Have you ever wondered why youth ministry is stressful — and what you can do about it? If so, read on!
Recent statistics about pastors and stress are shocking. And although the scope of responsibility may differ, being a youth pastor isn’t that different from being a pastor. Especially in bigger churches, leading the youth ministry can be a lot like leading a church. That means stress is a reality for many youth pastors too.
Why youth ministry is stressful
Because youth ministry comes with its own unique challenges, it may be extra stressful. Youth workers are especially at risk for burnout, states youth ministry veteran Richard Parker. Here’s what he says about why youth ministry is stressful:
- Youth ministry tends to be cyclical, with few definable end points.
- Dealing with problems in students’ lives can seem like a never-ending job.
- The hard work of getting parents and volunteers to help share the load in student ministry can lead to frustration and overwork.
- Youth ministry tends to be a job with high expectations, low pay and a low position on the church personnel flowchart.
- Youth ministers and leaders tend to be “people pleasers” who overcommit and have a hard time saying no.
Matt Murphy, another ministry veteran with experience in counseling and trauma, offers more reasons for why youth ministry is stressful. He also points to reasons for high rates of “compassion fatigue.” I’ve chosen those that I think are most relevant:
- Unchallenging work
- Monotonous routines
- One-way relationship
- Need for approval
- Lack of feedback
- Low salary
- Difficult populations
- Unrealistic expectations
- Need to control others
- Poor boundaries
- Pressure from supervisors
- Personal problems
Do you recognize any of these? I sure cringed at a few.
My thoughts on stress in youth ministry
Next, I’d like to add some personal observations and thoughts. I think personality plays a big part. Like many other youth pastors who struggle with stress, I’m a type A personality. So I have a great drive to succeed, am prone to perfectionism, and am always willing to help others. That doesn’t help ease stress, obviously.