I spoke to a Youth Minister friend this week who shared that she is struggling, is feeling frustrated and burned out. This morning as I was on my way in to work, I was thinking about her situation and thinking... maybe when we reach this level of burnout, it's because it's time to change the kind of ministers that we are/have been. This can be a great opportunity to change our way of working from being Youth Ministers to being Coordinators of Youth Ministry.
Here's a way to think about the difference between the two: what if we went into every YM job planning to leave after about 4 years? How would our priorities, planning, and strategies be different? To me, this is a big difference in thinking than I did in my first YM position. I planned to be there forever, and each year I would think about doing things differently next year. But if I were only planning to stay for four years, I'd be thinking much more about establishing a very solid foundation for ministry that could carry on beyond my time.
I'd be focused on getting leadership in place, on making sure there were a lot of adults empowered to minister, in a lot of different ways. I'd be trying to establish traditions of great service, retreats, and other programs that could be run by someone else besides me. I'd be concentrating on forming a vision for the parish, and transmitting that to important people.
Because, after all, four years is not that much time for this kind of leadership. It's a lot to accomplish or at least to get started. But four years is a really long time if you're trying to find your way one day at a time, and are trying to do everything yourself.
I think our souls have ways of telling us when God is calling us to make changes. We start to feel uneasy, tired, not excited by what used to excite us. And when we're stressed out, it's easy to think in terms of stay or go, but often, it's just time to reframe. My prayers tonight are for all the burned out Youth Ministers out there. I've been there! Don't forget to breathe, and hang in there.