a rule of life, to make sure that all of the things that we’re learning in this book can be tied together into one uniform way of approaching life and ministry.
Tom Jameson 02:36
So we’re getting into the second section of recovering from burnout. And I’ve just noticed the way that you put your chapters together, there’s there’s a real flow, there’s an intentionality of order here. That’s so important. And you start with reconnecting, why start there? And how does that open up the door for for recovery?
Sean Nemecek 03:00
Yeah, as we talked about last time, leaders who are in burnout, often are experiencing isolation. And in many ways, that’s, that’s the hardest part, to overcome a lot of the pastors that I coach through burnout, I asked him, Tell me about your friends. And many of them say, I don’t really have any friends. The only people I talked to are my family and my church. But I don’t really know anybody outside of that nobody who really knows me for who I am. That’s a problem. That’s a serious problem. In order to recover from burnout, you have to have help from others. You cannot do this on your own. Mostly because you need somebody who has an objective outside view, who can help you understand yourself a little bit more. You also need somebody to hold on to hope for you, someone who can, can help you find hope when you feel hopeless. And so having some people in your life who can do that are really important. So I start by recommending a series of people and professions that can be really helpful, that are easier to connect with than trying to build a whole new friend network. Eventually, that’s what pastors will need to do. They’re going to need to have a group of friends in their lives. But learning how to do that can be hard. And so I recommend just starting with a few. We talked about starting with finding a friend, a mentor, a coach, a counselor, a doctor, in those types of relations and a spiritual director, those types of relationships that can really help you explore Different parts of yourself, and what has contributed to your burnout. And so we can walk through each of those, if you’d like. But I’m just curious to hear from you guys, how do you see the importance of relationship, in recovery from burnout,
all important. And I’m glad you put it in the first position. Because we are, we are culture and we are taught to be self sufficient and independent. And you mentioned, many of us trying to work harder in order to get out of those emotional quagmires or the burnout. And that just doesn’t work at all, we need to have people in our lives who can help us with those blind spots that we would not see otherwise. And as you said, Who can be advocates for us, when we can’t advocate for ourselves, we need to have people who speak that hope and that grace in our lives, if nothing else, this piece has to be first,
Tom Jameson 06:04
it speaks to that fundamental need to know and be known. I always go to that that primary part of that is someone like that has to be safe, someone like that has to be be willing to be with you in all the the ugliness and brokenness of who you are, and still love you and still be for you. And I mean, that’s, that’s what we want to be for others. But how desperately we need to have that for
Sean Nemecek 06:35
ourselves. Finding those safe people in your lives is hugely important. Kurt Thompson in his, his newest book talks about the importance of feeling seen, safe, secure, and soothe. And all of those require the help of somebody else. In order to be seen, you need to see her. In order to be soothed, you need somebody to say, Hey, it’s okay, this isn’t as bad as you might think it is. In order to be safe, you need to know that you have good relational connection. So all of this is important. And in the in the book, I start with friends, because honestly, just having somebody who loves you for who you are, and isn’t interested in any ministry from you, for any reason, is one of the best gifts any pastor can receive. And I think that’s, that’s really the foundational thing that every pastor needs is some place where they can turn off ministry mode, and just be themselves. The pastors, I coach through burnout, one of the most common things I hear from them is I don’t have to be a pastor with you. Yeah, we’re talking about ministry we’re talking about like, but you just let me be myself. And that is, that is an incredible gift to receive. If we can, yeah,
I know on my own crashed and burned, burnout was a part of it. And a big part of that was the fact that I didn’t have any friends who could speak into me not only the good things, but also the warning signs that certainly were there.
Tom Jameson 08:16
So you move from that sense of reconnection, and how important others are in your lives, to really kind of a focus of how important you are in your life, and a restoration of self.
Sean Nemecek 08:35
Yeah, the next couple of chapters in the book form the, really the theological heart of the book, this is where we start to dig into the realities of who we are, were created to be, how sin has affected us, and how we look to Jesus to find help. And so the this chapter on restoration of self is beginning to, to really provide that that space where you can be reintroduced to who you are, who you are, at your most basic level, who you are, as a creature created by God, not just you know your interests and your passions, but really just a sense of your identity and and how that leads to security. I start off the chapter by sharing a quote from a pin that I bought when I was a kid, it says, I’ve gone off to find myself if I should return before I get back, please tell me to wait. That kind of divided feeling is really indicative of burnout. We feel like we’re divided up all over the place there bits and pieces of us everywhere. We’ve kind of shattered our sense of self, put little pieces of us in different compartments and divided our lives. And now this is about bringing all those different parts back together into a unified whole. That finds its wholeness in Jesus.
Tom Jameson 10:20
That almost sounds like to get theological on you. There’s this whole idea of shalom, and that that centeredness in God.
Sean Nemecek 10:29
Yeah, absolutely. It’s really about being is, you know, the word shalom isn’t just talking about peace. It’s talking about health, and wholeness and wellness, and all of that income. In one thing, it. And so what I’m inviting pastors and leaders to do, is just allow God to bring them back together into a single, whole person who’s healthy, and who’s well. And so this is really introducing other things that are going to come later on in the section. But if, if you don’t have this foundation of a healthy self, and honestly, you, you need the reconnecting first in order to have them speak into your life, this is who you are, because it’s hard to see yourself. So my mentor, for example, often would say to me, yep, that’s just the way ministry is, there’s nothing wrong with you. Oh, really. I thought it was all about me, I thought, you know, I thought I was the problem here. But this is just reality and ministry, okay. So those types of comments that you get from other people, help you to reconnect with who you are, and step out of that shame and anxiety spiral that that we’re in. And so as we, we learn to be whole selves, again, this really, really helps us to be able to pause and look to Jesus. And that’s, that’s really the heart of this.
Tom Jameson 12:06
Let me ask a bunny trail question here. Right, I really want to hear from you on this one, too. Why is it that pastors so easily lose themselves in ministry?
Well, from my perspective, and talking with pastors, and knowing my own self, and my own journey, is that it’s a matter of identity, you know, of validation of of who I am through what I do, rather than just who I am. I think that’s a big part of it. And you attach that all the spiritual stuff of calling and though the eternal consequences of what we do, and it just starts stacking up, and you just feel like, I am my work, because that’s really important. And I just drift often to the background, you know, who I am, drifts off in the background. I that’s what I have felt. And I think what others have felt as, as I’ve talked with them,
Sean Nemecek 13:11
I think one of the contributing factors is the amount of expectations and pressure and all of that, that pastors are under leads us to believe that we are our ministry, that our ministry is our identity, because that’s what everything around us says, Even the people who talk to us, they don’t say, Hey, Sean, how you doing, they would say, hi, pastor, and so you begin to think pastor is me. But really, our identity is rooted in Christ and who he is for us, in in God’s love for us and what God says about us because of what Christ has done. And that is all independent of what we do. It doesn’t matter what we do, what we do, should flow out of who we are. But in pastoral ministry, we get those things backwards, we do what we do, to find who we are. And that’s what creates burnout. That’s one of the great things that we lose ourselves in our work, instead of living out of this healthy self in Christ, for our work. And, you know, that’s, that makes all the difference.
And all this leads to compartmentalization. And we start fragmenting and we start and the problem is we start fragmented. And so if we just continue to break those pieces off without that, I remember character guard talking about, you know, to will one thing and he’s talking about integrity, and we associate integrity with ethics. But integrity is to be whole. Yeah, it’s to be connected. And that’s we are not, when we find our validation and what we do, we have broken ourselves off in that way.
Sean Nemecek 15:10
So, yeah, to be integrated means to be the same person in every place in life. Exactly right. And the problem with that is, in one of the things I dive into in this chapter is what Romans one tells us about the effects of sin in our lives. How it’s given us, disordered hearts, empty passions, and chaotic minds. And those are my words to describe what Paul was talking about there. In Romans one, but disordered hearts really has to do with our sense of connection to ourselves, we’ve lost that connection of, to who we are, who we were created to be what it means to be made in the image of God. And then that, that empty passions has to do with our connection with other people. And instead of loving others for their good, love has become something that we we do to use others for our pleasure. And so everything’s disordered there’s, we’ve, we’ve lost connection with God with self with others. And even our minds are chaotic, because as Romans one says, We’ve exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And so in order to maintain that lie, we have to build this, this massive structure of other lies around it, or everything comes crashing down. And so the effects of sin in our lives really torn us apart. And like you said, compartmentalized different parts of us, so that we can try and live in this disordered way. But the answer to all that is Jesus, the restored self is what the Holy Spirit is doing, informing us into the image of Christ, which I believe is restoring the image of God from Genesis, the the idea of being created in God’s image, finds its fullest expression in our being made light Christ by the Holy Spirit. And so that restoration work is so important.
Tom Jameson 17:21
And and so the the essence of recovering from burnout is learning to rest securely in who we are in Christ. And that’s, that’s, I think, you know, if we’re doing chi Asmus, of your book, right, dead center, in the, in the middle of it, is this chapter on becoming secure in Christ, and revisiting or more deeply understanding that sense of identity of who, who we are.
Sean Nemecek 17:54
Yeah. I think it’s very easy for us to, to get wrapped up in what everybody else is saying about us. And what we’re saying about ourselves, our negative self talk, can be debilitating at times it can be cruel. And so we need to have a really strong sense of what God says about us. And so I use this chapter to explore the the statements where scripture talks about us being in Christ, one of the most foundational ideas for me, in coming out of burnout was the sense of being united to Christ. And what that really means what are the all the implications of that? It’s all over the New Testament. And this idea of being united to Christ, and finding my identity in him, was really the thing that gave me the sense of security, and stability, to be able to do the rest of the work. Without this, I wouldn’t have been able to go any farther. And so, the foundation is really Jesus Himself, who he is for us and who we are in Him, because of the union we have with him. So Romans eight was huge. There’s other passages that are really important, but I just kind of take the chapter and go through several in Christ statements in kind of a logical order, that help us understand just how wonderfully secure we are, how fully and permanently loved we are by God. And it’s just, it’s just a wonderful thing to to experience when you really get all of this stuff on your skin.
I’m reminded and reading through this and Brennan Manning’s statement, he made an audacious statement one time when he he said, You know, I think I imagined that. Probably the first question Jesus will ask me when I arrive in here Haven’t is, did you really believe that I loved you? Okay, that’s, that’s eye opening, to think about that, and that that’s really what this is about. And we have to be sinking deeper and deeper into the love of Jesus, in order to have the proper ordering of our other loves, that we need to express.
Sean Nemecek 20:28
That was Paul’s prayer for the church, right? He wanted them to not just know but experience, how high and deep and wide was the love of Christ was the love of God for them in Christ. And so, yeah, that is so foundational, I don’t think we can, we really have any idea of how deeply loved we are. But if we can just get a little bit more of that, the hope the joy that comes from that, can can really form the foundation for for the future. The other part of this chapter that I really want to highlight is what it means to abide in Christ, and how our ministry flows from that abiding. Jesus talked about being the vine, and we’re the branches. And so often in ministry, we focus on what’s the fruit of my ministry, I got to produce more fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit. But Jesus says, apart from me, you can do nothing, our focus should be on connecting to the vine, connecting to him, abiding in him, learning his ways, knowing His commands, just being with Jesus produces fruit. Naturally, it’s not something we have to focus on. It just happens. The more we’re with Jesus, the more we’re learning from him, the more we’re taking his ways into our life, the more naturally, ministry flows out of us. And so it’s an easier approach. We’re no longer striving to do all these different things. We don’t have to focus on the outcomes. We can focus on just knowing Jesus being loved by Him, learning from him how to love others, and the rest of it takes care of itself. And that is so much easier.
Yeah. So don’t you think, though, this flies in the face completely in our culture of productivity, which is something that creeps into board meetings, expectations of people in the church that pastors and ministry leaders need to make stuff happen? And it needs to be productivity is the measure of success and effectiveness and all the rest of that doesn’t just fly in the face of that?
Sean Nemecek 22:49
I think it does. There’s got to be a balance to this. We can’t live unproductive lives, you know, just sitting around
Tom Jameson 22:58
something. Felt that Yeah, yeah. Right. Sure.
Sean Nemecek 23:01
So one of the ways we know we’re connecting with Jesus is that he produces results in our lives that flow out of us naturally. So people will look at the end result, and just say, I’ve got to replicate that. But you can’t do that unless you’re connected with Jesus. And so yeah, we get the cart before the horse, in the way we approach ministry. We try to have the end results before really connecting deeply with Jesus. And, and we really have to flip that around. And you’re right, the way we’ve been teaching pastors to lead, especially coming out of the Church Growth Movement, and the mega church movement, not that those things were inherently bad, but they came with some baggage that really led us into more of a business model CEO model of pastoral ministry, which looks nothing like Jesus, to be honest. And so, yeah, we have to call people back to abiding in Christ. That isn’t to say, you can’t have a megachurch pastor who’s not abiding in Christ. I think there are some out there. There’s some really good ones. But the temptation is to try and build this kingdom that we were never called to build. Christ is the one who builds his kingdom. He’s the one who builds His church. And so we have to trust Him for the outcomes is we abide in him.
Tom Jameson 24:31
So we’ve been using this word integrity and integration reconnection with with God with self with others, then you step into differentiation, which I think is a complimentary term to integration, not a not an opposite. explain where you’re going with that.
Sean Nemecek 24:50
So the idea of differentiation was something I came across in a lot of the leadership books that I read, it comes out of a Um, Marie Bowen and family systems theory. And really it has to do with the idea that in order to be healthy people, in order to be able to lead well, we can’t let other people’s anxiety infect us, or let our anxiety infect other people. And so we have to have this sense of healthy separation between who they are and who we are. Or as Henry Cloud says, between where we end and others begin, there can be no blurring of those lines. This does not mean that we’re relationally disconnected from people. In fact, that’s been one of the criticisms of this, this idea of differentiation is that sometimes people take it too far. And they just disconnect altogether. But really, it’s about knowing who I am, and where the boundaries of my responsibility, and my personhood end, and respecting the other person’s responsibilities and their personhood, and being able to have relationship across those, those lines in healthy ways. And so, learning to differentiate, I think, is the key word that that keeps us from people pleasing. It keeps us from perfectionism, and many of the other things that lead to burnout. So way back when I was early on, in my recovery, I read Charles stones, book people, pleasing pastors, and he introduced me to the idea of people pleasing, pastors just don’t have a sense of who they are. They’re looking for their sense of self in everybody else. They’re looking for the affirmations of everyone, the praise of others. And if you take this to the full extent, you can even get into narcissism and, and some of the darker types of leadership, because we just don’t have a sense of who we are in ourselves. This is why foundationally we need to know who we are in Christ. Because that provides really the basis that we need for being this this healthy self knowing that we are loved by God. And we are complete in who God created us to be. And we don’t need others to tell us what to do or who to be or how to live. Those things come from God and and that love that we have from God can then flow into others in healthy ways. And so differentiation is really about learning to create that healthy separation, so that we can be separate cells and still be relationally connected. Sometimes we have pastors who are conflict avoidant. And this is one of the things that leads to burnout. And because they’re conflict avoidant, they can’t handle the intense negative emotions of anger. And so they will do things to try and manage the other person’s anger. For example, I’ll withhold the information so that you don’t get angry. And pastors often do this with their spouses too, you know, I’m going to I’m going to hold back what’s really happening at church, so that my spouse doesn’t get overly angry and make it hard for her to worship. But doing that, you’re you’re actually taking away the other person’s responsibility to manage their own emotions, you’re disrespecting them as individual persons. And so learning to let people have the information and let them be angry, and not be infected by their anger or be threatened by their anger is part of what it means to be a differentiate itself.
Yeah. And coupled with people pleasing comes being the fixer, right? Because we want to, as you said, we want to manage them be responsible for them, and not allow them to not only be who they are, but take responsibility for their own stuff as well. One of
Sean Nemecek 29:23
the dirty words in all of this is control. Pastors so often are trying to control other people. And we don’t see Jesus doing that with His disciples. Yeah, he reacts to some of their stupid statements. He reacts to the Pharisees, but he does so in a way that they’re responsible for their own behavior. They’re responsible to change their walk. And Jesus isn’t going to do that. For them in those relationships. He’s gonna provide the basis for them to be able to make those changes. But he’s not going to do the work that they themselves need to do.
Tom Jameson 30:10
So you give some suggestions on developing differentiation of self, some some practices or different things. And at the head of that is practicing mindfulness. And that’s the one that you really delve into why, how and why do you find that to be most important?
Sean Nemecek 30:29
Well, you cannot be differentiated, if you don’t have a mindful approach. Mindfulness is really just being aware of first God’s presence with you. Second, what’s happening around you. And third, what’s happening within you, you need to be aware of all those things in order to be able to have a healthy, differentiated self. In fact, the rest of this section of the book is all things that you can do to help with this differentiation. But it starts with, with this idea of learning to develop a mindset that reflects on what am I experiencing? That involves all the senses? How can I engage all of my senses into the world around me and use that, to help me reflect on what’s happening? So that includes being aware of God’s presence? And then being aware of the way others are showing up in the room? And what am I picking up from them? But then you also have to be aware of what am I thinking? And what am I feeling, because if you’re not consciously aware of those things, then you can’t put in insert a pause before your reaction. So many of us, especially men, are in autopilot mode. We aren’t even aware of what we’re thinking and feeling we’re just reacting to everything around us. And that means we’re going to live lives that are very destructive relationally. So if we have certain emotions that are destructive, anger, bitterness, and any number of things, being able to notice what I’m feeling. And because of this feeling, what am I thinking? Then you can pause and say, All right. Now how do I want to react in a way that isn’t going to infect the person across from me with these emotions in with these thoughts? How can I react to them in a way that’s healthy, and good for them? And so we kind of explore that throughout the rest of the book?
How did you come up with the mindfulness practice all of your chapters and with some really good practical steps that pico people can take? So how did you come up with that mindfulness practice?
Sean Nemecek 32:51
So to be honest, I picked up this practice from Charles stone, it’s in the appendix to people pleasing pastures. And over the years, I have modified it and expanded on it to make it my own. Incidentally, Charles stone has also modified and expanded on it into a whole book called holy noticing, where he talks about the, the practice of Christian mindfulness. It’s an excellent book, and I recommend him. But I had already used this earlier practice to, to develop and grow my own sense of, of how to do this. And so yeah, the whole book is really just, this is what I did to get out of burnout. And so I’m just describing my practices, and how they helped me. So just learning to listen to the rhythms of my own breathing my own heart, to calm myself down. And as I focus on God’s presence creates a space for me to listen to what’s going on in my, my environment, and my affections or emotions and my thoughts. And all of that gives me this incredible focus, to be able then to then ask, alright, what’s happening in my soul? What is my soul need to say to God? And what is God? More importantly, what is God saying, to my soul, and so it creates the the environment that I need to have healthy silence and solitude with God. When I tried to enter into silence and solitude before this practice, my mind was wandering like crazy, you know, 1000 thoughts entering and it was just so hard to pay attention. But after taking some prayer retreats and learning what it feels like to be in silence and solitude, and really pay attention to God, and after learning this mindfulness practice, and being able to put those together, it really helps me to to kind of clear what’s going on in me, so that I can be fully present to God.
Tom Jameson 34:53
And then you take us to that, that work then that you can do the work of soul care. So I know, Sean, you and I have talked a lot about soul care and had many guests. But just share with us how soul care then becomes, I think really the heart of recovery from burnout.
Sean Nemecek 35:14
Yeah, in many ways, everything in this book is soul care. And so this chapter might be better, better titled spiritual disciplines or something like that. But it’s really about the idea of developing regular spiritual practices, practices that our life giving, and approaching some of our common things in different ways. So for example, Bible reading, I talk about reading the Bible in three different ways. And quite often, a lot of us will, especially as pastors will approach the Bible just in one way that is, we’re going to learn what it means we’re going to read to understand. And if we understand, then we’ve got a sermon that we can deliver to others. And we can just tell them about our understanding of Scripture. There’s some good sermons that happen that way. But quite often, they lacked depth. They’re kind of dry sermons, they’re very intellectual sermons. And, to be honest, that was my way of preaching for a long time. You know, I had the skills of delivery to make it seem more dynamic than it actually was. But really, I was just reading to inform. But we also need to be reading to nourish our own souls. When was the last time we came to Scripture with no agenda, other than to just meet God and let Him ministered to us through Scripture. And for me, that was learning to spend long periods of time in Scripture, it might be long periods meditating on one verse, or one paragraph, or it might be just reading through a whole book until the spirit puts his finger on something and says, pay attention to this. Sometimes it would take 1520 minutes of reading, before I was in a place where I could actually focus. And I was in a rhythm to listening to the spirit, I’m starting to notice the spirits voice again. And then something would jump off the page where the Spirit is just saying, hey, you know, I love you, right? Pay attention to this. This is what your soul needs today. And so reading for, for nourishing our own souls is important. But there’s a third way of reading and that’s, that’s meditating or deliberately internalizing scripture into the core of who we are. That’s what it means to hide God’s Word in our heart. It’s not just talking about scripture, memorization, that would be hiding God’s Word in our heads. I think God’s Word in our heart means maybe starting with memorization, but going until the truth of the Scripture, the depth of the Scripture becomes part of who I am, in letting that just marinate in me, before bringing it to others. And so when we read scripture, from all three of these perspectives, it deepens us and gives us a much, much more rich Well, or reservoir to draw from. So if we’re just reading from the perspective of getting information, we’re like a conduit, you know, the waters coming in one end and pouring out the other. But if we’re doing all three of these, we’re like a reservoir that’s getting filled up. And so when the water turns off, we still have a depth of refreshment to draw from. And really, that’s the point of all of these practices. In this section, we talked about different ways of praying, the importance of corporate worship, and other practices that that every Christian should be involved in.
Tom Jameson 39:12
I love that you’re bringing this again, these kind of have an order to them in recovery, and that I think so often with the spiritual disciplines, pastors, again, view them in kind of a utilitarian sense. It’s like, oh, I need to be more spiritual. So I’ll do spiritual disciplines. Therefore, I am spiritual because I do spiritual disciplines. Instead of, of taking that mindful approach that comes from a rooted identity in Christ which comes from having, you know, allowed others to, I think of the four friends letting the their friend down through the roof to meet me for Jesus kind of thing. And Just to be that authentically present to the spirit in in the disciplines, because I think it was Richard Foster said, the disciplines don’t change us, they put us in the place where God could do
Sean Nemecek 40:16
brain work. Yeah, that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s too, we do these disciplines to be with God. That’s the point. Just be with God, and allow him to speak into our lives. And he doesn’t always speak every time we come to these things, but sometimes he does. And in those moments, the life giving words that God speaks by His Spirit, into our hearts, transforms us for ministry. I think so often in the church, we get new Christians in, and we disciple them with knowledge with content, and then tell them now go out and serve. But we never take the time to ask them to sit and learn to be with Jesus, and to be loved by Jesus first. If we did that, then some of the content that we need to teach would come up naturally, and we’d have some discussions. But we wouldn’t be sending people out to serve and burn out, because they would be filled with the love of Christ first. And I think that’s really the thing that I’m trying to correct here is telling pastors, their first work, and really all Christians, all leaders, not just pastors, our first word is to be with Jesus, and let our ministry flow out of that.
And being holds is is the greater value sometimes then doing right? Yeah. And just to be present, even like you said, when God doesn’t speak, is there value to being in that posture? To just know that we are present with God, that there is no outcome? There’s no doing? Right. But that there are great lessons to be learned in just that being present. And being still Yeah,
Sean Nemecek 42:13
yeah, pizza zero says that our are doing flows out of our being, usually get those things backwards.
Tom Jameson 42:21
But given the pastoral persona, you know, I have my 10 minutes of authentic connection with God, that bottle, okay, I’m gonna take this out, here we go. Let’s, let’s run. So you talked about boundaries, as in the kind of the working out once you’re in this deeper inner place? And then, you know, there is the doing of the work, right, there is the life of ministry. How do we avoid getting back into the same old traps? And you talk about that, and boundaries?
Sean Nemecek 42:56
Yeah, in the chapter on boundaries, we’re really talking about three things. First, it’s our core values, the things that drive what we do. If we don’t have a sense of what those are, then we tend to lose ourselves. And most pastors who are in burnout, when they really dig down deep to what their core values are, and the way they’re actually living, they find that those things are opposite one another. And so there’s some some realization that happens there, and a chance for corrective. And then from there, we move into the discussion about prioritizing our life that we can really only have one priority in life, the word priorities doesn’t make sense. Because priority means the one thing that comes before everything else, the the thing that is prior to everything else. And Greg McEwan and his book essentialism really drives that point, home really well. In so we explore that idea a little bit in how prioritizing is actually picking the one thing that comes before everything else. And then under that, what’s the one thing that comes before everything that’s left? And then under that, what’s the one thing and so making sure that we’re not mixing up priorities or trying to express them simultaneously, which essentially eliminates our priorities. So building on the foundation of our values and our priorities, then it’s easier to to start building some boundaries. And these boundaries are, are both minimum and maximum boundaries. We have minimum boundaries that are the things that are necessary for our health and well being. Things like getting enough sleep, eating well. spending enough time with God. Doing our soul care work. Those are minimum boundaries, and then there’s maximum boundaries. How far can we go? What are our God given? limits, and knowing what those are and not approaching them, but staying short of them a little bit, so that we don’t end up injuring ourselves in one way or another. And so those boundaries then define our freedom. And they’re things that we need to not only discern for ourselves, but also negotiate with others. So many times people will set boundaries for themselves and just enforce them or impose them on other people. But one of my desires is that pastors and leaders will learn to negotiate their boundaries, with their church board, with their families, with everyone so that everybody knows what the boundaries are, where they are, it’s essentially like laying out the lines on a field, so that you know, where the boundaries are, so you can play the game. You know, if you play soccer, or football, there’s clear boundary lines, you can’t play the game outside the lines, it doesn’t work, you have to stay within the lines, in order to play and if you do, you have freedom within those boundaries. And it’s when we get outside those boundaries, that we start to lose our sense of freedom, we start to feel stuck, we start, it’s because we’re outside the lines, and we can’t play the game there. So finding where our freedom is, again, our God given limits our minimum requirements allows us to determine this is this is the space I have to play. And when we do that, based on our values based on our priorities, based on negotiated boundaries, then life and ministry becomes a whole lot more fun. It’s joyful again, because we know, this is where I get to play. So this is the playground of ministry.
Well, that’s so counter to our understanding of, of in our culture, freedom, and to have boundaries in order to be free to play the game. We are exceeding our limits all the time, and wonder why we suffer the effects of that.
Sean Nemecek 47:16
Yep. Yeah, I, I’m amazed at how sleep deprived we are. And when I have a pastor who’s in burnout, one of the first things I do is, say, I want you to take a couple of weeks off, take some extra naps, and just let your body tell you how tired you are. It’s amazing, the depth of our sleep deprivation. And even when we go on vacation, we don’t take restful vacations. We take busy vacations. Yes, we do. And so learning to find some rhythms in our RESTful times as well, is really important. But I think one of the keys to the idea of boundaries, is learning that pastors or leaders job description really needs to be developed in cooperation with one another based on their values, their priorities, their sense of calling from God, we got to stop trying to jam pastors into these three formed job descriptions that really have no sense of the personhood of who’s filling that role, but
Tom Jameson 48:31
they’re unrealistic in their expectations, and to the sense of what God calls a pastor to be anyway.
Sean Nemecek 48:39
Yep. And some of our, some of our limits are the weaknesses that we have, naturally. And many people in the church are trying to get their pastor to, to turn their weaknesses into strengths. That’s not gonna happen, folks. Yeah, it, you can, you should minimize your weaknesses so that they’re not liabilities. But really, those are just God telling you, these are the areas where you need other people in your life, bringing people with those things that are strengths. And so learning a pastor’s strengths, and building their job description around that. So that that’s 80% of their work, is really what creating healthy boundaries is all about.
Yeah, yeah. And it goes to that whole body thing too, that we tend to forget, you know, the church being a body. So yeah.
Tom Jameson 49:31
So you you end this section, breaking free. I love it. It’s kind of now Yes. And I almost read it as not okay, now go out there and get him you know, kind of the coaches pep talk. It’s more of okay, now before you step out here, remember here the warning signs. Don’t Don’t do things. What’s the definition of insanity? doing the things the same way over and over again expecting different results. This is maybe breaking free from patterns that that were holding you toward burnout.
Sean Nemecek 50:12
Yeah, this, this is actually I think the hardest chapter in the book to implement. Because there’s more work in this one chapter than probably in the rest of the book, if you really do the work, this is this is about noticing our destructive habits, personality traits, things that get in the way of our relationships, and having the courage to face those and change them in us. Or at least at the very least, notice them and warn others about these tendencies. Give them a chance to call us out and say, This isn’t who I want to be, it’s just a pattern that I go to. But having the freedom to, to face our flaws, and change what we can and be vulnerable about the rest. Honest not trying to hide those things, but having an awareness about them. And and just being clear with people, this is who I am. So that we don’t end up hurting people. We also talk in this this chapter about recognizing generational patterns. So early in the book, I talk about our childhood wounds and, and family of origin stuff. And this is where we actually get to address that and start learning what those patterns are. We all have vows that we’ve made as children that need to be undone, and how do we go back and reframe those and repent of those vows? How do we change patterns that were handed down to us, from our, our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents. So I talked about doing a genogram, which is, I think one of the most profound spiritual tools you can use. When you see generational patterns that you didn’t know we’re operating in you, it’s amazing how much freedom that gives you doesn’t mean you’re gonna be able to change them. But having awareness means you can watch for them, and be honest about them. And so that’s, that’s really important. And then just being able to, to notice our own negative self talk, and how powerful that is in our lives, and how it’s actually just our shame showing up. It’s just our shame, taking on a voice. And sometimes that voice isn’t even our own. Sometimes it’s voices that we assigned to other people, people that we respect in our lives. And we hear in our imagination, them saying things to us that they never would say in person, that they would never even think on their own. But because we’re in a shame, a place of shame, we project that onto those people and, and learning how to break those patterns and replace those thoughts with promises of God is is essential. And then finally, this one may be the hardest of all, is learning to remain present in conflict, to be curious about what’s going on in the other person, rather than defensive. Did you know you can’t be curious and defensive at the same time in two parts of the brain to different parts of the brain that cannot fire at the same time biologically. So you can either be defensive or you can be curious, but you can’t be both. And so choosing to be curious, shuts down defensiveness and opens up relationship. And the end of the chapter is really about learning to, to remain present in conflict, so that you can really genuinely care about the other person. But to do that, you have to be secure yourself. And so that’s why it’s the last thing in this section, because everything else has to happen first.
I know in addiction work, you know that negative self talk that you mentioned, to rewrite the tape to right over the tape with different kinds of self talk. You mentioned rehearsing the promises of God or rephrasing even those in ways that are more personal. I know that I have found that to be helpful. staring in the mirror and actually talking to yourself. Begin to rewrite the tape that you hear so often in your head
Sean Nemecek 54:59
and This is where having those, those other people in your life also helps. Because you have somebody like a counselor, or spiritual director or a coach or mentor, or friend, all of them, you can say, here’s what’s going on in my head. And they can say back to you. Here’s what God says, here’s what’s what I see. Here’s what’s true and why that’s not true. So just having somebody external to say those things to you. It’s not just looking in the mirror, I mean, that’s a way of externalizing it ourself. But if there’s something more tangible about hearing someone else’s voice, speak those truths, those great truths into your own heart.
Tom Jameson 55:42
Absolutely. So I think maybe in summary, this is this is going to be so general, but what I’m sensing is that recovery from burnout, it, it’s not about becoming a different person, it’s about being different in a good way, about who you truly are. Being able to produce there, there, there are things that need to change, but not and I guess what I’m thinking is that, you know, someone who’s in burnout, saying, you know, I’ve got to become a completely different person. And what I’m hearing is No, I just need to be completely different about the person I am.
Sean Nemecek 56:26
Yeah, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. I think what’s happened is that in burnout, our sin and anxiety and shame has made us into a different person than we really are. And so we’re living out of this false self, this this facade, that we’re projecting to the world, that everything’s good, everything’s okay. You know, I need your praise, because I’m such a great leader. And really, what we’re returning to is the vulnerable, true self, with its limits, with its boundaries, with its needs, and its weaknesses, and also, all the goodness in the joy and the strength that comes from this is who I truly am. So yeah, it’s it’s returning to ourselves, rather than, you know, becoming a new person. But that’s a long journey. In many ways, the subtitle of this book is so true that that journey from exhaustion, to wholeness, we’re learning to be that whole person once again. That’s, that’s key.
Tom Jameson 57:42
step at a time. Well, Sean, Roy, it’s been fascinating to, to just dive deeply into this hope filled journey that Christ calls us on thank you so much for for bringing that to us today. And we always like to end with words of hope. And it’s my turn to do that. And simply I want to say, the words of hope, that that brought life to me at a very important time. You are not alone. There is hope. And this focus on surrounding yourself with others who will speak hope into your life. Be diligent, Be tenacious about finding those people who can be the safe people, the hope filled people, the faithful friends who will bring you to Jesus. Thanks so much for listening today on hope renewed. We’d love you to visit our website, hope renewed podcast.com Leave us your thoughts. Leave us your comments what’s stirring in your soul. And it is our prayer that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.
Joe Chambers 58:56
Thank you for joining us on hope renew. Please help us reach more pastors by sharing this episode with your friends. If you enjoy this podcast rate and review us on Apple podcasts, Google or Spotify or your favorite platform for receiving podcasts. Thank you. This means the world to us. The hope renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR ministries. at PIR, we partner with God and the church in the work of pastoral renewal and restoration. Pastors. Our goal is to help you cultivate new hope for healthy life and ministry. We do this by building relationships. We train both pastors and churches to promote a culture of ministry health. If you’ve experienced a forced exit from ministry, we provide a process of restoration for you and your family. We also have proven resources and tools to assist you in the challenges of ministry life to contact us or to learn more about the PIR Visit PIRministries.org