The pandemic has been challenging for many Sunday Schools. Classes stopped meeting. People dropped out. Teachers quit. Vision and planning stopped. Life and ministry required creativity and energy in a time when everything was hard. As a result, leader shortage and burnout occurred in the majority of Sunday Schools.
Avoiding Leader Shortage and Burnout
JOT DOWN SOLUTIONS. Before reading further, I want to ask you to jot down some solutions and treatments for these issues. It may help you to address the two issues separately. What did you write down?
In my experience, these two issues are often connected. While solutions and treatments are varied, I would like to point to one action which can help with both. In advance, I want to be clear that the action is not a quick fix, and I want to encourage you to be diligently persistent.
The common solution to these issues is “more leaders.” If you have more leaders, that addresses the shortage and often prevents burnout because of encouragement and shared work. To do this correctly takes time, but consider this question:
If you knew that a crisis would require you to step away from your Sunday School role in 12 months, how would you prepare your replacement?
When we take seriously the command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), that also means that leaders choose to mentor more leaders. In fact, if every leader had been mentoring another leader prior to the pandemic, we would not have a shortage now, and some burnout could have been avoided.
Even without the pandemic, Sunday School will continue to lose leaders. Some loss is inevitable. Leaders die, get sick, and move. Some get tired, burn out, or retire. But the key is prayerfully seeking, enlisting, and training new leaders BEFORE there is a need.
When we share the load, no one is overwhelmed. When we share the load, there is encouragement, creativity, and energy. Solo leaders tend to burnout and drop out. Investing in another leader addresses today’s and tomorrow’s needs.
Where to Begin
The place to begin is a season of praying to the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into the harvest (Matthew 9:38). Then open your eyes to see those He sends. Be ready to be surprised by those He sends. Invite them to join you. Invest and encourage them. Do life together with them and share the work.
As I have looked around, I have great hope for the future of the church. But some potential leaders are waiting for you to pray and open your eyes. Leader shortage and burnout will not be addressed at its core until you do. When will you begin praying? Seek out the leaders He sends. Invest in them. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!