Why I Quit – Part 1: Ministry Burnout

Why I Quit – Part 1: Ministry Burnout

So many people have asked why I chose to leave my position in youth ministry, especially when I loved it and felt very called to work with young people.

My answer: lots of reasons.

Not that there were a lot of bad things happening.

It was more like God had placed many things on my heart, many obstacles in my path, an unsettling in my soul, and a wonderful spiritual director in order to tell me that He was calling me to something new.

Burn Out & Lack of Self Care

When giving retreats I tell young people how valuable they are and affirm their dignity even if they can’t see it.

A few weeks before I gave my notice I had given a retreat for about 60 high school girls. At the end, I told them that it might sound silly but they were princesses. Why? Because they were the daughter of the King. How awesome! It’s not just a cool concept, it’s an unseen reality.

Sadly it was a reality that I could no longer identify for myself. It was easy for me to say and believe for the girls, but not for me. It was in my head but not in my heart and soul.

What did this mean for me? I had no idea. Time for some self reflection.

Ministers should be caring for themselves before they attempt to care for another person. You cannot give water from a dry well.

To fill the well ministers need to retreat, get away from the noise of the world, seriously examine their life, and continually discern God’s call for them. Ministers (lay and otherwise) have accepted a serious responsibility. They’re not creating or fixing widgets for the world. They are leading souls to Christ.

Those who have a great love for their ministry work do not view their parish, diocesan, etc, as a job but as a calling parallel to their vocation. They pour out 100% into those they work with and many make themselves available 24/7.

Many counselors and other professionals instruct those in helping professions (including ministry) that they need to have boundaries with their clients in order to keep mentally healthy. But, many in ministry can’t/won’t/don’t.

You see, good ministry is relational. In order to minister effectively you have to build trust, in order to build trust you need to build a relationship. It’s difficult to have boundaries when building relationships, and ministry is a ‘profession’ where boundaries are not taught.

I was a youth minister who never set boundaries, who wouldn’t say no, and who continued to add program on top of program with the assumption that more and more young people and their families might experience the love of God. [After lots of reflection, I realize that I was adding programming to prove myself to others. But, that’s a story for another blog.]

In my pride, I forgot 2 things:

  1. I forgot to take care of myself. This was the first year that I did not take a retreat… against the counsel of my spiritual director and to my own detriment. My well was dry.
  2. I forgot that it wasn’t my ministry; it’s the Lord’s. He called me into this work so that the Holy Spirit might work through me. God loves regardless of what I do.

Final thought:

I got burned out because I didn’t take care of myself, because I lost sight of the mission, and I forgot that we have a Savior and I’m not Him.

Please pray for me as I try to remember that I too am a princess and my Father, the King of the Universe, loves me unconditionally… even through my pride.

…next up… “Part 2 – The Husband”

Pray for me as I pray for you.


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