Leisure and Burnout in Ministry Articles

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Are You Intrinsically Motivated?

What drives you as an individual? Is it your salary? Awards and recognition? Adulation? If yes is your answer you might be motivated by extrinsic means. On the other hand, are you driven by dealing with challenges and finding yourself capable? Do you get great pleasure out of doing things for their own sake, regardless of their benefit? You might be considered intrinsically motivated.

Why is this important? Intrinsic motivation is characterized by two primary traits: perceived competence, and perceived freedom. Research shows that people who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to find satisfaction in their work and their leisure. They are found to be happier, have less tension, and be less prone to burnout.

In my research with clergy I discovered some interesting relationships among the variables age, years in ministry, intrinsic motivation and burnout. Based on the data, intrinsic motivation is a mediating factor of burnout. Also discovered, the more years of service, the less intrinsically motivated the clergy were, suggesting that one of the coping mechanisms of younger clergy is their motivation for ministry. This may explain some of the effectiveness of second-career clergy in local churches. Though they may have fewer years of service, their motivation for ministry is intrinsically sound, and they find themselves more satisfied and less prone to burnout.

How do you improve your motivation for ministry? One key is to find a balance between your challenges and skills. Are your goals and expectations for your ministry too high? Are your skills not matched with the needs of your congregation? Reflection on those questions may reveal some areas that you can improve through education or realistic goal setting.

A second key is to improve your perceived freedom. How much of your work and leisure have you chosen, and how much has been thrust on you? The more choices you can give yourself, the more freedom you will experience. The more freedom, the more burnout-proof you are.

I would place my bets that you are more competent and more free than you ever imagined.


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