In Youth Ministry it seems that leaders turn over every 2-3 years, if a church is lucky they may get 4 or 5 years before changing leaders. Whilst there are many youth ministry veterans who promote the value of long term tenure, it seems that 10 year veterans are rare in our industry. It made me think about the difference between turn over and burn out. Is burn out being disguised as natural turn over? Are some people leaving youth ministry because their time is up or do they burn out but call it turn over? Could some leaders go on longer if there was more support?
These thoughts started when a friend asked me if I was burnt out or just needed to move on from my last position. In some ways it was a bit of both. After 5 years it was getting time to look for a new challenge but I was also finding it hard to recharge my energy levels. This friend has seen many leaders in youth ministry burn out, yet she said that often people dismiss it by saying they were “getting too old for youth ministry”.
So how can we spot the difference between natural turn over and real burn out? Here are a few thoughts from my experience:
- You can choose when to leave – it is a great freedom to be able to choose when you finish up in a leadership position. For example when I got engaged I turned over my leadership to a new leadership team because I felt the team was in good hands and I need to start a new journey. Another time I turned over my leadership position after I finished a two year project and it was time for a younger leader to have the opportunity I had. Natural turn over often happens when the time seems right for both the ministry and the individual.
- You leave with energy for the next ministry – it is a great blessing to finish one ministry and move into another ministry. It is a great thrill when a youth leader finishes up with the youth ministry because they are taking on a ministry in the adult congregation. I remember leaving my church council to begin an outreach ministry and I left with so much energy and wisdom from the church council. Natural turn over often happens when a person is passionate about moving on to another ministry.
- You leave later than you should – it is easy in sport to see when someone retires one season too late. They say a person should retire at the top of their game. Yet in youth ministry people often hang on a season too long because there is no replacement. We can stay in ministry one season too long because we have no transition plan. I stayed in one ministry for too long because I wanted stability and was scared to face change. People often burn out because they feel guilty about leaving until it is too late.
- You leave without any energy – Sometimes we stay on too long in a ministry and we quit because we are exhausted. When a person finds it hard to begin a new season and lacks the energy to begin again they are burnt out. People often burn out when they run out of energy from trying too hard.
Is burn out just part of youth ministry? Whilst I would like to say it shouldn’t be, burnout is all too common in our industry. Burn out should not be an occupational hazard, it should be avoided. I think we should celebrate Natural turn over in youth ministry rather than hiding it when leaders leave. Natural turn over role models healthy behave. It encourage people to be healthy enough to choose when they leave and allows them to start a new ministry with energy.
Please leave your thoughts on burn out and turn over