Run for Your Soul!

Why you may need to quit your job as a youth minister

In this age of the megachurch, our culture worships doing. We put busy people on pedestals—especially if the busyness results in bigger and more. But when you take the pagan worship of busyness and add to it the biblical mandate to reach the world, you have a lethal combination. The church has baptized busyness and activity and produced overworked, burned out, spiritually dry ministers who—in the "name of God"—neglect their families, their souls and their physical well-being.

If I can be so audacious as to "blaspheme" the Gospel of Growth, I respectfully suggest this modern rush to urgency is not only wrong, it's arrogance gone mad. The moment we believe the kingdom of God is dependent on you and me, we've either experienced a schizophrenic episode or we've misunderstood our roles as Christians.

Yes, we are to "go into all the world." Yes, we are to "make disciples." But last I checked, it took Jesus three years of concentrated effort to make 12 disciples—and it took them the rest of their lives to understand what discipleship means. Remember, Paul suggests we are in Christ, not working for Him.

If you're a youth worker in a church in which the Gospel of Growth rules, RUN! If your senior minister is a winsome, captivating, entrepreneurial workaholic, grab your soul and get out before it's too late.

Sadly, when you blow the whistle or rebel again the Gospel of Growth or suggest that God might be calling you to stop adding more activities and people and start growing the ones you have, your very commitment to Christ is questioned. Then you're isolated, criticized, told you're not a "team player"—and finally condemned. I'm telling you that you're not crazy. You're not lazy. You're not uncommitted.

Obviously evangelism is an important goal and calling of the church. But evangelism is not justification for busyness, exhaustion, burnout, or the destruction of families. Many evangelistic missionary organizations have a reputation for leaders who've burned themselves out on the altar of evangelism. And then—when these charismatic, driven leaders collapse under the weight of their maddening schedules—they're tossed aside for the next leaders who'll also self-destruct.

Youth workers, you haven't been called to crazy, maddening schedules. You haven't been called to reach every student for Christ. You haven't been called to fix all the kids in your youth groups. The weight of your youth groups isn't on your shoulders. Your calling is to be faithful to Christ and to your families and to reach those you can. Growth is not the gospel. More and bigger are not fruits of the Spirit.

A few suggestions:

  • Ask that your staff meetings be changed to talk about Jesus and your souls rather than business.
  • As part of your job description, ask for one day a week to spend on your soul—away from the office.
  • Ask for a personal resource budget so you can read books that will help keep your soul intact.
  • As part of your job description, ask for a week every two months to spend alone, in silence, praying and reading and resting.
  • If your senior pastor is a workaholic who can't understand anyone who isn't a workaholic, quit and find a new job.

    MIKE YACONELLI spent 43 years of his life in ministry to youth workers and students, and 20 years as the pastor of a small church in Yreka, Calif. Adapted from Getting Fired for the Glory of God by Mike Yaconelli. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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