How to Keep From Burning Out in Youth Ministry

As I have grown in ministry, I understand more and more how important pacing is. You cannot do everything quickly nor can you do everything too slowly. As a ministry leader, it is important to have a clear understanding of pace in every ministry but maybe most importantly in youth ministry. I have served in youth ministry for over a decade, and I have been blessed to write books, teach and train youth ministry leaders.

I know from experience that youth ministry can be fast-paced much of the time. However, I believe that the best youth ministries with great results have a level of pace that keeps the leaders going. The three keys for smart pacing are list, last and lead.

1. List

The easiest way I have found to pace well in youth ministry is to set goals or list well. If you’re going to be effective and do what you set out to do in the right time frame, you have to create a list of measurable goals and stay with them.

Often in ministry—but for sure in youth ministry—we try to do everything at once, and because we don’t have a list we run out of steam and our pace is off. If you create a list of what you want to accomplish according to your mission and vision for the ministry then it’s more likely that you will stay on pace and complete each task or goal on the list. What is on your list?

2. Last

Not only is it important to have a list, but you need to think through each item on the list and make sure that it will last. One of the major problems in ministry, even in youth ministry, is burnout.

Youth ministry leaders don’t last long because they are working or serving out of pace. They aren’t doing ministry in a way that will “last” or thinking about the end from the beginning. Instead they are simply doing the next thing and not thinking about how it will last or who will be able to do it next.

At the end of the day, if your pace is going to be correct in youth ministry you must plan out events in a way that they last beyond you and what you can do. If you have this understanding, you will not try to do everything yourself and in your time, but you will pace the work and share it with others. How are you planning for your ministry to last beyond you?

3. Lead

If we’re going to pace correctly in youth ministry our list is important, our plan for lasting is important and who we’re training or developing to lead after us is important. I remember when I worked the night shift at a factory in New York. When I came in, there was always work for me to do because the person who worked the day shift knew I was coming in at night. They would work hard in the morning but they knew they didn’t need to do everything since I was coming in at night. This is different than ministry, but I hope you see the point. If you’re going to pace well in youth ministry, you should be training the next leader who will come after you. If you have student and adult leaders whom you’re training, then your pacing will be better because you know that every part of the ministry doesn’t rest on you.

My prayer is that as a youth ministry leader you understand that one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your ministry is to pace yourself. God has called you to serve in ministry and not burn out in ministry. Make your list, think through how you have built something that will last, then train and equip the next generation of leaders to carry on what you have begun.

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Russell St. Bernard
Russell St. Bernard

Russell St. Bernard is the director for ministry operations at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry company as well as founder of Ministry Pivot, a company dedicated to assisting leaders and churches seize opportunities for growth.