Are you tired? It’s ok if your answer is “yes.” This season has been one of the most difficult of any I’ve had in leadership. It has been challenging emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually . . . and I am tired.
So, my student pastor friend—when was the last time you checked in with yourself to see how you are really doing? I talk about personal health a lot here because I care deeply for you as a leader, and I understand the unique role in which you serve. Student ministry is an incredible calling with many opportunities to see victories up close and personal. It’s also an environment that can lead to burnout if we aren’t paying attention to ourselves, and that’s just in the normal course of ministry. The unpredictable nature and challenge of this particular moment in time only adds to the burnout potential.
The “B” Word
When I started writing this post, I was working with multiple points to try to help you either avoid burnout, notice it, and get out of it. But as I wrote, it quickly began to take another shape—landing with the desire to help you see that burnout isn’t a ‘bad word,’ but rather a state of leadership that threatens each one of us.
Admit it to get out of it.
According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as a state of emotional and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It often carries an extremely negative connotation—to the point that we, as leaders, hesitate to admit when we are there. I want to help you by normalizing the state of burnout.
Is burnout an unhealthy place to be? Yes—but when we refuse to admit that we are experiencing it, there’s nothing that can be done to get out of it. I’ve come to realize that burnout—or at least approaching it—is the natural course of leadership. Everyone experiences it in seasons of life. It’s not a label, and by taking an honest and prayerful look at our own lives, accepting that we may be nearing exhaustion is the first step in being able to deal with burnout in a healthy manner.
Learn to read your dashboard.
There are four categories to consider when you evaluable your own personal “dashboard”: your emotional state, physical state, spiritual state, and mental state.
If you’re like me, and find yourself in a tired state in one or all the categories, that is your body giving you a warning signal that burnout could be coming soon. It’s a light on the dashboard of your life that can’t be ignored, but often is by many. If you’re there, then the solution is rest.
Find your rest.
You must find rest emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. Here’s the hard part—you’re the only one who can identify the places you need to go for rest. Personally, I’ve found that running is restful emotionally and mentally, but it took me some time to find that solution. In order to avoid, or get out of burnout, spend time thinking about how to find rest in each of these four areas, and have those strategies ready for the moments when you feel the exhaustion setting in.
All people get tired—even exhausted—and since you are a person, you are no exception. Ministry can be exhausting, and when we refuse to admit that and just “power through,” we miss the natural warning signs God has placed in our lives to help us avoid burnout. It doesn’t make you less of a leader to be tired—it makes you human. And it makes you wise to notice it and seek the rest you need.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.