To further identify exactly how personal spiritual practice intersects with burnout is vital for the preservation of leaders whose high ideals are often hard to match to the endless demands and expectations placed upon them. As we have seen, spiritual resources of calling, collaboration and Christ-centredness have been shown to minimise burnout, but this is what would be expected in churches. For exactly why they are not always employed and why burnout therefore occurs, we turn to some interesting 2013 research by Grant Bickerton.
Ministers who were found to have these higher levels of ‘spiritual resources’ were tracked over eighteen months. It was found that they were motivated toward a higher level of ministry engagement in response to their passion over the following nine months. However, whether due to increased busyness or feelings of self-sufficiency, it was noticed that the spirituality of these leaders then decreased. This led to lower levels of work engagement at the end of the eighteen months and therefore a tendency toward symptoms of burnout. The very spiritual reserves birthing the ministry were squeezed out of practice to the detriment of the leaders concerned and of those they led!
A small pilot group then reported increased levels of satisfaction and performance after spending just six months in an accountable relationship with a spiritual director. Therefore, as with training for leadership roles, it may be said that it is ongoing collaboration and support is essential for effective spirituality and therefore, in turn for effective concurrent ministry, as suggested in Romans 12:11: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord”.