I heard repeatedly in my college youth ministry classes that in ministry, there is always this initial “honeymoon” that each minister goes through. For a few months if you’re good, half a year if you’re lucky, a year if the church has their heads in the clouds just like you…haha. I didn’t believe it in class, and even had an arrogance to how long I could go before it did. The honeymoon has to end eventually though. Why?
1. Because you’re bound to screw up eventually.
I went 9 months strong before my honeymoon ended. Every time I messed up, I would “wince” to how harsh the punishment could get. Like the time we painted our youth room and paint got all over the church…we cleaned it up quickly but you know there is going to be that one kid that talks and tells the wrong person ;). Or the time I drove on the wrong side of the road (in my defense, it was a country road at midnight, and the youth assured me I was doing the right thing). But those weren’t what hurt me thankfully, because those are the things that get addressed immediately. What are the mistakes that get us in trouble? Lack of communication with parents, with students, with other church leaders. And yes, the occasionally “dumb” accident like I stated. We’re human. We screw up. We say “crap” to the wrong person and it offends them. We get a ticket from speeding in the church van. Someone breaks an arm on the slip-in-slide we made slick with Tide. It’s bound to happen that we screw up.
2. Because you finally understand the flaws of the ministry you are serving.
The first few months you kind of go through the motions, “try out” some different programs or formats of youth meetings, grow relationships, but most importantly get a grasp of who are the student leaders and who needs the most attention. You understand why the church or youth group isn’t growing. You begin seeing why teens come on Wednesday nights and not Sunday mornings. And these are things that start bothering you inside. Tension grows between you and whatever aspect of the church/ministry you feel is a hindrance–is it the music? preaching? volunteers? the students? yourself? These things start piling up, little thing by little thing, and they result in a burn-out. I know that in my “Christian Ministry Apprenticeship” class, we talked about all kinds of mock situations that would happen in church, and I would boldly say exactly what I would do. My professor loved my energy and enthusiasm, but called me naive. I understand why now. When those situations arise, we rack our brains 24/7 trying to come up with how to solve the solution, how to talk to your pastor or another person about it, etc. I can rehearse in my head 2340874 times how I want to talk to Church Council about something, but it never comes out the way it sounds in my head. So sometimes we don’t say it. And our ministry hurts as a result of our “good intentions” of not hurting others or our paycheck.
3. Because you are drained…and need a vacation.
Except when you are a minister, you can call it a sabbatical and it makes it sound needed, not just for fun! People don’t understand how draining ministry can be. Putting any conflict aside, it’s draining pouring out your life to individuals who frankly don’t care most of the time (especially if you don’t get the response you desire). Burn-out is bound to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, the honeymoon ending stinks. But it is necessary. Now that your head is out of the clouds, you can honestly address the needs of the ministry and of the church.
Questions I have for you reading:
How do you address these situations in your church?
What do you do when you are burned out?