Reviewed by Dale Lewis
Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson
"...this relevant book is a must-read that needs to be in the hands of many lay leaders, volunteers and pastors."
It was a straight forward question from an associate pastor that turned her stress-filled life around . . . "Does working at this church interfere with your communion with Christ?" As she wrestled with this question, Anne developed a Web site that asked church leaders to share their personal burnout struggles. Within a few days, she was flooded with over a thousand responses.
In Mad Church Disease, Anne uses anecdotal parallels between Mad Cow Disease and leadership trends in the church. Her purpose is to help us realize what church leaders are facing as they do ministry, as well as providing practical and positive treatment plans. The emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational affects not only the person experiencing the burnout but also those who love and care for them.
She provides a first person perspective on a subject easily ignored or swept underneath the holy carpet within the local church. Her use of illustrations, checklists and poignant “Exam Room” questions help the reader discern whether or not they are infected with Mad Church Disease and how to reduce the risk of burnout. The five principles Anne shares in regards to health, (spiritual, physical, emotional and relational), are very practical and important to implement in your life. They are: 1) Own Up, 2) Change Your Purpose, 3) Make A Plan, 4) Create Boundaries, and 5) Find Accountability. Her authentic approach and conversational writing style was encouraging to me. The last chapter (11), “Processing Through the Pain,” was an excellent conclusion to her thoughts on this silent disease.
After 15 years, I stepped down from my role as drama director at a local church a year and a half ago. Although I didn’t want to call it “burnout,” it was time for a much needed sabbatical. I was frustrated because I felt I was leading and nobody was following. And no matter what I did on my own to reconcile the situation, I knew deep down, I wasn’t leading well. My relationship with Jesus was less than it should have been at this point in my faith walk. I had slowly become a self-anointed martyr. Mad Church Disease is exactly what I needed to continue the healing within my soul.
It is my belief this relevant book is a must-read that needs to be in the hands of many lay leaders, volunteers and pastors. I, for one, will continue to recommend it in addition to using it as a personal life resource beyond the local ministry.