Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up doing student ministry? Have you ever just spent a whole car ride asking yourself what you are doing to yourself? Or maybe you just feel defeated for those few hours between your preparation and the time for service to start on Wednesday night? Have you ever found yourself getting irritated at your family for something small?
My biggest time of struggle is between leaving the office on Wednesday afternoon and start of the service that night. I have no idea why but I have found that to be the hardest time for me. I’ve noticed that I get quite, I get upset easy, and most of the time I honestly just feel depressed during those hours. Usually, once teenagers start arriving at church it goes away…until next week.
We have all been there at some time or another. If you haven’t, please send me your secrets! If you have not been there, more than likely there have been plenty of times where you catch yourself right on the edge of the cliff called burnout. Burnout is all too common for student pastors and pastors. Barna, and the Fuller Institute have some startling statistics that show why so many of our own are getting burned out and leaving the ministry.
Here are a few that stood out:
- 90% of pastors report working between 55 and 75 hours every week.
- 80% of pastors feel they are unqualified and discouraged
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression
- 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they had another job lined up.
- Over 1,700 ministers leave the ministry every month.
You can check out those statistics and more at http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/
As you can see, burnout is real. It’s a serious thing that you need to address before you fall of the cliff. I hope that these quick tips will help you deal with the seriousness of burn out.
Spend time with people outside of the ministry
This is probably really hard to do. Our whole lives revolve around ministry which makes it very difficult to get away. For me, I have a group of people who I always lean on. We go out to eat, hang out, and just talk about things other than ministry.
Do something for you
The reality is that nobody cares about you burning out more than you do. I’ve heard of very few churches that are conscience and proactive in avoiding this for their pastors. Find a hobby you enjoy and make it a weekly thing if you need too. It could be golf, working out, running, going to movies, writing, and many other things.
Realize you ARE unqualified
Please hear me out and do not quickly exit this page. I thought long and hard about that statistic that reads, 80% of pastor’s feel unqualified. Reality is that every one of us is unqualified. The best part about being unqualified is that it is exactly the people that God used in the bible and still uses today! None of us are worthy of standing and proclaiming the greatest story ever told. We all sin, we all let God down, we are all unqualified, but yet He still chose us as His messengers. Steven Furtick’s book, “Unqualified”, is so helpful in this area. Check it out if you have not already. I believe thinking you are qualified or “good enough” will expedite the process of burn out.
Make family a priority
This is one of those things that is easier said than done. I honestly think this is a big reason why I have got to the edge of that cliff so many times. At the end of the day, nobody will put a smile on your face like your spouse and your kids will. You will upset people, change churches, move states, get older, and one thing is going to remain constant…your family. Make spending time with them a priority. Please make spending quality time with them a priority. I know first hand how hard it is to get church things off of your mind. When you are at home…be present at home. Put things away, put ministry in the back of your mind, and be there for your spouse and children. They always have a way of knowing when we need encouragement the most!
Spend time with God
You probably read that and went, “Duh”. I believe this is something that we all know but we tend to neglect from time to time. I have talked to plenty of pastors and student pastors that attribute the “rough patch” of their ministry to them not spending enough time with God. I’ve seen it first hand in my own life. We can get so caught up in the lessons, in the administration, in the planning, in the events, and we leave out the most important thing. We must take a long look at our own heart. Are we reading our bible? Are we worshipping? Are we praying? Those are all questions that we need to answer honestly if we are feeling burned out.
I wish that I could say I was not writing from experience but I am. Over the course of my 8-9 years serving in youth ministry I have been on the edge of that cliff many of times. These things helped me and continue to help me back off the edge.
Burnout is real and once we have reached that point, it may be too late. I pray that we all would apply these tips to our lives so that we can better withstand burnout in our ministries.
About The Author: C.J. Smith
C.J. has been in student ministry for 9 years and in his current position for over 6 years. Currently, C.J. is serving as Student Pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Rockingham, NC. He has been married to Amber, since May of 2010. They are huge Tennessee Volunteer fans and have a four-year-old son named Neylan. He is a self-described sports junkie who loves students!