Faith

Creatives in ministry: 5 tips to prevent burnout

by Jeremy Tsang // June 4, 2021, 3:57 pm

Creatives in Ministry

With the new restrictions on churches really upping the ante on pre-recorded services, our pastors aren’t the only ones in the hot seat.

Another often overlooked group is the creatives behind every livestreamed service. 

These are the people recording worship songs and sermons, stitching them together, manning livestreams and so on. 

As much as pre-recorded services have made it convenient for us to do church (honestly, maybe too convenient), putting them together every single week is really anything but.

With heavier workloads, tighter production timelines and mounting stress, it’s often easy to forget the purpose of serving in this ministry in the first place.

And, in light of the new restrictions, it’s likely that pre-recorded livestreams are probably going to continue as our modus operandi for doing church.

So, for the creatives serving in media-related ministries, there may be a fatigue kicking in. It’s all too easy to feel burdened or worse — burned out. 

As such, we spoke to some creatives actively serving in such ministries, who shared 5 tips to keep burnout at bay. 

1. Seek God for rest 

Ministry burnout is something Joy Tan (21) can attest to.

Serving as the creative director for her youth ministry, Joy recalled how her church’s creative team was quickly burning out from working on pre-recorded services last year.

This was especially so when responsibilities in school began to stack up, since the team was made mostly of students.

With so much pressure resting on just a few shoulders, Joy admitted that she had lost some of the joy of serving because it seemed that things were constantly being demanded of her.

At that time, Joy knew she needed to spend more unhurried time seeking God. 

As such, she began committing each day in prayer, spending time worshipping and journaling her devotions. 

And as Joy sat in God’s presence to listen to what He had to say each day, she discovered that spending time with God helped refresh her spirit and gave her rest.

“God is the original creator,” affirmed Joy. “He’s the best person to go to when we feel stuck and need new ideas!”

2. Serve with the right heart

With heavier workloads, tighter production timelines and mounting stress, it’s often easy to forget the purpose of serving in ministry in the first place.

“I think that especially in the creative ministry, we often forget that there’s a bigger purpose beyond just the content we produce,” Joy said. 

It was therefore all the more important for Joy and her team to commit everything the ministry did to God. 

Affirming the need to remember one’s purpose behind the service, Joy shared: “Remember that everything we do — we do for God. Especially for pre-recorded services, our work is what creates opportunities for people to encounter God.

“When we remember the purpose behind what we do, the work seems worthwhile, and things like offenses seem less important.”

Burnt out within 4 years: The full-time ministry worker who is glad she “failed”

Similarly, Ang Wei Ming (25), who started helming his church’s video and photography team during last year’s circuit breaker, shared that what is most important in ministry is not one’s skill — but one’s heart. 

During his most exhausted season, Wei Ming came across a timely word in Psalm 51:16-17:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

His takeaway from those verses? God is less interested in our “burnt offerings” than a heart that comes to Him and says, “Lord, what can I do for you?'”

In the end, the Lord looks at the heart, concluded Wei Ming. 

3. Don’t compare

Apart from the technical constraints, another challenge for church creatives is not having enough manpower.

Explaining the week-to-week struggles of his team, Wei Ming shared: “We have a roster, but it doesn’t have much impact as we would like, since we still only have four videographers but always need three people at any given point.”

“Honestly, it’s been pretty rough having to juggle both work and church videos,” admitted Wei Ming, who also works a full-time job as a video creative.

Are you constantly comparing yourself to others?

Despite facing these limitations, Wei Ming warned against the temptation of making comparisons: “We are all from different churches and have different congregational sizes.

“A bigger church might have more resources, but it doesn’t mean that you are doing something less significant in the eyes of the Lord.”

Comparison is the thief of joy, he affirmed.

4. Communicate with your peers and leaders

When it comes to church, we are one Body — but with many parts.

The importance of communication between the “parts” therefore cannot be understated.

Huang Ren Jie*, who is currently serving in his church’s video ministry and as a cell leader, highlighted the importance of being transparent. 

Having experienced the fatigue of working a normal full-time job by day, and filming and editing pre-recorded sermons by night, he advised those on the verge of burnout to reach out for help.

Communicating openly helps to create a buy-in culture where ministry members can be on the same frequency too.

“Tell your ministry head when you can’t take it anymore. Perhaps an alternative solution to going down to film or edit for hours can be found,” he said.

“Ask for help, especially if the ministry is small, so that more people will join and serve together!”

There’s little point in suffering in silence as when one part suffers, the rest suffers with it

Of course, these conversations should be had in love and without spite

5. Everyone has a part to play

Last, but not least, the rest of us in church (who aren’t in these media ministries) have a part to play too. 

All three creative ministry members we interviewed agreed that it’s easy to lose the joy of serving when one is overworked and underappreciated.

So, while they aren’t (and shouldn’t) be motivated by our applause, a kind word can definitely go a long way. 

It does not take a grand gesture to show one’s support — even a listening ear can make a big difference. 

How can I contribute to cell group if I’m just a “normal” member?

Regrettably, Ren Jie recalled feeling labelled as “unavailable to God” or “not committed” when he experienced a burnout.

He realised, however, that his issue was more about being overworked and under-rested from serving in multiple ministries at the same time than about being disconnected from God. 

So, when we engage with fellow believers like Ren Jie, do we listen and empathise? Or are we more quick to respond with words like:

  • “You should be joyful in serving.”
  • “Do it for God.”
  • “Have more faith.”
  • “Is there a problem between you and God?”
  • “Are you burnt out because you’re not connected to God?”

“People in creative ministries are human too,” said Ren Jie, pointing to the need for empathy.

As members of the Body of Christ, what can we do to build each other up instead of tear each other down? 

There are no two ways about it — ministry burnout is a real thing.

And with the way we do church in a flux right now, we could all use a little more grace and a little more love.

So as the Church continues to press on, may God renew deep joy and rest in all of us who serve.

* Name has been changed for anonymity 

THINK + TALK

  1. What is one handle you might need to apply to avoid a burnout?
  2. Take stock of your gifts and talents. What is your part to play in your spiritual community?
  3. Know someone who is at risk of ministry burnout? Reach out this week with a little encouragement 🙂
About the author

Jeremy Tsang

Jeremy is usually referred to by his last name, but responds to both 'Jeremy' and 'Tsang'. He is an ice cream enthusiast, known by his friends as having the mental age of 40, and by his neighbours as a shower singer.