If I had a dollar for every time someone used the phrase “burned-out” (or if you’re from the south burnt out) I would be a millionaire. Wanna know why? Because people are willing to go above and beyond when they feel called to a ministry, they feel a burning fire under them to get things done because it’s a passion for them. But- sooner or later, they get overused from a lack of delegation, lack of volunteers, lack of boundaries.
Boundaries? What are boundaries?
Ministry is one of the most rewarding, beautiful, crazy occupations you can be involved in. It can also be one of the most draining. Look at the story of Moses, he was well on his way to burn out, listening to the peoples cases and trying to be judge. His father in law Jethro counseled him that not every need had to be met by him. (Exodus 18:14-23) God asked Moses to be a leader, not to perform every. single. duty. himself. So, here is my little list of wisdom (lol) on how to feel the burn for your ministry and not the burn-out.
1. Set Boundaries.
That’s right. Boundaries. The B-Word that no one likes to hear. Boundaries are ABSOLUTELY necessary for ministry, and for life in general. These can look SO different for every person. You have to set boundaries that work for YOU. Like personally, I don’t care if people blow up my phone, even with a baby I am always available by text or call and it doesn’t bother me whatsoever.
However, I do try to set boundaries as far as how many things I am willing to be involved in outside my specific ministry. For example, if I am asked to be involved in something outside of youth or children/family ministry, I generally try to find someone else to help-that’s a pretty loose boundary. When you are at a smaller church this is harder I think because to make events really awesome, everyone has to pitch in, but I usually try to involve the youth group as a whole to help with an event, rather than me by myself. If I take something extra onto my plate I try to make sure it aligns with my overall focus in ministry. (i.e. youth)
2. Don’t sacrifice your own flame.
It can be SO easy to pour everything into your own ministry, spending all your time looking up material, games, events, etc. but you cannot neglect your own spiritual health you are going to be pouring from an empty cup. Self care is IMPORTANT. Don’t neglect it. Like if I spend all my time looking up youth-level material and not spending any time in 22-year-old-mom-wife-hotmess Bible study (p.s. do they make a study that specific? recommendations?) then I’m neglecting my own Spiritual growth and my cup is going to be DRY. Dried up and burnt out. Nobody likes dry youth director.
3. Align your goals with your church’s goals.
I hear SO many youth directors complain that they don’t have support from their church.
“My church doesn’t support the youth, I had 45 kids signed up to go to a district event and my church couldn’t stop asking me about how many youth were in Sunday School.”
Okay, look at that sentence. The frustration is understandable-however. This sentence isn’t about a church that doesn’t care, it’s about misaligned goals. The church DOES care, they’re obviously concerned with Sunday School numbers.
SO….A) You can detect a goal coming from the church, so align that with your ministry. If you KNOW there is an expectation from your church, make that a very high goal for your ministry.
B) Don’t expect your church to know about all the awesome things you are doing or get excited about events that they don’t know about. How can you expect them to be excited about 45 kids going to a district event if they don’t know WHAT that event is, when it is, etc. Be intentional about including your church, even the members who aren’t involved with youth through their kids, etc.
C) It should always be a goal for you to have a similar vision to your church. Whatever the main mission is for your church, your ministry should have similar goals to help reach that mission. You can have your own separate goals too but you can act separate from the church.
So, when you write down your goals for your ministry, include some of the goals the church has for your ministry. Then add your own, if you want support then you have to include the visions of the church.
4. Find your niche.
What is unique about you? What are your different callings, passions, etc. that make are specific to you as a person? What can you bring to your ministry?
It’s easy to ride on raw talent/abilities that come natural to a lot of leaders in the church. But I am finding that it is really important to figure out your more specific callings to your ministry. Are you really called to preaching/speaking? How about teaching students one on one? Are you gifted musically? A passion for missions? One-on-one counseling? Are you really good about talking about hard topics? Spend time getting to know yourself and who you are in ministry. God gives us all really specific talents and gifts that we should be harnessing and building up for our ministries. This is an ever-changing part of ministry as your gifts develop and change. This also connects to #2- spend time with God and on your personal development. Ask God to reveal to you His plans for you and what gifts He wants you to utilize! He might lead you to something crazy, like blogging.
5. You. Do. You.
Don’t set your expectations to be like another ministry. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t look at that other ministry that seems like they are just effortlessly thriving and allow it to make you feel like your ministry is dying. Progress is progress. Success is success. Failure, is learning. Every ministry has obstacles, every ministry has failures, that is part of learning and growing. Don’t try to replicate another ministry, spend A LOT of time understanding YOUR church, YOUR ministry, GOD’S VISION for your ministry. I admit I spend an unhealthy amount of time on Pinterest, Download Youth Ministry, Rethinking Youth Ministry, and a ton of other resources. BUT- I over-research so that I can pick and choose what aligns with my ministry the best. Sometimes I see AWESOME ideas but when I start to look at them, I realize they don’t align with our ministry. I have tried to do things and in the dead middle of the event laughed at myself because I realized that maybeeee this wasn’t the greatest idea. But, I learned, I grew as a leader, so I still chalk it up to a win, an experience. Use other ministry templates, other leaders, pinterest, websites, etc. as building blocks, resources to help you, not the standard to go by.
So there is my infinite wisdom on ministry. (there needs to be a sarcastic font). I hate seeing gifted, passionate people transfer from on fired to burnt out. I heard the other day that the average youth minister stays in youth ministry for 18 months. Now luckily, that doesn’t seem to be the norm for the UMC in Louisiana, because I have known a lot of the same faces since I was in youth ministry. But I also know the struggle, now even more so since I am on the other side of the cloth with them leading instead of being led. My greatest wish is for people who have a passion for a ministry to find a way to create a steady flame. I hope that maybe this can help someone do just that, let me know in the comments below how you keep yourself from feeling burned out!