Youth pastors burn out fast! How can a youth pastor avoid burnout? How can a youth pastor last?
As youth pastors or youth workers taking care of ourselves is on us. No one will ever make us or force us to make sure we are emotionally and spiritually healthy. We as youth pastors are responsible to lasting and finishing well.
Dr. Bobby Clinton in his book Making of a Leader argues that only 30% of leaders finish well. Due to a very fast pace, digital world we lead in, it’s very difficult to lead and to lead well with joy, passion and confidence.
More than ever it’s so important to be kind to yourself — mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.
How do we be kind to ourselves to prevent ministry exhaustion?
1. Check your motives. What drives you? How do you define success? Are you rarely satisfied? Do you move to one thing to the next without celebrating your success? Are you more concerned with accomplishments than relationships? Do your values priorities people or tasks? Do you have the disease to please so you are looking to please others and seek affirmation and approval from them? Why do you do what you do? Once you uncover what drives and motives you, you can honestly look at your priorities, purpose, power and pacing. The best book to center your motives is Henri Nouwen’s book: The Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living In A Secular World. Nouwen will motivate you to re-align where your identity and calling come from. I also recommend that youth pastors care about theoloigcal reflection to help know us lead well and confidentally.
2. Asses your work threshold. I know this sounds harsh, but you have to burn out to know how to prevent your burnout. Burnout is inevitable. It needs to be written into every youth ministry job description. Everyone’s burnout levels are different. It likes weight lifting. You have to bring your muscles to full failure in order for them to grow. If you don’t bring your muscles to failure, they will not grow as much. Same with burnout. You have to burnout to grow emotionally, spiritually and mentally so you know when you are the verge of burnout. When I feel overwhelmed or unmotivated I do two things (1) Plan my week. I go on the offense. Why most feel stressed is due to the fact we play the defense game. We react and defend to all the incoming messages, responsibilities, tasks. We have the power to control and prioritize what we do and when we do it. Pull together a list of what needs to be done and start with your #1 priority. On Sunday night I have a power hour where I write down everything I need to get done and calendar it. Talk to your supervisor about what meetings or calls are truly essential so you can get your most important work done. If you are overwhelmed and need help tell your supervisor. Studies show the most satisfied employees feel control in their jobs. Take action to get back your confidence and be more effective at your job in the process. (2) Do a quit work sprint. When you are feeling out of control or overwhelmed find 2 things on your to do list — that you can do quickly and effectively within 2 hours. Completing this simple task will give you a burst of momentum to get you back in the game. Rid your surroundings of any distractions and put your full focus into those two tasks on your list. Hit the turbo button and GO!
3. Get Help. Find someone outside your church that’s ahead of you in your life stage and phase. I recommend finding an excellent professional psychological counselor. When we are depressed and unmotivated we have to find the root to why this is happening. Professional counseling allows for an excellent way to dig up pains, hurts and disappointments we have experienced in our life — especially in our childhood.
➡️➡️➡️➡️ If you are feeling burned out right now here are 5 things you can do (I stole this from the book by Shawn Achor The Happiness Advantage: How A Positive Brain Fuels Success In Work and Life)
- Three Gratitudes: Pause to take note of three new things each day that you are grateful for. Doing so will help your brain start to retrain its pattern of scanning the world, looking not just for the negative inputs but for the positive ones.
- Journaling: Similar to the gratitude practice, but in this case, detail — in writing — one positive experience each day. This will help you find meaning in the activities of the day, rather than just noticing the task itself.
- Exercise: Exercising for 10 minutes a day not only brings physical benefits, but it also teaches your brain to believe your behavior matters, which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day.
- Meditation: Take just two minutes per day to simply breathe and focus on your breath going in and out. Doing so will train your mind to focus, reduce stress, and help you be more present in this moment. Just take a breath! BREATHE!
- Random Acts of Kindness: This can be something simple, and Shawn suggests writing one positive email to praise or thank someone each day. Not only does it benefit the recipient, but it also increases your feeling of social support.