Finding Rest in the Summer Hustle: A Guide for Church Youth Ministers

It’s gonna, gonnaaaa goooonaaaaaa…

May Justin Timberlake GIF

Yes, we’re already into May, which means warm weather and (for ministry’s) planning out ministry’s summer programs and camps!

But at Uth Stuph, we’re also recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s face it, in the whirlwind of activities and events, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Ministers can be especially bad at this. So much of the job is pouring out that ministers can face burnout, anxieties, and seasons of depression triggered from not caring for themselves properly.

A man holds up a sign that reads "help" with his head lowered on his work desl

We’re here to share some tips on how you can take a breather and recharge during the summer season.

Address Burnout

First things first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: burnout. (Yes, it is a very real thing, and if you’ve been in ministry long enough, you might know a few former leaders who’ve stepped away from their roles due to exhaustion.) Ministry burnout can look different, but a few common signs are: 

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Insufficient sleep and rest
  • Spiritual dryness
  • Loss of motivation for ministry

Burnout can even lead to much larger issues. 80% of pastors reported feeling unqualified and discouraged in their roles. And the stress is already high, as studies also reported that pastors who work less than 50 hours a week are 35% more likely to be fired. Nearly half of pastors and ministers surveyed had to step away from ministry due to burnout.

Here’s the deal: you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

So where do you even start to find rest? 

Let scripture lead.

A primary focus of your rest should come from scripture. One of our favorites to ponder is from Paul in 1 Corinthians: 

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Paul is one of the go-tos when it comes to understanding New Testament strife. (After all, he was in and out of jail for most of his ministry!) Old Testament figures like Moses and Joshua can also be sources of inspiration and relatability. Sometimes, weekly youth groups can feel as exhausting as a day of leading the Israelites through the desert!

Set boundaries not to keep people out but keep your resources in

Yes, I know this is going to sound easier said than done — especially when you’re passionate about your ministry. But it’s crucial. 

While you won’t always be able to be “off-duty” when it comes to emergencies in ministry, you can start establishing windows of time where family and rest come first. This can look like turning your phone on Do Not Disturb after certain hours or scheduling (and committing to) days off. Give yourself permission to disconnect and unwind. 

And if anyone has a problem with it, kindly remind them (and yourself) that even Jesus spent alone time away from his disciples and spent it meditating on the Father. (Mark 1:35 is a prime example.)

Break out your hobbies

Speaking of unwinding, let’s talk about hobbies. Remember those things you used to love doing before ministry took over your life? Whether it’s painting, hiking, or watching your favorite TV show, carve out time to relax in activities that bring you joy. Hobbies can also reignite your creativity and passion for your work! And more importantly, they’re a way to use the talents God has given you in an often meditative, reflective way.

Letting go of guilt

Now, let’s address the guilt factor. It’s hard to shake off that feeling of guilt when you’re not constantly on the go, but here’s the truth: you deserve a break. 

It’s also really easy to fall into the trap of “guilt comparison” in ministry. Today’s secular hustle culture has slipped into ministry when we hear leaders talk about how exhausted they feel but how enormously guilty they’d be if they eeeevvvverrrr took a break. They could never fathom taking a (gasp) vacation!

Repeat after me: self-care is not selfish. In fact, it’s essential for your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. And blessedly for us, we’ve got a prime example in Jesus — a man who kept a party going at a wedding as one of his first miracles, who regularly took time away from his disciples to recharge, and who literally took rest during a storm while he and the disciples were traveling. 

Your community is key

The biggest lie that we let slip into our psyche is that we’re alone in our struggles — and that’s especially difficult for ministers and leaders to overcome. 

You’re not in this alone, my friend. Reach out to your fellow youth ministers and lean on each other for support. Share your struggles, your victories, and your need for rest. After all, we’re all in this together, with one purpose for the glory of the Kingdom.

As we embark on this summer journey, let’s make a commitment to prioritize our own well-being. May this season be a time of rest, rejuvenation, and rediscovery. And remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so take the time to fill yours up. Your friends at Uth Stuph are here to help you as best we can. And in case no one told you today, you’re awesome!