interview: anne jackson

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

February 3, 2009

Anne Jackson is a woman with great passion for serving the Lord. But what happens when the work that you love tears you apart from the inside out? What happens when your body crashes? How about an emotional crash resulting in deep depression? Your relationship with God? Faltering. Your relationships with others? Deteriorating. Anne Jackson knows, and she has lived to tell about it. And she shares her story and what she learned from it in Mad Church Disease. I had the opportunity to interview Anne about this book, and appreciate her sharing her heart here with us.

anne_jacksonBibleDude: Why call the book ‘Mad Church Disease’? Seriously, what’s that all about?

Anne: I am a little bit addicted to the BBC channel. One day I was watching a documentary on Mad Cow Disease and somehow made the relation between Mad Cow Disease and the burnout that is happening in today’s church culture.

BibleDude: You’ve had some experiences in your life that makes you somewhat of an expert on this topic. But why did you think that this was such an important message for the church today?

Anne: After some reflection I realized that I probably wasn’t the only person in ministry with pain and confusion caused by burnout. If we as the Church only operate in our own strength, we’re just going to be spinning our wheels. We can’t offer hope and healing if we ourselves are broken and in the dark. We must bring it into the light and be honest about our struggles so God can show His love through us. God intends for us to have an abundant life. He intends for us to be complete and functioning only in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

BibleDude: What are some of the signs for spotting burnout early?

Anne: The biggest sign of burnout can be determined by a person’s communion with God. If a person is working in ministry, yet not experiencing their own consistent communion with God, that’s a huge red flag. Lack of sleep, significant weight loss or weight gain and a lack of joy are also good indicators of early burnout.

BibleDude: Do you think that churches are overextending themselves in some ways resulting in member/leader burnout? And do you think that there are ways that churches may be able to cooperate and/or share resources to help avoid the risk of burnout?

Anne: Absolutely. The passion of a ministry leader accompanied with the competition that can happen between churches to be the biggest and best, will definitely contribute to the over-extension of members and leaders. Asking too much of volunteers, lay-leaders and staff will lead to burnout. It isn’t a matter of “if” but of “when.” Churches do need to do a better job of teaming together and sharing resources. It is definitely an idea to consider.

BibleDude: Do you find that those who suffer from burnout can never return to that level of intensity within their work, or do you find that they learn healthier self-care and more proper personal boundaries in their work?

Anne: Absolutely not. With proper personal boundaries and a healthy lifestyle, ministry leaders and volunteers are free to thrive, in wherever God has them.

BibleDude: What is one tip that you would like to leave people with?

Anne: The Church needs passionate people but passion without boundaries is dangerous.

BibleDude: What has God been showing you lately?

Anne: God has been showing me to listen more than talk.  To give more than take.  To be gracious with those who don’t show grace.  That He knows better than I do.  That it’s okay to ask why and even more than okay to not find an answer.  That love looks like different things to different people, and you can never do it too much.

BibleDude: What’s next for Anne Jackson?

Anne: What’s next? Ask me in 6 months and I’ll let you know!

If you haven’t checked out the book yet, then you can get it in the BibleDude Store. Mad Church Disease is a great read for anyone involved in church ministry, whether as a paid staffer, or a part-time volunteer. I’ve picked up quite a bit of practical advice from Anne that I have been able to immediately apply to my own work as a volunteer in ministry. Read, grow, live. Amen.


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interview: anne jackson

by Dan King time to read: 4 min