How to Avoid Burnout in Leadership - John Opalewski - Episode 44

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for 15 years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John’s experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, consultant and mentor. He and his wife Laura founded Converge Coaching in 2012.

You can find him on:


Or check out his work at


Leading From Alignment Podcast

Unshakable You by John Opalewski

Organizational & Personal Alignment Checklists

Are You Secure Enough to Take a Vacation - Shundrawn Thomas (podcast chapter)


Episode Audio:

Chapter 1 - 5 Signs You May Be Suffering From Burnout

If you are listening to this podcast, you are a leader. You may or may not hold a leadership position like a pastor or a business owner. But you are listening to this podcast because you’re committed to growing as a disciple of Christ, and that means other people will take notice. If you’re a stay at home mom, your children follow your lead. If you work in an office or are a tradesmen, people will look at you to see how they should act and respond to challenges that come up throughout the day. If you are a pastor, you have the responsibility to lead others spiritually and teach them what Scripture says. Leadership requires us to give our lives to others. But as John Opalewski says in this chapter, leaders can’t give what they don’t have. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to take burnout seriously. As leaders, we must learn to pay attention to these signs so we can act quickly and avoid the devastating consequences of burnout in life and leadership.

Chapter 2 - From Burntout Pastor to Professional Coach

Our public, external life does not necessarily reflect the state of our internal lives. Gordon MacDonald writes, "We are naively inclined to believe that the most publicly active person is the most privately spiritual. We assume that the larger the church, the greater its heavenly blessing. The more information about the Bible a person possesses, we think, the closer he or she must be to God." We can even make these false assumptions about our own lives. And these false assumptions may lead us to ignore the signs of burnout as leaders. We can be lulled into thinking the good things happening around us are signs we're on the right path in our journeys of discipleship. But it's in these moments, if we aren't paying attention, that our brokenness that we've ignored or covered up will eventually break through. And when that happens we find ourselves face to face with burnout. In this chapter, John pulls back the curtain on his own story of being a pastor and struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It's an honest look at what can happen when we don't take the time to evaluate our private, inner worlds. But there is hope if we find ourselves going down that path. And John's story is proof that God is always there to walk with us, and that he wants us not only to recover from burnout but to thrive in whatever position he calls us to fill in life.

Chapter 3 - How Long Does It Take to Recover From Burnout?

How we deal with burnout depends on the severity of the person’s situation. This is why it’s so important to avoid burnout in the first place. Recovery can take several years in some cases. But recovery from burnout is possible! If you are experiencing burnout right now or are exhibiting early warning signs, there is hope for you. One of the most discouraging aspects of burnout is that you feel there is no hope for rest. You feel trapped in a perpetual cycle of striving for something you can’t see because you’ve forgotten the reason you started on this path in the first place. But in this chapter, John Opalewski gives us hope as he discusses how he walks with leaders through the recovery process. You don’t have to feel like you’re stuck on life’s hamster wheel, giving it 100% but not going anywhere. But you must be ready to learn a new way to live.

Chapter 4 - Creating a Lifestyle of Discipleship to Avoid Burnout

You will never be the person God has created you to be all on your own. And this is especially important for leaders to remember. The temptation is to think the more responsibility we have as leaders the fewer close friendships we should have and the less we need to pay attention to our inner worlds. We think we have to avoid showing favoritism or that we need to keep our distance in order to be more effective. But as so many who've gone through burnout know, loneliness is one of the most common feelings we experience when our internal lives are unhealthy. Steps 2 and 3 in creating a lifestyle of discipleship are practicing the basics and walking with others. Another way to look at these two steps are spiritual practices we do with God and spiritual practices we do with those around us. These two steps are really two sides of the same coin. And when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle that will protect us from burnout, we need private time with God as well as close relationships with other people. In this chapter, John gives us some practical tips on how to put steps 2 and 3 into practice. These practices aren't only for those who are in burnout. Instead, they are practices each of us can do every day to create a healthy lifestyle of discipleship.

Chapter 5 - How Daily Growth's 5 Steps Can Prevent Burnout

Our 5 steps in creating a lifestyle of discipleship are meant to help us assess every area of our lives. Whether it's practicing the basics or serving with purpose, each of these steps is also valuable in preventing burnout because they offer us a chance to create a healthy lifestyle. In this chapter, Josh and Chris walk through each of the 5 steps and apply what they've learned from our conversation with John this week.




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