I paused for a second as the youth minister I was talking to blurted out – “I’m officially burned out.” She seemed almost embarrassed to be admitting it. I could tell by the dull stare on her face that she was struggling to find any joy in her ministry. I had seen the look before and over the past 24 years in youth ministry I have realized that there are two key things that anyone involved in youth ministry must do to avoid burnout and by the way they have nothing to do with a more balanced life or hiring an assistant.
2 Essentials to Avoiding Youth Ministry Burnout:
1) Spend Time with Teens
Something great happens when we dedicate time with those we serve. You might say “I’m around teens all the time.” Yes, but are you truly present to teens in a way that you are listening to them and forming disciples or are you so busy putting on the Life Night or event that your role is more an event coordinator than a person engaged in relational ministry?
Over the years I have met some youth leaders who were great at executing events, but at the end of the day left the Church late that night wondering if they had made an impact on anyone. It’s the Martha and Mary reminder for any of us who have the honor to serve teens. Each summer at our Edge and Life Teen Camps I meet youth leaders on the verge of burnout on Monday but by that Saturday and being really present to teens all week long, they are energized and renewed and ready to hit the role of youth leader in an all new way. The only change for them was simply spending relational time with teens.
2) Live a Sacramental Life
There is no complaint from a fellow parish staff member, parent, or parishioner that can steal your joy if you have been to Mass that morning. How amazing that one of the best ways to avoid burnout in ministry is something that most of us in Catholic youth ministry have around us all the time – opportunities to participate in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Most every youth leader I know who has been in youth ministry over 10 years is living a vibrant Sacramental life that has them attending Mass more than once a week if not daily and also frequent trips to the confessional. The more you go to Mass and Confession the more you realize that you need to go more.
I have yet to meet a youth leader who told me they felt burnout who was spending time with teens and was frequenting the Sacraments.
Feeling burnout? Even solid youth ministry veterans have felt signs of burnout at one time or another. Burnout is avoidable if you start spending more time with teens and more time with Jesus!