“I just want to get out alive” I told myself before a recent youth meeting. That’s when I knew it, I mean I saw it coming, I just couldn’t stop it. Burn out.
I had yelled, “Why does any of it matter. ” towards, not at, my wife that morning. Is there a difference? Not to her. I said,, “Sorry, I was letting out some repressed feelings.” My comments sounded like the incoherent babbling of an insane person. I mean, I am a youth pastor, is this much of a stretch?
I’ve had several of these moment in the past few months, mostly alone. God just sits, nods His head a lot, and listens to my rantings until I wear myself out. He’s there to help me, but He’s left me some options to choose from. There is no one right answer and so He leaves me to choose. Yeah, thanks God.
This blog is not just about youth ministry tips and tricks, it’s about the life of a youth worker, this youth worker; and if you’re cringing at the fact that I choose to be this honest, look away, go back to watching cat videos. Only the brave may read on.
Let me be clear, I don’t hate my job or the people I work with, but I am asking whether full time church work is still for me. I mean, 26 year is a long time. Burn out isn’t about hating what you do, it’s about the feeling that you are sued up, that you do not have enough left in the tank. I have moments of great energy and vision but I cannot shake the over-all feeling of either wanting or needing something different in my life.
I am not on suicide watch. No has had to take my shoelaces or sharp instruments from me. And, you happen to be a young person in my group or a church member who may read this, I am not unhappy with anyone or quitting tomorrow.. This post is shared in good faith as I work through my journey with some kind of honesty, something many ministers lack because they are afraid they will not be seen as perfect or that something is wrong with them.
If you know me you’ll read this in the context of the relationship we have, if you do not know me, welcome to what it feels like to be me.
I was, I am, burnt out, but what am I to do? Youth Ministry is all I know and I still have to supply for my family. I am, as I heard Gary Vaynerchuck say recently,
“Fixing the plan as I fly it”
There’s really not any time to pull the plane in for a full inspection. I can only fix “the plane” in flight, as many people do. This leaves me with simply weighing options.
Here’s what I feel my options are and they may even reflect your options as well. Feel free to offer you suggestions in the comments.
Option One: Quit
Just quit. Just walk away. Leave full time youth pastoring, never to return. This begs the question is whether I can live without it or not. I have no idea. Several years ago I came back to youth pastoring from being fired. I was doing camp ministry at the time and decided that I should write the ending of my youth ministry career and not someone else, so I went back with God’s leading.
Quitting full time ministry is never an option because our lives are full time ministry, but quitting church ministry certainly is an option.
Option Two: Quit To Serve In Something Besides Youth Ministry
I could stay in church ministry but quit youth pastoring and move into a different kind of ministry, maybe discipleship, small groups, community outreach, all of which I would be qualified for. My fear would be that I would be sneaking over and hanging out in the youth pastors office and giving advice he didn’t ask for.
Option Three: Quit and…Part 2
I could quit church ministry and do some work in a community that is underserved and doesn’t have many youth workers. I could work in an inner city ministry, etc.; there are plenty of ideas but I have to let my heart simmer on those things for a while. Any ideas you have are welcome.
Option Four: Take A Sabbatical
In many churches, Lead Pastors can take an extended amount of time off to think, pray, write, serve etc. It’s possible that in taking this option I could try a few of the ideas I mentioned above but not many youth workers are offered this option. May be I could take my day off and try out a few things. It’s certainly and option.
Option Five: Go on my own and do more training of youth workers
I have struggled with this option for quite some time. To be honest, I don’t think youth workers, or potential supporters think this is a great need. I recently updated my Patreon page and offer s some cool benefits to those who pledge as little as $5.00.. You are welcome to check it out and see what I offer and then offer me feedback on what I could change that would inspire you to support this option.
I have to say, this is my preferred option because I would love nothing better than to walk along side youth workers and offer resources and through my Youtube Channel and the Youth Ministry in Motion podcast.
Only time, prayer, and the market (you) will decide if this option is viable.
Option Six: Find a life coach or someone to talk it out with
This is easier said than done, but I am wide open to talking with someone who understands careers and not just my current moment. I am looking long term and I need someone for the journey. Ministry, like other jobs, is about hiding our faults and doing our best to look perfect and competent. Ministry, unlike other jobs is hyper secretive because in saying you are a Christian, and especially a minister, that everything in your life is supposed to be ok because we serve God. That’s just stupid. In fact, many times it is quite the opposite.
If you know of someone, feel free to recommend someone who is not half my age and looking to make a quick buck.
Option Seven: Sit, Wait, Pray
This is the hardest option, yet the most viable. Quitting is much easier. But, when I think of the kids and families I serve, it’s the right choice. They mean the world to me and it’s the tension may youth workers who are in this thing for any amount of time live in. We love the kids and work, but we reach a point whether we believe we are giving them our best or not and are better served by someone else.
For now, I’ll continue to pray and give my best. It’s what God would have me do until my next step is clear, or at least clearer.
This morning I was listening to classic rock radio and the song The Question came on by The Moody Blues. The line which grabbed me and reflects my heart at this moment is
I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
Your prayers are welcome as I continue this journey of life and ministry. If you are on the same journey, feel free to leave a comment below.
Here is my video breakdown of this article