From Burnout to the Basics
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It’s finally Wednesday night, and there’s only one thing that could mean. It’s time for your next youth service! You’ve poured as much time and energy as you could find into planning tonight’s event. The team of youth leaders is making their way through traffic to get to the church. You told the students that whoever brings the most first-time guests will win prizes. You’ve placed another party-sized order of nuggets from Chick-Fil-A because what youth pastor doesn’t use Chick-Fil-A?? You’ve spent a few late nights preparing a message that you’re really excited to share. The worship team is ready to go. And you’re nervously expecting tonight to go well.
Yet, it’s now thirty minutes into the service & only a handful of kids have shown up, including the ones that belong to your pastor. You try to keep a smile on your face as you close the service and send the kids to their families, and yet the disappointment & exhaustion have already set in. As you head home, you can’t help but wonder how long you can keep this up. The overwhelming sense of burnout you feel accompanies you as you drive down the highway.
If you’ve been in youth ministry for any amount of time, you’re more than likely bound to experience moments or seasons of burnout. It starts slowly and sets in over time. But if left unchecked, it can almost feel like it’s pouring cold water on what was once a burning fire of passion in your heart. You can remember the days when you were so excited to minister to the students that you couldn’t get to the church fast enough! And yet now, you can’t wait until the night is finally over. What we have to understand is that feeling burnt out doesn’t make you weird. It means that you’re human.
Think of the most successful pastor that you know or have heard of. Now, listen closely. *whispers* Even they have thought about quitting from time to time. “So, how do I fix this? How do I escape the feelings of wanting to throw in the towel on ministry?” I’m glad that you asked. While I don’t have all of the answers, I can share with you what’s helped me.
First, you have to get back to the basics. Not to the basics of how to be a great youth pastor, but back to the foundation of loving Jesus more & more. Your ability to be who God’s called you to be as a youth pastor has & will always flow out of your relationship with Him. Meaning that as you experience a deeper sense of passion for Christ, your passion for His people will grow as well. When was the last time that you spent time with God without needing to prepare a sermon? When was the last time you dedicated an open-ended time to worship Him wholeheartedly? What stirs up your affection for Christ? Remember, more passion for the Lord means more passion for His people.
Once you’ve done this, rediscover what brings you joy. Is it spending time with your students at camp? Is it getting to plan more events with your adult leaders? If you could, what would you spend the entire day getting to do, not having to do? Just like gasoline to your car’s engine, joy is what sustains you as you serve in ministry.
So, if you’re facing burnout and unsure where to start…don’t give up. You’ve been called by God to make an eternal difference in the lives of His people. Go back to the basics and watch how God brings you into a new season of successful ministry.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- How have you dealt with burnout in the past? How have you seen others deal with it?
- What steps can you take now to avoid becoming overwhelmed by burnout?
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