Years ago, as a young youth pastor in my early 20s, I remember saying pridefully to an older pastor-“I would rather burn out than being blown out”.
He was trying to encourage me to stop working longer and longer hours, but I would not listen. I was a dangerous combination of young and energetic meets unorganized and naive.
Only by the grace of God, I am now 25+ years later, with a wife and 2 children, and still running the ministry MARATHON. I hope and pray I have hopefully developed a better perspective.
Unfortunately, I am now that older youth pastor talking to younger SPRINTER dashing ahead and within a few years watching them burn out their ministries, marriages, and families.
Here are just a couple of ways that I have discovered to avoid burnout in youth ministry and ministry in general.
Learn to Say No!
You might have to learn to say no frequently—more often than you’d prefer. You can’t do everything, and you shouldn’t. So, just say, “No, sorry I cannot do that, and I won’t.”
Discover the Off Button on Your Cellphone!
The middle school girl who just broke up with her boyfriend for the third time this week really can wait until tomorrow. As much as we want to feel or need to feel important, there are times we need to turn off the phone.
Take Your Two Days Off a Week as Often as Possible!
Yes, Sunday is a workday. Saturday is one day off a week. Now, please find one other day to take off each week. Whatever days you choose, communicate your choice, and stick with that plan. Everybody else in your church is taking two days off; you should, as well.
Listen to Your Family!
If your spouse and children are saying they miss you, they probably really do. If your family is telling you that you are not yourself, that’s a good indicator you may be beginning to burn out.
Ask for Help!
Find volunteers and handoff stuff. I know it seems easier said than done. If you really can’t find gifted people, find ungifted people and give them the stuff that takes up time but doesn’t require much skill.
Sleep at Night and Cut Back on the Caffeine!
I am glad Red Bull is now sponsoring you as a youth ministry, but put down the can/cup by 4 p.m. and go to bed at a reasonable time. The quickest way to burning out in ministry is to burn out physically and mentally. The quickest way to do that is lack of sleep and a healthy lifestyle. Two Red Bulls and a pack of Skittles is not lunch.
Let It Go…Let It Go…
Find some time in your place of “Ice-O-lation,” and have some time by yourself and with God! Also, let go of the negative things people have said and what you think people think of you. Let down your hair and be you, the person you know God has called you to be.
Organize, Organize, Organize and Stay Organized!
Download an app, buy a calendar, find a whiteboard and please get rid of the sticky note wall. Sit down on the first day of your workweek and set your schedule, agenda, and calendar. Plan your lesson and teaching schedule ahead; consider creating a scope and sequence for the coming year. However, you decide to organize, stay with the plan.
Don’t Be a Perfectionist!
Yes, God deserves our best, but only one person was ever perfect (*see the final tip below), and you are not Him! Do you best to the glory of God, but realize in youth ministry—and life—nothing is ever perfect. It hasn’t been since the Garden, and you are not changing it any time soon!
Realize You Are Not Jesus!
Only Jesus can save people—and not everyone chose for Him to save them! He got tired and had to withdraw to quiet places. Stop trying to replace Jesus in people’s lives; be Jesus’ representative in their lives.