I have had the privilege of seeing God working in the lives of the youth at Central UMC. There has hardly been a moment where I haven’t been impressed with the energy and passion some of them bring to their relationship with God and the church. I was having a conversation with someone who brought up that someone was hoping that two of these youth, who are doing amazing things in leadership, don’t get burnt out.
I understand where the person with the concern is coming from. That individual sees these two and all the things that they are doing (leading a small group, leading/planning a worship service, serving on ad council, and going to Liberia) and fears that they may be doing too much and will get burnt out. I get it, but I disagree.
Is it probably at times overwhelming for the two of them: yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will get burnt out. You want to know why I believe they won’t? (well too bad I am going to tell you anyway) For the most part the activities they are involved in our life-giving. What I mean by this is that most of the activities that they are committing their time and energy to are activities that are helping them grow closer to God and helping others grow closer to God. I honestly see more energy in them now that they are involved in these activities then I saw in them just one year ago when these life-giving activities were not available.
All this got me thinking about clergy burnout and ministry burnout. Personally, I can tell you that I can understand why clergy get burnt out. You want to know why? (I know, why do I keep asking this if I am just going to tell you anyway…work with my rhetorical style) I believe for the most part the life of the church has been taken over by life-draining activities. Outside of Sunday worship more often then not the majority of the life of the church is contained in “committee” meetings where we talk and talk and talk about everything but God and our relationship with God. Is this the case in every church? No. But in my limited years of service it has been the norm for many of the churches I have seen and it has been the case for the churches I have served.
Instead of freeing people up to spend time together entering into the Story of God and into one another’s lives in real, authentic, and deep ways, we hope they get to know one another while doing the “business” of the church.
But I think amazing things will happen if we live into the other reality. I know committee meetings are necessary, but what if they became secondary to regular small group gatherings? What if the regularly scheduled activities were times set apart for people to gather and pray, read Scripture, and hear how their fellow brother and sister are doing in life and offer support? What if committee meetings only came up as necessary? Would our clergy be changed? Would the time and energy devoted to meetings that was now free open up the possibilities of investing in spiritual leaders and mentoring the leaders of the congregation by having meals and prayer time together? Would the life of the Holy Spirit be opened and let loose on congregations?
I think it would and I believe I am seeing it in the life of these two youth. They are a model for the rest of the church to follow. They have devoted their time to “life-giving” events that connect them with God in deep and transforming ways and they challenge the larger church here by their example. I just hope we see it and follow.