St. Augustine famously stated, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” There are seasons in ministry that are crazy. They just are. Every September (yes, I am thankful that September is over) my wife knows it’s going to be a full month, and I might not be around physically, and emotionally. But, the promise is that it will end. There will be a new season, and with it a new rhythm for me and my family.
I meet a ton of youth pastors who are burned out. They are done. I have tons of compassion for these youth workers who are at the end of themselves because I have been there, and so have you. The real problem is if we stay there and we don’t make any changes. I have a few “triggers” that I know if I am working too much. One of them is to be cynical at everything. I don’t know why I am being so negative, I just am. One year, in a really rough spot, I was being so critical and negative at a meeting that my good friend called me out on it on the spot. I remember driving home asking myself, “Am I being too negative?”. That is when I decided to change a few things. Here is what they are.
Reading The Bible Daily.
Sounds really simple, but I don’t think a ton of leaders and youth workers are spending considerable amount of time in the word. I am apart of a seminary program, and we added on Bible Reading to the course because people weren’t reading the Bible.
I am not saying to sit down and read huge chunks each day. I am saying to start a habit each day that is reading your Bible. It’s simply, but it will bring so much clarity and passion to your call.
Honestly, how often are you spending time in God’s word apart from teaching and planning? You need to be in the Bible each day for you, because you need it just a much as the students you lead. Each year, I start a reading the Bible in a year plan and the goal is to do it. I am not perfect, but I have a goal, and I am trying to set a habit each day.
Saying “No” often.
I don’t commit to a lot nowadays. Everything that I say “Yes” to will take away from something else I am passionate about. In my early days of ministry, I said yes to everything. At the end of the first year, I was tired and bitter.
You will be spread thin if you say the word, “yes” too often. Yes, I can build that website. Yes, I can speak at camp. Yes, I can go to that meeting. Yes, I can help you move. I am protecting my staff each week from saying “yes” too many times to other things. We naturally do it.
What is one thing you need to say “no” to this week? Think about it. Once you have figured it out, go and tell that person that you can’t do it. It might be awful, but your ministry and life deserves it.
Take a sabbath.
Take a day off. Isn’t that a novel idea. Actually, take a day off and get some rest. Put your phone away and other digital devices and rest. My goal is to take one day off each week to rest, and take a digital rest. It’s a way I can be the most present for my family, and clear my mind from ministry this week.
Eugene Peterson has this great quote that goes like this, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It is taking charge.
Busyness has to do with activity, and spirituality is not the absence of activity. You either enter into what God is doing or you don’t. A busy person is a lazy person because they are not doing what they are supposed to do.”
I remember telling people in my ministry that I haven’t taken a day off in 4 weeks. I would use words like busy all the time. Busy is a word that makes me feel important, like I have done something. This is a lie. Being busy for Jesus isn’t going to fly. I need to cut things out, slow down, and actually take a day off or two. Unplug from my digital devices and finally recharge. When I truly rest, I realize that ministry isn’t about me and my work, but about Gods work. It truly shows that my significance is found in Jesus and him alone.
If I am completely honest, When I tell students Jesus’ words from John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I do wonder what we think having life and having it abundantly means. I look around and we (I) are some of the most unhealthy people. We are.
Some of the most difficult years of my life have been when I was over weight, and stressed out. I had to try something, and the first thing I did was download a couch to 10k running app, and the 4 Hour Body. In the next 3 months I was back to myself and I felt amazing.
It took a plan, and margin in my life to execute that plan. Some nights I was up till midnight working out because I had youth group that day. Now, I try to squeeze it into the day if I can.
You need to stay fresh in this season. Your family deserves it, your ministry deserves it, and you really desire to have an awesome ministry year. If you are at the end of yourself. If you feel like you can’t go on any longer like this, maybe it’s time to change a few things in your life. We have an eBook in the youth ministry media store called, “The Personal Life Of The Youth Pastor.” I wrote it during these difficult years, and it might help you to say fresh in the midst of a full ministry year.