When I was new into ministry I asked a priest if he had an advice for a new youth minister. “Take care of yourself,” he said. “You have to look out for yourself because no one else will.” I thought he might be exaggerating, after all I was working for a Church and anyone working at a Church must be in a loving, supportive, and healthy environment, right?! Not quite. He added, “And you have to say ‘no’. People will be asking, no…demanding things of you. Even into the grave people will come and say ‘hey, I need you to do this or that’.” It was eye-opening advice but I had no idea the turbulent ride that lay ahead.
Maybe you’re exhausted. Maybe you’re ready to quit. Maybe you just need a break. Leaving ministry should be something that is discerned and brought up because Lord leading you somewhere new, not as a result of becoming burnt out and unable to effectively lead your ministry in a healthy way – that is, healthy for you and the ministry.
WARNING SIGNS OF BURNOUT
- Thinking of ministry brings you anxiety and stress
- A loss of creativity
- Chronic fatigue
- Flailing prayer life
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Ministry has become ‘just a job’
- Greater irritability/short temper
- You may experience additional warning signs
Maintain, Or Create, A Healthy Balance
There should be a balance in your life between work, pleasure, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth. Check this out to learn more about maintaining a healthy balance.
Keep A Healthy Prayer Life & Meet With A Spiritual Director
If you’re not spending substantial time in prayer then it’s difficult for the Lord to guide you in your personal life and in your ministry. The youth deserve more than just you, they deserve Christ working through you. Make sure that your prayer time isn’t spent entirely interceding for others and for aspects of your ministry. Spend time allowing the Lord to minister to you for who you are, not what you can do for Him. Have a spiritual director that you meet with monthly. He/she should be in a place to encourage you, support you, and call you out if needed.
Attend A Retreat EVERY YEAR
You need time to be poured into. This will greatly increase your longevity as a minister and, more importantly, connect you with the Lord. Go on a personal retreat, a silent retreat, or a youth minister focused retreat. Next Level Ministry has an amazing retreat for youth minister’s (spouses are welcome) on February 27-March 1, 2017. Come and spend some time praying, playing, and being poured into.
When You’re Off The Clock, Don’t Work!
Guard your time off because no one else will. Before I leave work I ensure that I have closed all work tabs on my laptop (if I’m taking it home) and I’ve finished all work related texts and social media posts on my phone so that I can truly have ‘time off’. I’ve explained to my friends/volunteers that work related conversations (questions/to-do’s/retreat info) need to happen when I’m ‘on the clock’ so that I can have a break and rejuvenate when I’m ‘off the clock’. Every time, when it’s a friend/volunteer, they have always understood and agreed. If a volunteer calls me on my day off and I know they’re likely to ask me about work, I won’t answer and will wait for their voicemail. If it’s about work then I’ll wait until I’m at work to respond. The same goes for text messages. If I’m not working, I don’t respond to work related texts and I don’t check my e-mail. If your work e-mail is on your phone, DELETE IT! If it can’t wait then they’ll call you. The only exception is emergencies…and the pastor.
Have A Life & Get A Hobby
Is ministry all that you do? If you spend every moment pouring into your ministry then, at some point, you’re going to be left empty. Your ministry won’t love you back the way you love it. Make sure you’re spending time having fun and getting poured into some other way. Maybe it’s through reading, fellowship, hobbies, or sports.
Build Relationships And Enjoy Fellowship Outside Of Ministry
Find people, you may already know them, who care about you more than they care about what you do. These are people who genuinely ask you how you’re doing instead of starting the conversation by asking about your ministry. Intentionally spend time with these folks and grow these relationships.
Have Friends Who Will Hold You Accountable
Have 2-3 close friends who truly know you and can call you to the carpet. One of these could be your spiritual director. When I was really struggling after 4 years in ministry I finally opened up and shared with a friend (her and her husband were also my volunteers). After hearing all of these struggles I’d been enduring on my own for so long she said, “Gwen, my husband is our sole income. If his job was treating him the way you’re being treated I would tell him to quit tomorrow and we’d figure it out.” That comment opened my eyes to understand that even though I loved the teens and wanted to ‘push through this’ for them, as a daughter of God I deserved to be treated better than this.
Use Your Vacation Time
Being off the clock (and not answering work related e-mails, texts, or phone calls) will greatly reduce your level of stress and allow you to mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually be refreshed and rejuvenated. 40% of Americans leave their paid time off unused.
Burnout can be a quick and lethal killer for those in ministry. Take care of yourself, look out for one another, and keep a healthy, balanced life, so you can continue doing God’s work. Share other ideas for battling burnout in the comments below.