Pace yourself in ministry to avoid burnout [Time Out]

Topic / Time Out

Time Out quiet times for the youth worker's soulTime Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.

Over the next year, on the first Monday of the month, we’re going to be running a series within Time Out called, “Life Lessons,” by Jerry Schmoyer (Tim’s dad). Here’s a note from Jerry:

As I approach retirement age and look back on a lifetime of ministry I realize there are some important principles I have learned. I’d like to share some of these with you. I’m sure God is teaching you these same truths and I hope that explaining them from my perspective can benefit you and your ministry.

I enjoy running and have been running regularly since my early teens. I don’t go as fast as I did but I can still go as far, it just takes longer. I don’t mind, though, for running for me is about getting there, not about getting there fast. I’ve learned the same thing is true in life as well. As I approach my retirement years and look back on my life of ministry I better appreciate that life is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to pace ones’ self.

The statistic that only 1 in 10 of those who enter ministry when young will retire from ministry is staggering. Many factors contribute to this, but lack of setting a proper pace often contributes in a great way. The ministry is about quality, not quantity. I know that’s hard to practice when starting out with everyone watching and evaluating you by what you produce. Just remember God uses an entirely different yard stick to measure you by than most of those in your church.

When the apostle John was asked how he justified a hobby of raising pigeons when there was so much that needed to be done for the kingdom, it is said that he got his bow and pointed out that, in order to be effective when needed, it couldn’t be tightly strung at all times. A similar illustration goes back to whaling days. The harpooner whose job it was to spear the whale was not allowed to join in the rowing which got the boat in position. He has to be rested and prepared for the important work entrusted to him. Those of us in ministry, too, must pace ourselves so we are sharp and ready for key events in life.

That doesn’t mean we are to be lazy or avoid hard work, but it does mean we are to pace ourselves so we can finish the marathon, not burn out before the end. We must be a good steward of the time, energy and opportunities God gives us. Even Jesus often said no to good things in order to be able to do the best. He paced Himself, despite only having a little over 3 years to accomplish all that needed doing. Those in ministry today are often admired for their business, as if that means they are important and productive in what will count in eternity.

Anyone can be too busy and there will be times when it is unavoidable, but as a typical life style it is not what God wants. He gives us 24 hours in a day so we know He won’t give us 25 hours worth of work to do. If we have more to do than time to do it we are doing things He hasn’t given us. He wants us to include play, fun, relaxation and enjoyment as well. God has created a beautiful world full of colors, sounds, smells and tastes for us to enjoy. Are you doing so?

I’m nearing retirement age, but I don’t ever want to stop ministering. Age and health may require I down shift into a slower gear, but then I hope to focus on what I can do best and enjoy doing most in ministry. I don’t ever want to stop. Quality wise my most productive days are coming. I just need to pace myself properly.

The tortoise and the hare tale has always been one of my favorite stories and has shaped my life philosophy. There’s a lot of wisdom in it – consistency in a pace we can maintain over the long hall is the only way to complete the course. Run with perseverance as the goal, not speed!


  • Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
  • Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…”


  • If you keep going at the pace you are currently going at, will you last until retirement? What changes should you make?
  • How do you determine a proper balance between work and relaxation? Is your life balanced? What does your mate or best friend say?

Jerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 14 years. Yes, he’s also Tim’s dad.

Posted on August 1, 2011

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99