Are You Overwhelmed?

I love the concept of “simple church” (less is more), but I sometimes wonder if there is anything truly simple about leading a church in 2017.

Compared to only 20 years ago, the complexity of local church leadership has dramatically increased. I believe the three primary driving forces are:

  1. Shifts in culture
  2. Innovation in technology
  3. Transitions in leadership

Parts of the new complexity are energizing.

  • The unknown element of the future always brings the hope of progress.
  • Vision paints the picture of something better.
  • The opportunity for innovation gets any leader fired up.

However, as I talk with leaders, from Boomers to Millennials, there is at times a sense of both question and uncertainty. Bluntly stated, most leaders express the feeling of “flying blind” far more now than ever in the past.

“Flying blind” can be destabilizing for any leader, and sometimes flat out overwhelming.


Overwhelmed sounds like this.

  • “I don’t know what to do.”
  • “I have too much to do.”
  • “I don’t know how to do it.”
  • “I’m trying to do it all alone.”

A prolonged sense of being overwhelmed can lead to discouragement, inner fatigue, disillusionment, and even depression. Sometimes being overwhelmed with a sense of “no way out” causes a leader to throw in the towel.

1) Re-experience the truth that God is with you.

Moses felt extreme complexity, overwhelmed and less than able to confront Pharaoh. And that was only the beginning of the leadership process to free the nation of Israel. Through all Moses’ objections and God’s provisions, ultimately, God said…

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

I don’t mean merely an intellectual knowledge that God is with us. But a profound “in the battle” soul awareness of what God means when He says: “My presence will go with you . . .“ And, hundreds of years later when Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Do you have confidence that God is with you?

There is an elegance to a pure trust in God that is powerful.  He reminds us that the things that are complex in leadership for us are not complicated for Him.

2) Seek wise counsel.

When you are overwhelmed, you can’t think straight.

Your perspective becomes skewed, and you need a wise and trusted leader to talk it through with you.

First, explore the elements of your personal life. Sometimes being overwhelmed has little to do with your church leadership. I know leaders who are overloaded at home and simply have nothing left to give. It might be a sick child, or a troubled marriage, or extreme financial pressure. For the overwhelmed feeling to lift, your home life must be supportive not draining. Tend to things at home first.

Second, explore the elements of your professional life. What are the pressures at the church? Write out the problems and put them in order of priority. What are the ones you can control? What are the challenges and pressures you can’t control?

With wise counsel, explore the elements of your life and focus on the things you can change.

3) Make a game plan.

When I was in seminary, I was overwhelmed the summer before my first semester.

Because my undergraduate work was not in Bible, theology or ministry, I had pre-requisites to make up to be an official student. The first course was Greek. An entire semester’s work in four weeks. I almost quit. It was brutal and completely overwhelming. Until one day a fellow student came to me and said: “Whenever I come upon a big rock that I just can’t move, I take a hammer and break it into pieces that I can handle.” I’ve carried that lesson ever since.

I’ve been writing down game plans in bite-sized pieces that I can do for over thirty years now, and it works. We all have faced a rock so big we can’t imagine moving it. But if you just keep swinging, and break it up into smaller pieces, then you can tackle the problem one step at a time.

You begin to see blue sky, gain hope, and your inner drive and motivation kicks back into gear!

Overwhelmed is an experience that all leaders face when you tackle a big dream and God-sized vision. Being overwhelmed for a short season is normal, but you don’t want it to become a prolonged experience.

Don’t try to do it alone.

  • Remember God is with you.
  • Seek wise counsel.
  • Make a game plan.

6 thoughts on “Are You Overwhelmed?”

  1. Thank you Dan, this was very encouraging to read this morning. I am continuing to learn over the years from seasoned leaders that longevity in ministry is so valuable and a gift we should not take for granted. I am grateful for leaders like you and PK (and many others) who are setting the example for younger leaders that it is possible to be in ministry for the long haul, to stay the course even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.

    1. It is definitely “doable” Tony! Steady as she goes!! You will hit rough patches, we all do, but if you can buckle down and press through, God provides the blue sky you need to keep going.

  2. “There is an elegance to a pure trust in God that is powerful. He reminds us that the things that are complex in leadership for us are not complicated for Him.” I love this statement. Was just discussing this concept with a friend of mine the other day in light of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4 and how important it is to constantly remind ourselves that no matter how good life appears to be or how difficult it may appear at any given season of life, we are completely dependent on God 100% of the time.

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