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Staying Healthy in Youth Ministry Part 1: Run a Ministry that Fires Up Rather than Wears You Out!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A few weeks back I gave a seminar titled “Self care: keeping yourself healthy for long-term ministry.” One person came up to me and said, “I really wish I had heard that talk when I started out ten years ago.” With that in mind, I want to spend the next few posts on covering just that—how to stay healthy in youth ministry. I also want to answer a question I am often asked, “How have you been in youth ministry for so long?”

Do I merely have the supernatural gift of longevity … well, not really. But what I do have is some wisdom picked up from hitting the wall a few times and learning how either avoid it or how to go around it.

As we do this we are going to go through a few of the ‘rules of staying healthy’. Our first rule is simple: run a ministry that fires you up rather than wears you out.

Ministry is tiring; there is no way around that. However, there is a kind of tiredness that is a ‘joyous exhaustion’. This is where you can fall into your bed knowing that “tonight was a great night because some really great things happened.” Think about that really great retreat you organized where the group really clicked and a number of youth had their relationship with the Lord taken to a new level. This is the kind of joyous tiredness I am talking about. This is very different to the “did we even make a difference in this event we just ran?” type of weariness and to the “why don’t my volunteers seem to get it” exhaustion that we feel deep in our bones.

With this in mind, it is imperative that you are running that type of ministry that can keep you going even when the natural tiredness comes. Here are three tips to help you along:

  1. You need to be in charge of a ministry that operates with your gifting and abilities. I am not an administrator—never have been, never will be. Office stuff and long meetings wear me out. I like being with youth and running youth group gatherings. I also love small group Bible study. Too many of us rushed into a job without taking a long look at whether this job is a good fit or not. So, what are you good at? What type of ministry really gets you pumped up? If you are into discipleship but running a ministry committed to evangelism, you are going to find yourself quickly wearing out.

The wise word here is: if you want to stay energized, cut with your ministry grain rather than against it.

  1. You need to get to the stage where everything doesn’t depend on you. I came to that realization many years ago. The youth group I was running was working well and I discovered that I could take two to three weeks for my annual vacation. I had a team of leaders that worked well and a group of core youth who loved the program and could run it without me.

So, if you want to be like the energizer bunny, build up your leaders, and build up your core youth.

  1. Think about the practical aspects of your week: the when, what and where. Staying healthy may simply be a matter of knowing what to do and when to do it. Many of you will know my dislike for Friday evening youth group. I have seen that this program tires most leaders out rather than builds them up. In addition to this, I need to be careful of early morning prayer meetings. There will always be someone telling you that “Jesus got up early to pray”! (I had a youth leader who was adamant that we pray every other Friday at 5:00 am. I tried my best to hang in there but after three meetings I’d had enough—it simply took too great a toll.) If you are an early morning prayer type person- more power to ya. If not, don’t sweat it, God is satisfied with us praying at a later time.

You may also want to think about how much driving you do. In many different settings, youth leaders find themselves spending hours in traffic or on the road. I have found this to be an energy zapper. Think about saying “no” to those meetings that aren’t all that necessary and a long distance away. Or, learn to take the bus where you can catch up on emails at the same time.

Bottom line is: stay sharp by thinking smart.

Well, that is our first rule of staying healthy in youth ministry. Next time we will look at rule #2: be careful of workaholic bosses!

- Julie Moser


Sharing Life with Youth Kids

Friday, September 20, 2013

One thing I am passionate about in youth ministry is that leaders are willing to do life with the young people they are responsible for. Whether in a paid or voluntary position, there is something quite Christlike about leaders making time for their sheep - and I’m not talking about making sure you make it to bible study on time.

When was the last time the students you work with saw you ‘do’ everyday life? Sure they see you being a leader, running events, teaching the bible, but do they see you being respectful and polite when waiting in line at the shops? Do they see you driving safely and patiently? Do they see you putting others before yourself in public? Do they see you in social settings? If not, you run the risk of portraying to them that following Jesus is a Church only activity. Or at least that getting the church bits right is the most important aspect of Christianity. Where will a young person learn how to live as a Jesus follower through the ups and downs of life if they never see how their most influential mentors do it?

This doesn’t just make good logic, there is biblical precedent. Paul famously urges his flock in Corinth to imitate him as he imitates Christ. He doesn’t make this claim to exert his apostolic authority, he is teaching leadership lessons as well, and if we are doing all things for the glory of God in every aspect of our lives as Paul instructs a few verses earlier, we want our students to put that into practice in their own lives. However they cannot imitate us if they do not see us.

So, be intentional about providing opportunities for your kids to see you living like Jesus. It isn’t a call to be perfect, they will benefit from seeing how you repent after being rude to the guy at the petrol station or speeding to get to church on time - you may even get a Godly rebuke from a 14 year old! Lets be real with the young people we are discipling, be willing to let them see our lives warts and all that they may benefit from our successes and learn from our failures.

-Tim Scoular

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