Mad Church Disease Awareness

July 2, 2007 by

2007_07_01mcd.jpgThe good thing about Church Marketing Sucks is that we’re people. People have friends. Thus, we have friends. Anne Jackson comes out of this simple logic. She’s written for us before, and she likes to hang around and help church marketing not suck. We’re pretty proud to know her.

She’s got a new project she’s working on called Mad Church Disease. It’s about the epidemic of burnout among church staff and volunteers. Church marketing and communication sucks when it burns out your staff, so this is an important issue to consider. I sat down (virtually, via e-mail) with Anne to get the proper diagnosis.

For starters, the site name is Mad Church Disease–it sounds scary, what is it?

Pretty much everyone has heard of the term “Mad Cow Disease.” I had recently been inspired to write a book on ministry burnout after several of my close friends (who also happened to be pastors) began dropping from ministry like flies from affairs, illness, and family issues. These things, my own story of burning out a couple of years ago, and my dad’s experiences as a pastor made me realize how much of an unhealthy epidemic there is going on within ministries and churches.

Mad Cow Disease and Mad Church Disease have so many things in common… it can lay dormant and unnoticed for a time, it’s contagious, it affects multiple systems in the body (emotional, physical, etc.) and tragically enough, ultimately leads to death. Although I don’t think anyone has literally passed away physically from ministry burnout, figuratively speaking, how many marriages, dreams and passions have died?

What is the mission of the site? I hope you want to help fight this scary disease, but how?

Right now, as the book is being developed and written, the site is being used for three main reasons:

  1. We want to take the temperature of the culture of the church. There are three surveys: one for church staff, one for their families, and one for volunteers. They are all confidential, in-depth, and extremely personal. We want to expose this disease. By bringing issues to the light, that’s the only way to help heal this problem.
  2. Community: Although there isn’t a true form of social networking on the site (except the blog), there is a page called “What Others are Saying” where anyone can submit content. Basically, these are little blurbs written by pastors, church staff, volunteers–anyone–which will hopefully allow others to see that what they are feeling and experiencing is not uncommon and that they are not alone.
  3. Marketing: I won’t lie and pretend there’s not a “buzz” aspect about this. Part of the site is used for marketing. In order for people to take the surveys or to read about how they aren’t alone, they have to first hear about it.

Also, there aren’t very many books that deal with this topic so I hope by having people take the surveys and contribute their stories, those in the publishing industry will see the need for a book which will help address and heal this problem.

This is kind of strange. Usually one writes a book, and then communicates based on what they wrote. Why are you communicating an idea and then writing the book?

Well, I like doing things the hard way. :) Seriously though, most of the book will study the ministry environments in which we serve–hearing the stories of hurt and pain, but also focusing on the tales of redemption and health.

Frankly, to make this happen, I need people’s stories. I need their honesty. I can’t write a book based off of my own opinions of burnout in the church and have it be accurate. The Church is hurting in a big way, and we owe it to her to confess what’s really going on, address it, and pray for healing.

So what do you want people to do?

I’d love it if people would take one of the surveys at Within the survey, there is an area where you can share your story. Again, I’m not just looking to throw a pity-party for all the bad that’s happened, we need to share the good as well…what God has redeemed and shown people about his plan of not burning out.

Most importantly, I need honesty. It’s hard to admit you struggle in ministry. We often feel as if we need to be “professional” in our walks with Christ. But really, we need to show that we are just people, saved by an amazing and healing grace.

In marketing this campaign, what would you say was the most difficult aspect?

Not burning out myself! Fortunately, my husband is my rock and helps bring me back down to earth. And to confess something personal, another thing I’ve struggled with is thinking there are these groups of people… “A” list people… ones with huge audiences who can really help me promote this. Because “it’s about who you know,” right?

Last weekend during some downtime, I realized that ultimately this project is in God’s hands and it doesn’t matter how many “well known” people support or contribute to this project–God’s sovereign, and I need to stop making such a big deal out of who gets behind it. It’s not a popularity contest. And I confess, it was easy for that to sneak in.

Have you had to rely pretty heavy on more viral marketing, or has most of it come straight down from you? What have you found to be successful in generating buzz?

We’ll see. When the site launches on July 2, I hope that the need will create the buzz and that I can effectively equip people to spread the word. I did have a small group of people sign up to be “Disease Fighting Trailblazers” who help by committing to email their contacts, post content on their blogs, or interview for the book. This is kind of the base of what I hope will continue to be a good kind of contagious in marketing this effort.

Will this sickness have any adverse affect on church potlucks, Wednesday dinners, or those who consume food that is produced at church?

Gosh, I hope not. I work at a church and I rely on those leftovers for the days I forget my lunch…

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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5 Responses to “Mad Church Disease Awareness”

  • Crystal Renaud
    July 2, 2007

    thank you for posting about this!!!
    -a trailblazer

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  • anne jackson
    July 2, 2007

    thanks for the interview. you guys are great!

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  • Andrew Conard
    July 3, 2007

    Thanks for the interview and the initiative!

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  • brad
    July 3, 2007

    I have been hugely affected by this in the last month. This is extremely topical, and a critical need that requires dealing with right now. How have we built such unhealthy systems that they lead to so much pain? And how do we fix it and prevent it?

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  • A. Amos Love
    May 14, 2010

    Is it possible the reason “Burnout” is such a problem for today’s “Pastor/Leader” is
    they have found themselves with a “Title” and “Position” NOT found in the Bible?
    Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
    Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
    Were any congregations “led” by a “pastor” in the Bible?
    And every “pastor” I’ve met also had the “Title” “Reverend.”
    Does anyone have the “Title” Reverend in the Bible?
    In my experience…
    Titles become Idols.
    Pastors become Masters.
    Heavy weights on shoulders NOT easy to lay down.
    Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to be called “Master/Leader”
    For you have “ONE” “Master/Leader” The Christ. Mat 23:8-10 KJV
    Ezekiel 14:1-7, speaks about “Idols of the Heart,”
    and now God will speak to us according to the “Idols of our Heart.”
    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16
    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?
    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.

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