What I’m about to say might annoy some of my fellow youth ministers: I’ve never been burnt out in my ministry. Sure, I’ve been frustrated. I’ve cried, yelled, hid from my coworkers, and every other inadvisable coping mechanism while climbing the massive mountain of youth ministry with not much support, not much of a salary, and at times, not much fruit. As I reflected on this question of burnout in ministry, God revealed to me (in prayer, you may have guessed) why I have been spared so far from burnout: a daily prayer life. Let me explain…
PRAYER: THE BEST SELF-CARE YOU’LL EVER DO
We hear often about self-care, and prayer is the best there is. Actually, prayer isn’t really “self” care at all! Prayer is the Father wrapping His little one (that’s you!) in His arms, the Bridegroom gently loving His Bride, and the Blessed Mother comforting and encouraging her child. Prayer is not about what we’re doing, but about what the Good Lord is doing in us. If you offer 30 minutes a day in prayer, expecting Him to care for you and give you what you need, He will give it abundantly.
TO ACCEPT EVERYTHING & ONLY WHAT GOD WANTS OUR MINISTRY TO BE
As our hearts and minds grow in uniformity to the Lord’s, we are less tempted to start undertakings that are not God’s will for our ministry. In fact, we’ll begin to long for only what He wants, or to put it as Mother Teresa did, “to get out of God’s way”. With every youth night plan, every retreat theme, every little undertaking – ask God for His input. While this may sound tedious, it’s incredibly freeing. Ask Him to show you what He desires your youth ministry program to look like. Sure, this requires a couple things: humility and detachment. I try (but fail often) to be humble and detached from my own plans and desires; so when He asks me to change my talk an hour before youth group, I’m not frazzled or stressed, but rather peaceful – foolishly depending on His Providence.
On the flip side, we are bolder in what God does call us to do, because we are assured that it is His will behind us, instead of our own desires or external pressures. For example, I spent a lot of energy planning monthly parent nights. One day, God made it clear that’s not what He wanted – not because it’s a bad idea, but because He knows where He wants me to be, and that isn’t where He wants me right now. Now, because I’ve detached from that idea, I have more availability to be where He wants.
DEEP PRAYER MAKES US HOLY
Pretty self-explanatory here. Prayer is “spiritual radiation therapy”. The more time we spend in the company of the Lord, the more we will look like Him, and the tumors of sin and selfishness will shrink. That can only be a plus! Prayer is also the place where we intercede for our youth, their parents, and the whole parish.
PRAYER DRIVES US TO DISCERN CHARISMS
Sherry Weddell shares in her book Fruitful Discipleship that those who practice our charisms will never get burnt out doing them! Isn’t that amazing? As we mature in our own personal discipleship (which should be our number one priority), we will begin to see patterns in our own lives of how God uses us to build up His Kingdom on earth. When we use our charisms, we are energized, we see fruit, and we don’t get burnt out! We are also more free to say no to ministry opportunities that are good in themselves, but not where God has gifted us. Find a Called & Gifted Workshop here (https://siena.org/called-gifted) to begin the process of discerning a charism.
A DAILY REMINDER THAT IT IS ALL HIS
Every single youth night, every service project, every retreat, every volunteer, and every single youth in your ministry – they are all His. Prayer reminds us that, ultimately, the sanctification of the youth and the growth of your program doesn’t depend on your personality, how funny you are (or in my case, are not!), how well you communicate with parents, or how well people speak of you. It ultimately rests on Him. This is a reminder I am confident the Father will give you often in prayer, and it is a freeing reminder of our call as missionary disciples.
“Thy will be done! This is what the saints had continually on their lips and in their hearts.” -St. Francis de Sales
Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer by Fr. Thomas Dubay
Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay
Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Ralph Martin
Fruitful Discipleship by Sherry Weddell
Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene
The Liturgy of the Hours