How can you hang in the long haul and be successful in your church ministry situation? If you have been in youth ministry even for a short time, you have likely heard the statistics for ‘youth ministry burnout’ or know someone who has lost their passion for ministry.
Even though youth workers are passionate and committed to their ministries, it’s equally as important that they are committed to healthy boundaries.
While boundaries might sound defensive and rigid, they actually benefit your church greatly, since you will be healthier for your students… And you might just stay at that church longer too…
5 Essential Boundaries
ONE: ‘Devotional’ Boundaries: When it gets busy it’s easy to allow our devotional time to get edged or become a lesson plan. Staying fresh spiritually requires us to have a committed regular time to fill the tank personally. I think this should be a given, but how are we really doing in this area?
TWO: ‘Family’ Boundaries: If you can’t take care of your family first, how can you know how to take care of the family of God? (1 Timothy 3:5). At times I confess I have put ministry ahead of my marriage and family. Of course, there are certain seasons of craziness, but they must only be seasons. Your children (if you have kids), need you to invest in their life and faith. There are many people who can invest in the students you work with, but there is only one person in the whole world who is called to “mommy” or “daddy” to our kids… In the same way, your spouse (if you are married), needs your best, not your left-overs…
THREE: ‘Time’ Boundaries: How many hours a week do you do ministry? My mentor, (I mentioned him in my previous post), has been in ministry 30 years now. He insists that “every hour over 50 hours a week is likely to be an inefficient use of your time in a normal ministry week.” In other words, we become tired and less efficient when we hit a certain amount of hours. We will be serving our churches better if we were to take our day off and rest and return more refreshed.
Editors Update: Scheduled hours = 50 Unscheduled usually 5-15 hours… I usually schedule myself for 50, knowing I will add in many last minute meetings, emergencies and phone calls…
FOUR: ‘Financial’ Boundaries: There was a time when I bought every coffee, coke, breakfast, lunch, video camera, computer etc, out of my own money. The only problem was: I couldn’t afford it long-term and we struggled financially.
If your church has a budget make sure you use it! If you don’t have a budget, get creative! If you need greater resources, then ask for them!
FIVE: ‘Ownership’ Boundaries: You can’t ‘own’ every problem a family faces. You are called to partner with families and invest in students lives to your best ability, but you are not Jesus. So often I see youth workers beating themselves up when a family complains that the youth ministry is not meeting their family needs. Sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture of the family system. The students you and I work with are part of a family that has shaped them and continues to shape their every day lives. Sadly, when students struggle, parents are desperate for ‘fixes’ to their kids and sometimes can have unrealistic expectations on the youth worker instead of looking in the mirror… Bottom Line: Owning someone else’s baggage will weigh you down and burn you out. Own what you can and move on…
Sadly, I can admit that I have been burned by not always having these boundaries in my life and ministry. However, they have now become healthy boundaries that keep me hanging in the long haul.
What boundaries are essential to you? How have boundaries been a life saver for you?