How You Might Be Inviting Burnout Into Your Ministry

How You Might Be Inviting Burnout Into Your Ministry
Aaron Helman

I asked youth workers if they’d like less of their WORK stress to follow them HOME at the end of the day. One hundred percent said enthusiastically, “YES!” But when I asked them what they were doing to make that happen, I received only a vacant sea of blank stares in return. The more I talked to these people, the more I realized one crazy, important truth about burnout. The most important reason that burnout creeps into our lives is because we allow it to creep into our lives.

You probably already noticed that I haven’t written very many words over at Smarter Youth Ministry in the last few weeks. That’s because I’ve been on a paternity leave vacation, and vacation isn’t vacation if you’re working. Furthermore, since I work in youth ministry AND blog on youth ministry, writing a youth ministry blog feels an awful lot like work. I don’t know about you, but I only get 15 vacation days all year, and I certainly do not want to use those precious days to do more work.

You can ask anyone who’s ever excelled at an endurance sport: Sometimes the quality of your rest will dictate the quality of your work. Truth is, most of us suck at resting.

We check and respond to emails at stoplights because we can and because we’re bored.
We take our laptops on vacations.
We pretend like Andy Stanley’s books are the kinds of things we should be reading poolside during our spring getaway.
And then we complain about how worn out we are even though we never make the decision to stop working for more than an hour.

You understand how messed up that is, right? Stop inviting burnout into your life today.

How You Might Be Inviting Burnout Into Your Ministry By Aaron Helman – May 28, 2018

There are several triggers that help burnout invade the intimate confines of our homes and families. My advice? Just don’t do these things for the next two weeks, and then, if you’re feeling less stress, keep on not doing them. If your stress doesn’t diminish at all, feel free to come back and leave a comment to let me know how wrong I was.

1. Don’t check email at home.
For two years during my ministry, I lived alone in a small house with no cable and no internet (and sometimes no furnace, but that’s unrelated). During that time, people sent me emails during evenings and weekends, and I didn’t read them until I got back to the office. This literally never caused a single problem. If you have a smartphone, I know how tempting it is to check email while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store just because you’re bored, but don’t do it. You’ll thank me later.

2. Have a procedure for real emergencies.
If there is a real emergency, and sometimes there are real emergencies, make sure you have a clear process for people to get through to you. It might be a specific phone number or some kind of text message code that you develop. Either way, make sure people understand what constitutes a real emergency and what doesn’t constitute a real emergency. The stuff in the second category can wait.

3. Leave your laptop charger at the office.
I take my laptop home with me every night and will work on a few things in the evening after the kids go to bed. But if I’m doing more than a few hours of work, that’s a problem. Leaving your laptop charger at work creates an automatic shut-down point where work stops and real rest begins.

4. Encourage other leaders to set boundaries. If you expect your volunteers to always be able to do phone calls, emails, problem solving and conversation- it’s fair of them to expect the same of you. Encourage your leaders to treat their families as their most important priority and they’ll understand why you’re doing the exact same thing.

Does this really work? It does for me, and while I can’t promise anything for you, I can tell you this: It’s definitely worth a try. If you’re burnt out, stressed out, worn out or on your way out, take some time in the next two weeks to really rest. Don’t cheat your rest and don’t try to mix work into your rest. It’s amazing what rest can do to counteract the problem of tired.

Are you the person INVITING burnout to get into your life? Or are you actively working to evict it? Tell me all about it in a comment below. And as always, if you have a friend in youth ministry, send this post over to them right now.


Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

The above article, “How You Might Be Inviting Burnout Into Your Ministry” was written by Aaron Helman. The article was excerpted from The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”