If you’re looking to burnout or just survive in youth 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.

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, and 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.

(I struggled with this one for years. About 2 years ago I joined a dodgeball team. It’s been transformational for me in many ways. Plus, it’s really fun to throw balls at other grown ups.)

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! 

First of all, I’ve struggled with ALL 7 of these over the years. I think we all have. So, you are not alone!

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 busyness 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.


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.


Written by Nick Diliberto, Creator of Ministry to Youth

Liked this blog post? You’ll find this one to be really helpful as well:

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


  1. Former Youth Guy
    • August 15, 2017

    Listen to this advice! Get someone to hold you accountable to following it! Don’t think you can put this off! I mean it; act now! I committed every one of these mistakes before burning out a few years back. It took a year to recover mentally and nearly three years to recover spiritually. Wouldn’t wish that experience on anybody.

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 16, 2017

      Former Youth Guy, thanks for chiming in! I appreciate you!!!

  2. Dan Scott
    • August 16, 2017

    My wife and I both work full time. After putting in 45 hours a week in the office I put in at least 20 hours in the ministry with studying, teaching and counseling. Our youth group is about 40 in a church with about 90 regular attenders. A church this size can’t afford to pay me anything at all. This is what a ton of youth pastors deal with but we can’t choose where we are called. What does someone in my position do?

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 16, 2017

      Dan, see my comment to Rodyney’s question. In essence, it is the same as yours. Hope that helps.

  3. Rodney Bennett
    • August 16, 2017

    How do you avoid burnout when your doing ministry and a full time job plus spouse and a kid
    How do you set boundaries when you don’t feel like you have time?

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 16, 2017

      Rodney, great question. I think the answer is different for everyone. Bottom line to keep in mind: If you don’t figure out a way to slow down, you will burnout. It will eventually happen, and it won’t be pretty when you do. So, my advice is figure out what works for you. In your situation, working full time, doing ministry with a family….dedicate one day a week where you’re 100% off of all work and ministry related tasks. Figure out a way to make that a reality. During that day you also have to be 100% mentally and emotionally away from ministry and work. Then, figure out a way to have time for yourself throughout the week. Somehow. Some way. Make it a priority. It’s an ongoing process for us all. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself grace. Hope that helps!

  4. Amber Reaves
    • August 16, 2017

    Well my Husband and i are in ministry full time, we have 4 children, and operate two businesses. We take baecations, staycations, and vacation. We don’t do anything ministry related after 5pm or before 9am unless it’s an emergency. We make time to do more than just church activities, and we make sure our children have other recreation. We learned the difference between being productive and being busy. When we’re productive we’re effective and less exhausted. God continues to keep us, however the system we have in place enables us to move forward with as little stress as possible. One on one time with God is essential, we can’t get so caught up in ministry that we Neglect relationship.

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 17, 2017

      Amber…wel said. I think that’s really inspiration for others to see that it really is possible to keep boundaries and still juggle everything that needs to be juggled. Keep up the awesome work!!

  5. Keron Cooper
    • August 16, 2017

    Hello my name is Keron Cooper. I’m from the island of Trinidad and Tobago. Currently I’m having a similar problem where I have to work all day then I have to run the youth ministry in our church. I work Monday to Saturday and church on Sunday’s so I’m finding it hard to keep up this pace every week. When I first started about a year ago it was easy to do, but now it’s becoming really difficult. My question is If I delegate someone every once In awhile just to take over for me is that wrong? Because sometimes I feel guilty about giving persons my responsibilities.
    Ps. I love all of your content it really has helped me with the ministry.

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 17, 2017

      Keron, great question! I actually think the more you can delegate the better. It’s a big part of what we do. And making it a part of an overall “developing leaders around you” game plan is a great way to approach it.

  6. Former Youth Guy
    • August 17, 2017

    A few more thoughts I feel like I need to share of things I learned through burnout. Here are some spiritual truths you need to preach to yourself and mediate on the implications of daily.

    (1) Your personal worth, significance, value, and justification for existence are not defined by your performance in ministry, but by Christ. You are fully pleasing (Rom 5:1), totally accepted (Col 1:21-22), and deeply loved by God (1 jn 4:9-11) in Christ. Therefore, stop trying to earn your own righteousness – justify your existence – through your ministry. Christ justified you (Rom 3; phil 3:9).

    (2) God actually produces all the results in your ministry. If the Lord does not build the house the labor is in vain (Ps 127:1). One plants, another waters, but God causes the increase (1 Cor 3:6-7). Therefore, you don’t have to do everything perfectly. God doesn’t even need you or the skills and training he gave you; he just wants you to be faithful and leave the fruit up to him. Well done my good and faithful servant. (Matt 25:23) Just because you don’t see fruit doesn’t mean it isn’t growing or seeds haven’t been planted.

    (3) The word of the Lord will not return void (Isa 55:11). Therefore, your preaching does not have to be wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor 2:4). Every lesson doesn’t have to be perfect or long or interesting or well illustrated.

    (4) God is sovereign and in control of all things. You are not. You have no control over anything, including ministry results and fruit. Therefore, you don’t have to fix every problem, you don’t have to be there every week, teach every week, or answer every phone call or text immediately. He can actually cause all things to work together for the good of those who love him – and even those who don’t (Rom 8:28). The world will still go on without you. Youre not the only one left to minister; God has others (1 ki 18:22; 19:16-18).Taking a Sabbath, time off, or going to sleep at night is not a weakness but a demonstration of your faith that God is ultimately in control.

    (5) God alone is to be feared, not people. The fear of man is a snare (Prov 29:25). You shouldn’t be crippled under people’s expectations, fear disappointing people, become a people pleaser, or a workaholic. God is pleased if you are faithful, serve humbly with integrity, unto the Lord (Col 3:17, 23), for His glory (1 Cor 10:31). You serve Christ not people.

    (6) In the words of Oswald Chambers, your ministry IS your relationship with Christ. Abide in Christ and he in you and he will produce fruit in and through you (jn 15). If God is using you, even producing fruit in others through you, but you aren’t being changed, stop ministering and run to Him immediately. Watch the warning signs of frustration, cynicism, apathy in your faith, moral compromise, doubt of God’s promises, disillusionment, etc.

    Excuse the brain dump from my phone, this stuff has been swirling around in my head for a few years and I never wrote it down. Don’t want any of you guys to end up like me, and I’m sure this will help someone.

    Reply 3 Response
    1. Amy
      • August 17, 2017

      This comment is the most helpful oat of the article!!! And I truly enjoyed the article. But where I am in ministry, these are the words I needed confirmed!! Thank you for sharing. -Amy

    2. Shane
      • August 17, 2017

      It did!!! Thanks a million

    3. Nick Diliberto
      • August 17, 2017

      Good stuff. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

  7. Steve
    • August 22, 2017

    These are spot on! Thanks Nick!

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 22, 2017

      You’re welcome Steve!

  8. Julie Taylor
    • August 23, 2017

    Wow! How do you know my life so well?!?!?? I really needed this article today…and the sad part is that I know this is not the way to live (shame on me!!!!). My husband is the senior pastor and I am the youth pastor and your words of wisdom are true for all aspects of ministry. I will be sharing this blog with my fellow co-workers in ministry because we need to be constantly reminded of this.

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • August 23, 2017

      Julie, I know your life so well because I lived it for so long. And because soooooo many others are in the same boat! Now the challenging part is to do something about it…right? That goes for all of us 🙂

  9. Frank
    • August 24, 2017

    As a corrolary to #7. Minimize how much time you spend nurturing your relationship with your students. To me, just texting or putting a post on their wall is not the same as getting together with them to fish and talk about life, or taking 4 or 5 kids to Chick-fil-A for ice cream “on a whim” (to them, not to you). [One of the best things a student minister can do is to take some time off in the middle of the day to rest and recharge, maybe a couple of hours. I always liked that to be the time to go exercise, reflect and pray and then got a late lunch. Maybe not everyday, but then I was ready for an afternoon or early evening with students, and I had taken care of me. When we were in position to do so, I always had lunch with my wife so that coming in later than 5:00 wasn’t neglectful.] I believe that if student ministers don’t know their students, their hearts, what makes them tick, their needs, etc. they shortchange the kids, themselves, and the ministry, and I believe it IS the Student Minister’s responsibility to initiate the relationships. Getting several parents and/or spouse to participate in “the plan” is critical. I will finish with this: Having the chance to spend intentional quality time with students away from the “church house” was and is one of the most important ways to keep the passion for ministry! I am not sure this generation of student ministers “gets” that (speaking only in general terms, there).


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