Even though we are certain to succeed with God’s mandate, we can’t discredit doubt and frustration. I am a firm promoter of doubt because I believe doubt leads to honesty. And honesty will define your ministry. As we’ve already considered, our ministry honestly has nothing to do with us.
So what do we do with burnout?
If I’m honest to myself about my time spent at AVCRC (my current church), then the mirror on the wall will reflect scars of burnout. But I believe that burnout is a good thing. I’m convinced that burnout leads to a re-centering of the self. When we approach the cliff of wit's end, the very questions which root and define our ministry boil up: What am I doing this for? How am I doing this? Why am I doing this? or most importantly — Who am I doing this for?
I believe the answers to those questions result in (again) the affirmation of our calling and the affirmation of the mandate of God. And when it doesn’t point back to those answers, then my belief isn’t that we’ve burned out, to soon be relit as a rejuvenated set of coals, but that we’ve burnt up.
Nothing is left to burn. Nothing is left to light.
But when we answer the questions of burnout, of rootedness, our honest reflection brings us into a more holistic ministry. Honest reflection often tells us the problem is hidden within leader (occasionally it can be a congregation that doesn’t want or need a youth pastor). Pastors are often hung on a cross, burdened with everyone else’s burdens. A close colleague recently challenged me with the wisdom of “Are you willing to spend your life being misunderstood?” And when we become jaded, frustrated, burned out, we return to a change of heart.
Can we move forward, restored in the love, grace, and mercy of Christ? Or are the coals used up?
Don’t ever be afraid of burnout. It can be a beautiful thing. But be aware of burn up. Youth pastors, we must take personal time to rest. Do not let church eat up your time as if it’s a hungry street dog fighting for table scraps. We must pray, constantly discerning where the Spirit is leading us. Do not let the clouds of self block out the Son who created them. Scripture is your best friend, but don’t use work as an excuse to interact with it. And finally, remember there is a huge support group waiting at the house for you, and they need attention too. How can we possibly love others, if we can’t love those closest to us?
Grace, Peace, and Mercy be yours from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
For reflection this week, please share your stories of burnout, and how they brought light or darkness to your ministry, and finally how that has shaped you as a leader.