Burnout is a real thing. Its job is to knock you out, and it happens all the time. Burnout frequently causes student ministry leaders to prematurely change churches or quit ministry altogether. It doesn’t have to happen to you, and the first key to punching burnout in the face is knowing where it starts. Here are some ways that burnout can begin to attack you:
- Burnout can come from a buildup of bitterness.
- Burnout can come from unrealistic expectations put on yourself, or put onto you.
- Burnout can come from damaged relationships with your pastor, other staff members, or parents.
- Burnout can come from working too much.
- Burnout can come from priorities that are out of order.
- Burnout can come from relying on your own strength to lead your student ministry.
I’ve known many student pastors through the years that have been knocked out by burnout or have lived on the verge of it. Everything is impacted by this. Your ministry, your family, other relationships, and even your own physical health will be affected if you are living on the verge of burnout. You don’t have to live that way. Here are some ways that you can punch burnout in the face and get back to ministering out of a place of health:
- Stay close to Jesus – This may sound overly simplistic to you but I’ve yet to meet someone who was truly walking with Jesus that also quit ministry because of burnout. Your spiritual health is the most important thing about you and when you are running on empty you are leaving yourself open for burnout to hit you with a right hook.
- Invest in your family – These are the people that are on your team even when no one else is. You need their encouragement and they need your investment. Neglecting family for work is one of the main ways that burnout will attack you.
- Be quick to repair relationships – This is especially true for your pastor and other staff members. Disunity in a staff will begin to plant seeds of bitterness that will bloom into burnout.
- Don’t use “burnout” as an excuse for laziness or to get out of work.
- Make a personal development plan – Consistent growth in your personal life (leadership, communication, parenting, theology, etc.) is a great defense against burnout.
- Avoid template student ministry – Just because a certain ministry style or strategy worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work in your context, and something working for a year or two doesn’t mean that it will keep working for you over and over. And over. And over. You get the idea.
Burnout doesn’t have to knock you out. Leaving your current church is probably not the answer, and far too many student ministry leaders walk away altogether. When you feel burnout beginning its attack, remind yourself why you got into student ministry in the first place. Remember that God called you to this and He will equip you to do it. He can give you a fresh vision for ministry and ultimately it is only through His power that you can punch burnout in the face.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry