Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Why Youth Ministry Is Stressful — and How to Avoid Burnout

Why Youth Ministry Is Stressful — and How to Avoid Burnout

Yet I never faced quite the same stress issues when I was working as a hospital manager. (I was a youth ministry volunteer at that time.) I can think of a few reasons working in the church makes you more susceptible to burnout.

Watch for These Signs of Burnout

1. No boundaries between work and private life

First, little boundary exists between your work and private life. You can’t “switch off” work the way you can with a “normal” job. That’s because you constantly take the job home with you. Even when you have an office in the church, you will work partly from home, get called at home, host events like small groups, etc. So work and home are completely intertwined.

2. Spiritual pressure

A second reason is the spiritual pressure that can get so out of hand, it can even be labeled spiritual blackmail. Let me give you a taste of that argument. You see, when you work “for the Lord,” nothing is ever good enough, is it? The Lord deserves our best, so everything we do needs to be perfect. You can’t really say no if someone asks you to do something. After all, how can you say no to Jesus and to kids who need you?

Sure, I’m overstating it. But doesn’t this sound familiar? I’ve heard many variations on this throughout the years. It’s not just a matter of saying no. It’s also about getting people to accept you saying no. Even then, many youth pastors make similar arguments to themselves. Can they really say no when a student calls with an urgent need, even when it’s date night or family time? How can you defend prioritizing your family or yourself instead of God’s work?

3. No clear end goal

Next, the work of youth ministry is never done. With no clear end goal, the tasks never stop. There’s always room for improvement, always opportunity for growth, for more, for better. It’s hard to determine when it’s good enough, or just enough in general.

4. High stakes

Finally, so much is at stake. Most of us really love our students! Their eternal destination can weigh heavy on our minds and hearts, driving us to go an extra mile, and another one. Statistics about kids leaving the church and losing their faith makes us want to try even harder to equip them for life. And we just don’t want to lose them forever.

Your turn: What tips do you have for fellow youth workers coping with stress? What answer would you give as to why youth ministry is stressful? And what solutions have you discovered?