Written by Nick Diliberto

If you’re looking to burnout or just survive in ministry, then follow these 7 proven methods…

1. Be sure to work 55-60 hours a week with only 2 weeks of vacation a year.

Maintain this schedule for a minimum of 5-7 years consistently for maximize results.

While on vacation, be sure to be thinking about ministry-related stuff.

Also, soak up all the rest and relaxation possible, because back to the rat race when you get home.

2. Take only one full day off of work/ministry a week.

Jam every possible activity within that day, so you can get all your personal stuff done (cut the grass, clean the house, run errands, etc.).

After all, you can rest when on vacation.

And if a ministry related phone call or emergency comes up on that day, be sure to say “yes” and take care of it.

3. Work at a church where you can’t financially support your family.

That way, either your spouse has to work to help pay the bills (even though she/he would rather not) OR you suck it up and experience a huge amount of financial pressure.

(If this one irks you..see my response to Erin in the comment below for some clarification.)

4. Eat unhealthy food & don’t exercise.

Despite the many health benefits of exercise, ignore those and instead sit in front of a computer 20-30+ hours a week.

Enjoy the many benefits of no exercise & eating unhealthy, including: lack of energy, weight gain, high cholesterol, an overall state of non-well being.

Due to your fast paced lifestyle, be sure to eat fast food a couple of times a week.

Nourish your body with a yummy Big Mac, fries, Coke and a milkshake.

5. Don’t be involved in any outside interests other than church, family, and/or job.

Be so busy that you don’t have time for other things you enjoy, like painting, playing music, running, biking, hiking, fishing, etc.

6. Place church activity at the center of your life rather than God.

Spiritualize church activity and replace it at the center of your life.

After all, God cares more about “what you do” than “enjoying a relationship with Him”.

7. Minimize how much time you spend nurturing your relationship with God.

Spend most of your personal time in the Bible planning a ministry-related lesson or message.

Ritualize your time with God rather than experiencing God all throughout the day.

Now, let’s talk about ONE THING you can do to keep alive your passion for ministry! 

Passion (given to us from God) is the fuel that enables us to thrive in ministry, rather than just survive.

And by thrive I mean to give your best to God and those you serve.

So, what’s the one thing? Here it is…SLOW DOWN.

It’s so easy to get caught up the business of ministry life. So much to do, so little time.

In addition to juggling ministry responsibilities, you might also have a spouse and/or kids that require your attention.

If you don’t pay attention to pace of your life, the default mode is to keep going faster and faster.

And then you crash and burn. Or at the very best you just suck wind, surviving…but not thriving.

SUCKING WIND

In high school I was on the wrestling team. At the beginning of the school year, we would spend about 3-4 weeks getting in shape before actually getting on the mat.

For those weeks, we would run 4-6 miles a day with the cross country team.

Now keep in mind this would be August…in New Orleans. The temperature was about 99 degrees, at nearly 100% humidity.

My entire body broke out in a hard sweat within 10 seconds of walking outside.

And these cross country guys were beasts! And I wasn’t a runner.

But I wanted to at least keep up with them, so at the starting line I would go ALL OUT running as fast as possible.

After about a mile, I was toast.

The rest of the run I was sucking wind.

Literally, sucking wind. I could barely breath.

By the time I reached the finish line, I was at the back of the pack.

The funny thing is that I kept up this pattern day after day, never learning my lesson. (Uhh….anyone else out there hard headed like me?!?!)

I thought that eventually I would be able to run fast the entire distance.

Had I just found a healthy pace, I would have finished the run much faster.

I would have enjoyed the journey.

I would have eventually thrived.

The same goes for you in ministry.

If you want to thrive in ministry, rather than burnout or just survive, then you need to find a healthy pace of life.

This often requires you to slow down.

Slow down and find a healthy balance of ministry, personal life, and family life.

A rhythm of life that leaves you time to nurture a relationship with God, family, and friends.

You’ll have to say no to some things, and learn how to set boundaries.

It won’t feel natural at first. You’ll feel the urge to go faster.

But over time, you’ll begin to enjoy a more relaxed and sustainable pace of life.

Trust me on this. I’ve crashed and burned at one point in ministry. After about 9 years of full-time ministry, I quit.

I took a job in sales for over a year. It was there I begun to establish healthy boundaries.

When I went back into full-time ministry, I was able to keep those boundaries in place.

Your role in ministry is too important to burnout. The students in your ministry need you to hang in there.

Your role is too important to just survive, going through the motions day after day.

So, what ONE THING can you do to slow down right now?

Take a few moments and think about the answer to that question.

Then, take action on it.

Hate this post? Leave a comment. You’ll feel better when you release your angry thoughts ? No joke, I would love to hear what you have to say…really.

Love this post? High-five me on your computer screen…then leave a comment below.

Want to add something to the list? Write it in the comment section below.

nick-dilibertoNick Diliberto is the creator of this website (MinistrytoYouth.com), JuniorHighMinistry.org, and PreteenMinistry.net. He’s also married to a killer triathlete (Jena), and has three kids: Ethan (14), Joey (12), and Emma (11). Nick oversees the youth group at the Northshore Vineyard Church, just outside of New Orleans, LA. He also plays dodgeball every Tuesday night in a league in uptown New Orleans (so much fun).

 

Liked this blog post? Then you’ll enjoy these ones too:

3 Habits of Youth Ministry Leaders Who Stay for the Long Haul

How to Overcome Email Overload

52 thoughts on “7 Proven Ways to Kill Your Passion for Ministry

  • September 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm
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    Thank you for this post! This message is exactly what I needed to hear, at the start of my third year it seems like things are starting to move so fast that I feel exactly how you have described it, and I am not exactly sure how to slow down without crashing and burning. This has helped encourage me a lot in my ministry and a reminder that I need to slow down because this ministry is important and what matters is the teens I am helping.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm
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      Jen, that’s great. Not knowing how to slow down is sometimes tough. Sometimes, just taking a step back for a moment and looking for one thing to stop doing and/or delegating can be a great start.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm
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    You hit the nail on the head! #6 made me jolt in my seat.

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    • September 20, 2016 at 2:44 pm
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      Ha…Angie…yeah #6 is a good one. Glad you found this helpful 🙂

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm
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    Ouch. Just got slapped. I’ve been in ministry 15 years and am in total burnout right now.Hanging on, not having a whole lot to give to anybody because I’m toast, but plugging away at it anyway and resentful of others who have more to give. Need to hit the reset button for sure. Making some changes and hoping for the best. Thanks for the additional wake up call.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm
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    I just started my first ministry job. I’m fresh out of college and in the beginning (and still even though I don’t like to admit it), I tried so hard to impress everyone. Getting there early, staying late, answering emails at night, and on my day off. I felt (and still do) bad if I ignored some of the things until the morning. I would think people would think I was ignoring them, or that it wasn’t important enough to answer. It’s tough starting a ministry job, being young, and still trying to make an impression. It’s easy to overwork so that you don’t miss anything and make sure everything is done. Half the time I feel bad delegating in fear that people will think I’m lazy. This is refreshing to read. I’m going to print it out and read it as much as possible, especially the days I’m feeling overwhelmed (and maybe read it on my day off). Thank you for taking the time to speak from your experience and being honest with your readers! High-five to you!

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm
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      Kay, I just high fived you too 🙂 Now is the time, early in your ministry career, to find a healthy pace. I think we all start out running a full sprint, and the ones who last find a way to slow down somehow. So, we’ve all been there. But if you can build healthy habits now…you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache in the future for sure! Glad you found this helpful 🙂

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm
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    Thanks. I have been student pastor over 25 years. You are spot on. I am amazed I am still at it considering how bad I was early on at letting church stuff run me down.

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    • September 20, 2016 at 2:39 pm
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      Robbie, good job my man for being a student pastor for over 25 years! Keep up the great work you’re doing!

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm
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    This is a great and convicting post. Personally I am guilty of at least 6 of the 7. I have been working at my current church for 5 years and we are just starting to see some real results from 4 years of trying to grow the youth program. Unfortunately that means that we are held to a very high standard, I honestly don’t see a way to keep the level of ministry that we are doing while still caring for myself. I know that’s not healthy, and I know that eventually something is going to give. But at this point I feel like it’s either keep the pace or look for a new job.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm
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      Cameron, that’s a tough spot to be in. I’ve been in that situation before and have found it helpful to build a bridge of communication between myself and the lead pastor (or your direct supervisor). Sometimes that could be a great starting point.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:39 pm
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    Thank you, just had a meeting with the pastor about youth and this really speaks to me.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:40 pm
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    For all of us who benefitted from reading this but just didn’t comment, thank you so much for this reminder. I’ve been in ministry for 12 years now, 9 as the director. Whew it does get crazy. Thankfully having two kids during this time has helped me refocus my priorities. What would you say to those who find themselves in this situation you described because they feel their pastor (boss) expects it out of them?

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm
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      Mary, been there…done that (not giving birth…about the pastor thing…ha..ha). Hope some others chime in on this comment because I think this can really be the root of the issue a lot of times. My advice…

      #1 – Read the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter SCAZZERO (and maybe give a copy of it to your pastor?). Also check out Peter’s website at http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/

      #2 – This might be a place you “lead up”. In other words, you share with the pastor what you’re learning in the book, what God is speaking to you about slowing down, ways your’e going to slow down, and why. You gently lead your pastor though your own personal journey in the matter.

      Reply
      • September 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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        I will check it out! Thank you so much!

        Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 2:56 pm
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    Here’s another on, “Work for a church who’s purpose and passion don’t match yours”.
    I’ve worked with pastor’s and churches who are more focused on lots of activities than making disciples.
    Also a word of caution for workaholics and #1. Don’t try to make up excuses for extra hours. I worked with one pastor who said he worked 40-45/hrs a week. He did not include Sunday mornings, he called it fellowship of believers. Going to a youths game, play or musical was a community social activity or entertainment event. Any ministry in the church where volunteers participated meant staff would volunteer those hours also, which is pretty much everything. Bottom line he worked 60-65/hrs a week and burned out his staff.
    Thanks for the encouragement and the permission to slow down.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 11:34 pm
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      Good one. That should be added to the list. Yeah, all that stuff does add up. And the leader often sets the pace for the staff. That one is for sure.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 3:36 pm
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    Hey man, Thanks for this post! I think it will help a lot of people. I’ve grown up in the ministry and I have watched my parents my whole life devote everything to ministry. I can see the blessings in our lives because of their devotion but I am trying to learn how to keep things a little more balanced without neglecting the very things that Ive been so passionate about in the ministry. I think that in trying to “balance” things we can began to resent our devotion and passion and swing too far in the opposite direction that we try to limit how much of our life we are willing to give to our calling. Swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction can cause a lot or as much damage as not taking the time we need for our personal lives. Everything with prayer and supplication. I know that when we listen to the Holy Spirit, He will give us the very direction that we need to continue to be devoted to the things of God and to also work hard in having a personal meaningful life. Blessings!

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 11:31 pm
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      Mateo, good point about swinging the pendulum too far on the other side of things. You’re right…it’s all about balance. And everyone’s sweet spot is a little different. Just have to find out what works for you.

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  • September 20, 2016 at 3:39 pm
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    I work 55-60 hours a week at my full time job and then work 20-25 hours a week at church, been in ministry for 6 years now. Got to have a balanced life. Thanks for sharing this!!!!

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    • September 20, 2016 at 11:30 pm
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      Sure thing 🙂

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm
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    Great Post. I have been in youth ministry for 25 years. Maybe we just use the majority of our time nurturing a relationship with Jesus and students can drink from what spills out. In all my years of busting my behind to create a fun and relevant program I have found kids are so busy. We go to them. We go to games, recitals, performances, etc and we meet their friends. Students need adults who are in love with Jesus and walk through life with them. They won’t remember much program or dynamic bible lessons. They remember that we are present with them by listening and loving them.

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    • September 20, 2016 at 11:29 pm
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      Doug…congrats on 25 years in youth ministry. We can all learn a lot from you. Your quote should be memorized by every youth pastor on the planet, “Maybe we just use the majority of our time nurturing a relationship with Jesus and students can drink from what spills out”. Oh man, I love that. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 4:31 pm
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    Thank you for this. I work WAY TOO MUCH! (60-70 hours/week) I keep telling myself that I need to slow down, but it’s hard. This was a great “neon sign” reminding me that if I don’t take care of myself, I’ll never be able to take care of my students.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm
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    I think you have been listening to my conversations with my daughter….a youth minister. Thanks
    Oh by the way her’s is the post right above mine

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    • September 20, 2016 at 11:27 pm
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      Ha…that’s funny.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 7:51 pm
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    I’m on vacation right now and I have been running sermon ideas through my mind. I’m struggling to enjoy myself. I’m constantly taking notes, or mental notes on things that I see, hear or experience that will preach. I know I need to slow down. I also work a full time job, about 60 hours a week. Thanks for the article.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 11:26 pm
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      Delisa, ha, that’s so funny. I think we can all relate to that…working while we’re off work. Glad you found the blog post helpful.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm
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    Wow! Completely me! This was like looking in a mirror. The important thing now is for me not to look into the mirror and then walk away without changing anything. Thanks for the article!

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 11:25 pm
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      Yes, Ryan, commit to taking at least one action now 🙂

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 8:54 pm
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    Thank you for this post. #6! I’ve written it down & taped it to my bathroom mirror where I will see it every day. I’m also going to get the book you mentioned. Beginning right now I’m going to find time for peace. ✌?️in my life.

    Reply
    • September 20, 2016 at 11:24 pm
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      Love it..taped to your bathroom mirror..what a great idea! Yes, that book is spot on. So so so so good. I think everyone in any full-time or bi-vocational ministry should read it.

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm
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    i am planning to share this to other youth leaders. I am in the church where “being uncomfortable” means “true serving”. I am planning to talk with our pastor about my thoughts for many years of being a youth leader/leader in the church. If i will let him read this, maybe he will be hit by No. 3! He himself is having problem with financial. 🙂 Thank you for this post.

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    • September 20, 2016 at 11:22 pm
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      Rissa, that’s sounds like a plan 🙂 Yep, #3 is a biggie for a lot of people…not just in youth ministry but senior pastors too. Good stuff.

      Reply
  • September 21, 2016 at 3:10 am
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    Great teaching and thank you for your precious service to youth and their God given needed leaders!!

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  • September 21, 2016 at 10:18 am
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    You just described our journey for the last 7 years! My husband and I are ministry partners, as Co-Youth Pastors. We have crashed! We are burnt out! Our family dynamic has changed, and feeling unappreciated has sunk in. Did I mention we volunteer for this! However, it’s been wonderful overall, but you described us perfectly from 1-7! Now, to slow down, and answer the question honestly… How?

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    • September 21, 2016 at 11:46 am
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      Angela, thanks for your honesty here…my advice now: take baby steps. Slow down one little step at a time.

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  • September 21, 2016 at 10:33 am
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    I agree with most of this list, however…number 3 irks me a little. So, are you saying someone should only be in ministry at a church that can pay you? But not only that, pay you a lot? Because those are the only churches who need dedicated leaders?

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    • September 21, 2016 at 11:44 am
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      Erin, sorry to irk you?!?! No, not really saying that. I am saying that A LOT of youth ministry leaders who are paid in full-time ministry are very talented and gifted, but are not payed enough to cover their basic needs…especially if they are married with kids. They should be paid enough money to financially support themselves and family. Not talking lots of money here…just get paid what they’re worth. And I do understand a lot, myself included, are not payed at all. They lead the youth ministry as a volunteer, which often means they have another job that financially supports them. I am proponent of this as long as that person, like myself and many others, can find a healthy balance of ministry, family, life, etc. Hope that clears the air 🙂

      Reply
  • September 21, 2016 at 11:01 am
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    WOW, slap on the back of the head moment here. I am guilty of EVERY one of these. I’m 49 years old, been in ministry for 16 years at the same church, full time the last 8 (the previous 8 I was doing full-time ministry, just not paid full-time).
    I should KNOW BETTER!! I teach other youth ministry people how to take care of themselves but do not follow my own advice.
    Thanks for laying in out in black & white with the perfect amount of sarcasm 🙂
    Father, forgive me.

    Reply
  • September 21, 2016 at 11:05 am
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    Spot on! “Take care thyself so thou canst take care of the ministry thou hast been called to do!”

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  • September 22, 2016 at 8:36 am
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    So true in many ways BUT I’ve been in ministry for 20 years now and I’ve failed in every area, yet, im still not burnt out. Im tired and at times I’m worn down but no where close am I burnt out. My ministry isn’t just the church though…. My ministry is inside and outside the church. Possibly my mindset is different bc of who I minister too? I’m questioning bc I honestly don’t know…. I feed the homeless. I take in the orphan. I clothe the poor. I feed the hungry. I also lead worship, my husbands an evangelist, we have ten kids, I am over kids and youth ministry…and my JOB is owning a Free Store in our community. I don’t get vacations. I don’t get sick days. And honestly…I don’t have a desire too. Sure I would like to get my nails done or actually use the bathroom by myself for five minutes BUT it isn’t a necessity to me. What is? Loving on hurting people bc when I do I see daily how my hurts and frustrations don’t compare to most. I’ve never not known what it is to love Jesus and serve Him… Maybe that’s why I am a minority…or maybe it’s bc we’ve gotten our mindset on the wrong ideas and affections. So often us ministers keep our minds packed on the church numbers, how many to fit in the seats or build the best youth group… Maybe even allow ourself to use the excuse of if we get this amount then it’s more people to lead to Christ (which makes absolute sense) BUT if we spent as much time going out to get them in non conventional ways then quite possibly it wouldn’t feel so burdensome to minister…. It would actually be refreshing, and might I say it…FUN? I love ministry. All aspects. The hurt hurts bad. You don’t think I know, take in terminal orphans and feel that pain. Time is short. Jesus is coming. We have one life and although I do agree with a lot of what you wrote I do question on why we allow ourself to become “burnt out”. If you are then maybe just maybe you need to refocus on where you are verses where you need to be in ministry! P.S…. As far as pay, no one in ministry on earth gets what they deserve to get financially with what we deal with BUT our reward was never about earths gain? (Thank God cause doing what I do doesn’t pay $$ – I’m broke as a joke BUT I am blessed more than money could ever give)

    Reply
    • September 22, 2016 at 9:49 am
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      Jamie, you are an amazing servant to those you serve! Those you served are blessed to have you in their lives. On behalf of the Christian community, I thank you for your hard work and dedication to loving and serving God and others. You’re an inspiration to us all! Thank you for commenting on here and joining the conversation.

      Reply
  • September 22, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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    Answer this for me: what do you do when your church won’t allow you to slow down? Who openly say they hold their ministers on a pedestal and expect “more” out of them? I seriously get zero days. My youth committee wants me at everything. I’m full time but they want Friday football games, sat morning mission events, sun church and then every day at a school bc we have four different schools here. Friday is supposed to be off but isn’t bc of Friday night football games! They told me I didn’t have enough passion bc I wasn’t willing to do all these things, while I sit back and ask where is my rest time? Oh yeah, and don’t get vacation bc the church policy is you have to be there a year before you get vacation and I’ve only been here 9 months.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm
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      Annie, that’s a tough one. I would draw boundaries and communicate why you’re doing that – in order to keep yourself healthy so you can serve the youth, parents, and volunteers in your ministry. Then, if that doesn’t work you will have to ultimately make a decision if you can continue in that environment.

      Reply
  • September 27, 2016 at 4:37 am
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    Thank you! i needed this timely message for my heart. lately i have felt like i cant breath. i love my family, ministry and church but i have felt too empty to offer anything. thanks for pointing me to the right direction!

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    • September 28, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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      Patrick, so glad you found this helpful!

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  • October 1, 2016 at 3:12 am
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    This one motivates me to lead our Youth Ministry. As a new appointed Ministry Head, it wasn’t easy at first cause for me it takes a lot of responsibility to handle a group of Youth averaging 40. I even asked God “Lord why me?” I am currently a worship leader in our church and I never thought of getting out of my box then. But God’s thought is higher than ours so I leave it all to Him. Since the time i started to lead our youth, it’s been my motive question “how can they learn from me?” So I prayed, then grabbed my gadget on searching through the net then saw your site. And God is so good that He led me to your blogs which can help me a lot to my ministry. This blog is so motivating for me to where I should start and how to lead our youth without thinking on how long should I survive? High five to you Nick! 🙂

    Reply
    • October 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm
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      Mich, that’s so cool. Glad we can motivate you! And I’m feeling ya love…and the high five!

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  • October 22, 2016 at 1:52 am
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    Thank you much for sharing this.
    It´s a relieve to read your article and all those comments – good to not be the only one struggling with the right balance between volunteering at church and taking care of myself…

    After working voluntarily with girls- and youth-groups for almost 20 years I think the point, that makes it hard for me is, that it so often seems to be “me” or “no-one”. In Germany (so now you know where all those mistakes in my comment come from – English only a second language to me :)) we rarely have full-time youth-pastors. So it´s up to People who do this voluntarily – besides their “normal” jobs. Volunteers are often rare – so you tend to try to do what you can, always knowing (and being told), that you can´t slow down, because there is no-one who can step in.

    So I think it is also about setting the right priorities. What is really important and where is it ok to say no? Sometimes I find it hard to make the right decissions there.

    But you encouraged me today to keep on trying – thank you so much!

    Reply
  • December 2, 2016 at 7:30 pm
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    Thanks for this post!! I’m literally sending this to my dad whose been a Pastor my entire 22 years of living, and this is definitely a list I’ll be posting in my shared office as my best friend/co-youth leader and i start this next year as Youth Ministry interns. These are ALL sooo important! I’ve seen and experienced how all of these items impact the lives of the Pastor, his family and the congregation. SOOOO important!
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • December 5, 2016 at 9:18 am
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      Katy, so glad you found this helpful and are sharing it with your dad and friend/youth leader. Much better to build in healthy boundaries before staring as an intern, early in your ministry life. Keep up the good stuff you’re doing!

      Reply

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