The day began well, but halfway through I was calling 9-1-1 with a fire extinguisher in hand…
Situations like that can be draining. For you it might not be a literal fire – maybe it’s an angry parent who didn’t like a comment you made or a teen whom you’ve mentored for months walking away from the faith.
Situations arise that can leave us wondering: “Am I really cut out for this?”
Even if you feel as though you are burning out, it doesn’t mean you should leave ministry. Before you make any rash decisions, let’s go through a little exercise.
Bad Day vs. Burnout:
Some days are worse than others. Having bad days does not necessarily mean you need to call it quits. How you respond to a bad day will give you an idea of how you are doing. Keeping in context that today was a bad day, but tomorrow could be great is a healthy way of seeing things.
Burnout is another story. Burnout interprets all days as “bad”. An objectively good day can be perceived as difficult, overwhelming, or even unbearable because you have hit bottom. If this is the case you need to make some changes right away or you could be a day away from a breakdown.
Have Healthy Behavior Patterns:
Establishing healthy behavior patterns in ministry are key to longevity. Here are two behaviors I think are important and will keep you from burning out. First, keep email and social media to a minimum. Dedicate a 30 – 40-minute time slot in the morning and afternoon for checking email and posting on social media for ministry. This will keep you focused on tasks that actually need to be accomplished versus reacting every time you hear your mail or social media chime.
Second, leave work at work. Allow yourself to disconnect mentally from all work duties when you have clocked out. If you have a 20+ minute commute from work to home, consider listening to a podcast, or audio book to help in the transition. Praying the rosary on your way home is great too!
Set Realistic Expectations:
Look over your job description every few months and see if you are doing all that is expected of you.
- What is taking most of your time?
- What is something you can delegate to volunteers?
- What needs to be changed?
All are great questions to keep you accountable. Seeking counsel from a seasoned youth ministers is something I recommend. This will give you an “in the trenches” perspective that can clarify expectations. Another helpful tool is request an evaluation meeting with your Pastor/superior so you understand the mind of your boss and whether or not you are on the right track.
Know Your Why:
Why are you a Youth Minister?
Most of us have a story, event, or situation that led us to consider Youth Ministry. Recalling this gives us perspective and the ability to recognize if these reasons are still present. More importantly, we need to ask ourselves if we are still passionate about Youth Ministry. Too often, a youth minister’s time will get taken up by the various administrative tasks they have. This can leave him or her drained. [clickToTweet tweet=”Coming back to your “why” will force you to make room for it and push aside what gets in its way.” quote=”Most of us are in youth ministry because we love youth and want to serve them. Coming back to your “why” will force you to make room for it and push aside the things that get in its way.”]
To help you remember your why, download the “Know Your Why” worksheet below. Take the time to really reflect and be honest with yourself. No one else has to see this if you don’t want to share it. See if you can find your passion again.
Evaluation Meeting with Pastor/Superior:
Take time to meet with your Pastor/superior and discuss the direction you are moving in Youth Ministry. Additionally, ask him or her to clarify their vision for your ministry program. For instance, what things are your Pastor/supervisor comfortable with you delegating? Delegation of certain tasks will give you more time to focus on the tasks you are uniquely qualified to perform.
Reconnect with God. Ministry is life giving, but it is also life draining. Jesus took breaks from ministering to the crowds and so should you. An annual retreat consisting of 3 – 5 days of silence and prayer should be a priority. Make it a part of your job description (another thing you can bring up to your boss). An annual retreat is great, but maybe you can’t go away for that long. Take breaks throughout the week or month to go and do something you are passionate about. Go on a run through the state park, golf, hike, write, etc. If it gives you energy and some much needed relaxation, do it and enjoy it.