Monday, May 9, 2011

Being A Youth Pastor's Wife (On Burn Out)

Being a youth pastor's wife is the most rewarding job I have. But it is also the most heart-breaking, most frustrating, most draining thing I do. It is not easy to do this "job". And for me, it is a full time unpaid job. I work 3 jobs right now to make up the income from quitting my last job, and at the end of the day I go on to chaperon youth events and lead worship for Jr. high and Sr. high youth group.

My real problem is that I desperately want to be involved with my husbands ministry. If I could quit all my jobs and just work with him, I would do it in a heart beat. I LOVE student ministries. I have worked with youth as a volunteer for 6 years (2 years on my own out of high school and 4 years have been spent volunteering along side my now husband). I'm not like one of those people who never thought they'd be a pastor's spouse. No, I knew I would be. I KNEW that the ministry of the church (particularly youth) was so important to me that God had to bring me someone who loved youth too. And God did.

But I am suffering from some burnout these days.

And to be honest with you...I'm the only youth pastor's spouse I know that hasn't identified their boundaries (If you're out there too, let me know!). One of my best friends and college roommate is also a youth pastor's wife, but she barely goes to any events. My husband and I realized we've never ever SEEN the wife of a youth pastor here in town that we frequently do events with. I feel so alone in my battle. I desperately want to be a part of this ministry, but I am wearing myself too thin.

A lot of the times I do so much because I see so many hurting kids. I think "Oh, I should really take her out for coffee...she looks like she needs to talk to someone. That's what I'm suppose to do right? I AM the youth pastors wife after all..." For whatever reason, this is the ideal of what a youth pastors spouse should be, and though taking a teenager out for coffee is something I can and have done, it's not my instinctual way of showing these kids that I care about them and love them. To be honest, I'm just more likely to give them a hug and tell them it's going to be okay.  Let me reiterate: I LOVE THESE KIDS. But if I think I'm SUPPOSE to take all the students out for coffee, it probably won't happen. Because it isn't my gift, I will probably fail at remembering to take them out. Then I feel like a I'm not able to help these teenagers I care so much for. I'm trying to make my ideals of my role as a youth pastor's wife fit into something I am not. The real problem isn't that I can't touch the lives of these hurting kids. Oh, I can. It's that I'm not letting myself be exactly who I am. They don't need or want the me I think I should be...they want the me that God made me to be.

I tried to think back on the youth pastor's wife when I was in high school. Her name is Jayme and I LOVED HER. I remember special times when she would help me learn chords on the keyboard while I was on the worship team. And I STILL HAVE postcards she wrote me about how special she thought I was. Little moments, even though she wasn't there for every event, meant the world to me. And by sometimes distancing herself from the ministry of her husband, and having boundaries, she was able to be exactly who she was exactly when I needed it.

Last week I attended a youth worker training day (that my wonderful husband helped create and run) called "Equip" and they had a phenomenal speaker named Katie Quesada there. In her message to us she said something so powerful. So wonderfully refreshing. She said:

"You are unique. The truest you, the you God created, what you are, is exactly what people need. No more, no less. What you have to offer, the way it feels most natural, is what people need."

We are unique. Do not try to be something you aren't just because you think that's what your role is. I need to be a wife, a nanny, a youth worker, a preschool teacher, a sister, a daughter, a Sunday school director. And I need to know where I am in all of those roles. I need to see me. I need to see that my work does not define me. That I am perfect just how I am in the small ways I do all those things.

I cannot be the best version of myself for these kids when I have no boundaries. I am worn thin. I am frustrated with them. I am frustrated with myself. I am frustrated with God. I do too much. When I say yes to too many things, I can do none of them well. If I want to be effective, I have to choose my boundaries. You have to say no to most things (even good worthwhile things) in order to do those few things as best as you can. You have to say "no" to say "yes".

When do I say no? What do I say yes to? I think we should say yes to the things that bring us joy. Say yes to the things that feel most naturally "you".

I absolutely love the way the message translation talks about "spiritual gifts" or as I like to call them "glimpses of God". You can read a whole excerpt here, but I wanted to point out a few parts with my own twist from my own life. Instead of listing the spiritual gifts as they traditionally appear, I can't help but see it this way:

You have God's smile

You have God's eyes

You have God's heart

You have God's creativity

You have God's words

You have God's touch

We are all unique. We are all exactly who God has made us to be. Sometimes we get a little dusty, but our heart...God's right there.

I love this part in verse 13 "Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. (***Like "pastor's wife"***) We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less."

We are not labels. We are precious children of God who are given special parts of God to give to each other. The first thing we need to do is remember who we are. If you need to go away and spend an extended amount of time discovering this, DO IT. When you know who you are and who God made you to be, you will naturally show God's love.


The Lewis Family said...

I found you through your comment at SortaCrunchy and just had to read this. It's so true!! My hubby was YP for the first few years of our marriage, and it was difficult to set the boundaries. It's so easy to try, as you said, to be what we imagine or think we should be rather than who God created us to be. As we are starting a new journey in ministry, I am painfully aware that I'm probably not the "typical" pastor's wife, but after reading your post, I plan on being the me that God created. Thanks so much for your honesty!!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Well, I am so glad you finished this post, sister.

"I cannot be the best version of myself for these kids when I have no boundaries."

WOW. I needed to hear that on a topic that is totally unrelated to blogging or anything I've ever shared on the blog. Just WOW. Spoke right to my HEART.

I completely agree with what you are saying here, and it sounds like God is doing some incredible work in your heart as you walk on this path with Him. Thank you again for what you shared in the comments. You have no idea how that meant to me.

simplygrand said...

Lewis Family,

Thanks for stopping by and so glad God is showing you who you are :)

Your husband has recently moved on to Pastor a church? How different has that been for you guys?

simplygrand said...


Thank you for your words! I hope that God continues to give you rest. :)

Danny said...

I think, and I cannot speak directly to your experience because I am not in any form of youth ministry, that having a job that is not just a "job" (as most people would define it) the boundaries between the social life and the work life inevitably conflict.

I think it is also difficult because there are societal problems that surround even the most basic elements of ministry. Namely, people expect everything of you and yet refuse to pay you adequately for the service.

A fun game to play is to track the amount of time you spend at church per month and then divide it by the amount you make a month. I thought it was badfor me, so I can only imagine what it would be like for you and Wes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being honest. I quit being Sunday School Superintendent after 4 years due to burn out. I teach 3 times a week and have a sick elderly mother. The tough part for me is now the other teachers beg me to come back and seem to hold a grudge. I have to be true to myself and to God first. I can concentrate more fully on teaching the adult class, Junior Church, and directing the Wednesday children classes. The joy of the LOrd is my strength and of course prayer. My husband also wanted me to quit because it consumed me. I am letting go og the guilt of being human the way GOd created me.