Youth minister burnout has always been top-of-mind for me. In fact, I started Smarter Youth Ministry specifically so I could one day write this article. I’ve spent countless hours researching burnout, interviewing youth workers, and testing theories and ideas for youth ministry.
Today, I’m sharing the most significant discovery yet. Discover exactly how youth minister burnout happens and how to stop it.
We’ve identified the precise behaviors and warning signs that put people on a path to youth minister burnout. This is a really big deal! For years, youth minister burnout was just “something that happened” when leaders were overworked and unappreciated.
But when I dug into it, I realized all these stories sound the same. Burnout victims follow the same patterns time after time. Then I discovered I could predict how much longer a person would stay in ministry before something drastic happened. It was almost eerie!
Then I realized something else. If we can identify the precursors in our own lives and do something about them before it’s too late, can we stop youth minister burnout altogether? You bet! If you know enough to realize you’re burning out, you already know enough to prevent it.
Because of my mission, these next paragraphs might be the most important material I’ve written. Read them a few times. Print them. Bookmark this page. Definitely share with a friend.
Youth Minister Burnout: The Totally Predictable Cycle
1. The first precursor to youth minister burnout is discouragement.
This surprised me. I thought for sure that overwork would be on this list, but it’s not. I’ve spoken with literally dozens of overworked youth pastors who were doing just fine. It’s the discouraged ones I’m worried about.
I define discouragement as the belief that things cannot or will not get better. Discouraged youth workers complain about problems instead of seeking solutions. You’ll know if you’re in a conversation with a discouraged youth worker. When you try to offer advice or support for their problems, all they do is generate reason after reason why those things won’t work.
And if you’re already very discouraged, you probably aren’t too far from heading into this next thing.
2. The second precursor to youth minister burnout is increased time-wasting.
Youth workers creeping closer to a burnout-related breakdown typically spend more time at the office but accomplish less. Discouraged youth workers fall into this trap at an alarming rate. Work becomes a chore. Ministry becomes a drag.
And when we face a job we don’t feel like doing, we react the same way as when we didn’t feel like writing a term paper. We procrastinate! If you have a computer in your office, you know how easy it is to fall into a YouTube trail for hours. We all do things like check Twitter and watch the occasional funny video. But if you’re regularly wasting an hour or more a day, you’re speeding down the path toward youth minister burnout.
This is also the stage where people are fired. A pessimistic attitude paired with unproductive work habits doesn’t generally make for a great employee.