Youth pastors all over the country claim to be victims. Our complaint is that we do too much, more often than we can handle. We believe there’s no escape from the cycle and that we need someone to come break it for us. The reality is that our cries for help are misguided.
The problem for a lot of us isn’t that we are overloaded by our senior pastors, or that our schedules are too burdensome. The problem is we are addicts. We are addicted to doing ministry and our addiction burns us out. Don’t get me wrong—ministry is amazing. I love it. But too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. It becomes idolatry and that makes for sin.
I was 21 and active in four different ministries at four different churches. Needless to say I had bitten off more than I could chew. It’s not that I was doing evil things; I was doing ministry! The problem wasn’t my desire to do ministry. The problem was my ego. I wanted to serve every opportunity that came my way, no matter what the consequences to my health or school work. I was a Christian burnout and the cause wasn’t anything but me and my pride. Becoming addicted to ministry was me padding my ego. Here are three things I had to do to kick the addiction.
Confess that I couldn’t overcome it and give it up to a higher power.
Sin is sin and repentance is required to work towards restoration. I had to give my ministry addiction up to God in order for restoration to start. Remember, he is faithful and just and able to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Learn to say no.
Yes, it is possible, and people respect you for saying no. It’s not the end of the world if you say no, and most people won’t hold it against you if you’re working hard in the first place. Just don’t forget: No means no.
Tell people—and then ask them to hold me accountable.
I had to kick some of my Lone Ranger mentality to the side and enter into some accountability relationships. So I confessed my problem to God and others and asked both for help. God doesn’t want us to go through this alone.
Like any addiction, I still struggle with the temptation to do too much, and I bear some of the consequences of burning out still today. But these techniques have helped me, and I hope they can help you, too. Seek out people around you to keep you from harming yourself and your ministry. Let’s stop blaming other people for problems that we brought on ourselves.