How many of these statements describe you?
• You pride yourself on working 50+ hours a week at the church.
• You frequently miss personal and family events and cancel plans with friends.
• You say, “Let me just finish this one thing” all the time.
• You check email after midnight and/or the second you wake up.
• Your kids have to holler at you—several times—to get you to look up from your laptop.

Believe me, this is a test you don’t want to ace. You need a break. You need to “go dark” once in a while. It’s not good to be “on” all the time. Two reasons we resist this are:

1. Unhealthy expectations. Often we don’t turn it off because our senior pastor or supervisor doesn’t let us—or at least that’s what we think. We assume overworking is a sign of good job performance, when it really drives us to a dangerous place and perpetuates unreasonable expectations. If you manage others, set an example by going home on time. If you’re job-hunting, inquire about typical work habits. And if you’re in a bad situation, get out or nudge the culture toward health.

2. Brokenness. It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-importance, even outright arrogance. Will the world really fall apart if you miss youth group one week? It feels nice to be noticed when you’re gone, but we take it too far. Pray that God will help you fight against personal insecurities and mold your heart into healthy balance.

There’s hope, but it starts with some tough changes. See below for a few tips for fighting back against unhealthy expectations and brokenness.

Go + Stop + Go = Health!
• First, pray for your heart and health.
• Start every day in time with God.
• Track your hours and see where you can gain back some time.
• Take a day off every week.
• Turn off email alerts on your day off.
• Don’t bring your laptop home.
• Limit the number of nights you’re away from home each week.
• Find a hobby that fills you up.
• Have a frank conversation with your boss about hours and expectations.
• Practice saying no.
• Schedule vacation time right now for the next two years.
• Invite accountability in this area.

Originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

I just got back from vacation.  It was amazing.  You should have seen it, you would have been quite jealous.  Beach house.  Coffee shops.  Bonfires.  Parks with the family.  Amazing meals. I even got a date with my wife.  I have very little photographic evidence of it, and if you and I were friends on social media sites you would have no reason to believe that my life was any different than the other 51 weeks of the year.  Why in the world would I not post this memorable week to share with some of my most distant friends?  I wanted this one to be for my family and those I talk to.

If your life is anything like mine, then the world of what is ministry and what is not becomes very grey.  And beyond that, I can’t say I really want there to be lines.  God has redeemed all of me, and I don’t want to live public and private lives.  However, as calls come in whenever, emails are answered always, and my family is my best sermon illustration I often feel that those who follow me on instagram know as much if not more about me than my own family.

So I made a decision that I would go radio silent for the week.  I did pretty good at it too! I liked a few photos.  Made a few snarky comments.  Responded to a few emails from those people that either wouldn’t leave me alone or had the power to fire me. For the most part, I disappeared.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I post like a bad Mama Jamma.  If I have something Facebook-worthy it goes up.  Kids sleeping on the floor, it is there.  Awesome youth group night; I’m your man.  And frankly there are many vacations where I want to show others my version of a family enjoying themselves.  So I do live loudly when I can on social media sites.  To that end, my wife continued to post this past week, in fact she became louder on vacation.  That doesn’t mean I am a better Christian (for the most part).  It was a personal decision and a gift that I wanted to give to my family.  They may not have even noticed.  That is fine with me.  I just wanted to be present.  To enjoy all of them and capture the event, not the event so it could be communicated to others.

I think you should do the same.  Not always, and for me this is the exception and not the rule.  For some it may be that you take a break on dates, on Mondays, or when the sun goes down.  I don’t think there is one version that is better than another, however I would strongly encourage you to find those moments in your life that are only for those you call family and for those who are dear friends.  Not to be selfish or exclusive.  Rather to silently say to those around you that they are your “circle”.  They are your “friends”.  They are true “followers” of you and your life.  Without saying no to others, it slowly communicates that you are more than a public figure to your church body and the students you minister to.  You are a dad, a wife, or friend.  All of which you need to do well if you hope to be called a youth worker in five years.

To finish this post it would be fitting to show you a vacation picture, but I didn’t really take any.  I promise to show you my next youth event, latte art, or when my kid puts their clothes on backwards.

Jeff Bachman is a husband for the past 11 years and a father of three amazing kids.  He is the High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR Church just up the road in Costa Mesa, CA.   He loves emails at jbachman@rockharbor.org, twitter interaction, and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.



Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.