Taking care of your whole self, soul, body and mind, is not just essential for avoiding burnout. It’s also essential if we want to be our best selves in ministry. Here is why.
You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have
When you are tired, worn out, burned out, and feeling spiritually depleted, it’s really hard to give yourself to the ministry in front of you. It’s kind of like trying to fill up a car with an empty gas can. Teens are looking for adults who are willing to do life with them, invest in them and talk through faith issues. If we don’t take care of ourselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we will eventually run dry.
Life Flows Out of the Heart
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” I’ve noticed the busier I get in ministry; the more quickly I get stressed out.
The more stressed out I am, the easier it is for me to allow the enemy to fill my heart up with the very things that draw me away from God.
He is the author of lies that undermine how I see my value and my self-worth and as a result, I am unable to bring my best self to the ministry in which He has called me.
Even Jesus Rested
Jesus didn’t just talk about resting, he modeled it. There’s a passage in Luke 5 where Jesus has this huge ministry “to do” list. He’s getting ready to launch his ministry, he’s choosing his dream team of disciples, he’s preaching, he’s healing, and he’s building relationships left and right. It was youth ministry amplified. Jesus knew the importance of taking care of “whole self,” and so as Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. It’s pretty great that we aren’t the only ones who feel like we needed a break at times. Jesus knew how essential an important conversation with his Father was to refuel and recharge before doing ministry again. So he made it a priority.
A couple of years ago, one of my youth ministry mentors suggested that I begin to take a monthly day of solitude. She reminded me that the pace of youth ministry would not be sustainable without rest. To be honest, resting has never come easy to me. I prefer groups of people, constant activity, and being on the go, and I rarely feel like I have the time to rest. Nevertheless, I decided go to a retreat center for the day and just be alone with Jesus, and in the end, this is what I would write in my journal:
I don’t know that my words really say what my heart felt after a day of solitude, but I know without a doubt, something in my soul changed. To know that you are loved, regardless of how good you are at your job, how strong you are as a person, how awesome of a mom you are, or how hard to you try at life…it transforms your heart. That’s what I felt. That’s what I took away. As Brennan Manning says, “I could more easily contain the Gulf of Mexico in a shot glass than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable, love of God.” It’s that huge of a kind of love.
Burnout is possible in all seasons of ministry if we don’t take the time to rest and recover.
In the end, our goal isn’t to be the youth worker who got the most done on our to-do list.
Our goal is to recognize that we are deeply loved by God, allowing everything to flow out of that truth. It’s when we take the time to rest and recover that we will experience that to the fullest.