Are You Overextended Or Just Busy?

Courtesy of Moyan_Brenn/Creative Commons License

I’ve begun to recognize that there are two seasons throughout the year where I am tired.  One is due to physical exhaustion, which takes place in the spring.  I’m tired from the grind of youth ministry, it’s been a long year and with summer approaching a much needed break is on the horizon.

The other season I feel tired is during the fall; however, it’s due to emotions.  I’ve just spent the summer planning and preparing.  My energy has been used up on hoping people show up, that programs run smoothly and that teens have a great time.  The stress is intense; but in the end it’s worth it.

If you’ve been in youth ministry long enough you know there will be seasons of busyness.  Some of those seasons will cause emotional, physical and even spiritual exhaustion.  It’s a period when you are tempted to give up and even move on.

Then there are those periods when you are exhausted because your are overextended.  If not addressed these are seasons that can lead to bigger issues.  The problem is not being able to recognize the difference to being busy versus overextended.  The way you know you are more than just busy is when you:

  • Take It Out On Others: You find yourself uncontrollably aggravated and short with the people around you.  Whether they are involved in a certain project or not doesn’t matter, what you give them they don’t deserve.  During a busy seasons you might be less patient; however, you are more cautious of your emotions.  You might cross a line; however, you can easily admit your wrongs to move forward.
  • Pick Up Bad Habits: During busy seasons your margin shrinks; however, when you overextend yourself you are more likely to fall on poor habits.  There is a need to be comforted and affirmed; however, your focus on God has been taken away.  To fill the holes and desires you will tend resort to your weaknesses.
  • Carry Bitterness: You start to resent your job, your coworkers and maybe even your position in life. You grow envious of others and you even fantasize about calling them out.  You wake up each day not looking forward to your ministry, feeling as if something better should appear.
  • Make Easy Mistakes: You can be busy and tired; yet, remain focused.  It’s something great athletes can do.  When you are overextended you are playing with fire and the chances of making costly mistakes are more likely.  Being overextended means not having the right people to delegate, or enough resources to pull something off.   

It’s okay to be busy in ministry, in fact it’s expected.  During those times you might be on edge a little and you might have less margin.  The difference between being busy and overextended is not recognizing the situation.

To guard against these situations be sure to mark the seasons as they pass.  As each year goes by see if they are consistent.  Keep a journal to record conversations and situations where you feel depleted.  When you do this you can better identify the difference between business and being depleted.

How do you measure the difference between business and being overextended?  Please comment.