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5 Ways to Prevent Youth Ministry Burnout

We’ve all seen the disturbing statistics of youth leader turnover in the church. I’ve read differing numbers regarding the average stay of a youth leader in the typical church. The statistics I’ve read have ranged from as little as one year to as many as four. Regardless of which statistic is correct I think we can all agree that the turnover rate in youth ministry is too high.

The question that haunts me is why? Why are there so many youth leaders leaving their posts after a relatively short stint? For a handful of youth leaders the turnover is a result of a secret sin that becomes public. For others it’s a matter of them finding a higher paying job in “the real world” that can support them and their families better. Some leave youth ministry to lead or plant a church. But, for far too many youth leaders than we’d like to admit, it’s a result of youth ministry burnout.

The relentless stream of Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night activities, combined with camps, conferences, retreats and outreaches, combined with emergency counseling meetings, parent meetings and campus meetings (heck, I’m getting burned out just typing all this), can swell up like a giant tsunami of busyness that can eventually extinguish almost any youth ministry fire. Far too many youth leaders have experienced this brand of burnout and many never return to youth ministry.

So how can you prevent becoming a youth ministry statistic due to burnout? Here are five simple (not necessarily easy) ways:

1. Guard your personal time with God.

In the words of my friend Propaganda, be a jerk about your time with God! Guard your prayer life and your immersion in the Word. Escape the crazy busyness of ministry to spend time with your God. Jesus, who was constantly chased by the crowds and harassed by the religious leaders, escaped even ministry opportunities to spend time with his Father:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

Get a consistent time and place to do business with your Daddy. Like David in the Psalms, pour out your unfiltered heart to God. Like Jesus in the wilderness, wage war with Satan to overcome your temptations. Like Paul in prison, intercede on behalf of those you are reaching out to with the message and mission of the Gospel.

Be a jerk about your time with God! Make it a non-negotiable in your daily rhythms.

2. Spend lots of time with your spouse, kids and friends!

I once heard a preacher talk about “the myth of quality time.” His point was that quality time just happens when there is enough time spent together with your family. It’s during those spontaneous moments driving down the road, hiking up a trail or just chatting around the dinner table when quality time unfolds.

As a guy who is on the road a lot, I’ve had to be super intentional about this. For me that means an annual vacation (my wife and I have taken one every year in the 25 years we’ve been married), lots of mini-trips where I take a family member (or all of them) when I travel to somewhere fun, daily talks in the car when I drop my kids off at school and hardly any meetings at night when I am at home.

That’s the rhythm that works for me and my family as a “traveling evangelist.” Find your rhythm and make sure your spouse is part of that discussion.

In addition to strong family relationships, I would add make sure you have real friendships that you’re consistently cultivating. Like Jesus and his disciples, David and his mighty men, we all need a small band of brothers (or sisters) to help us navigate the tricky world of life and ministry.

Strong relationships with both family and friends will help to prevent youth ministry burnout. Actively cultivate these relationships!