You’ve survived another year of youth ministry. (You didn’t resign after that junior high retreat, the one you are trying to repress the memories.) But something has happened in you. You are doing a great job at keeping an upbeat pace in the ministry, trying to build leaders, and also keeping biblical purposes on the forward thinking part of your brain. You have delivered great talks to students, but something in you is feeling drained. Emotionally you’re okay and physically you’ve gained a few pounds due to the late night pizza and Coca Cola runs, but spiritually you feel stuck.
Youth ministry can have a draining affect on our walk with God. We are placed on a pedestal by students and adults. We spend the majority of our time steering students and volunteers towards a deeper walk with Christ. But in the middle of all that, even though we don’t intend to forget our own relationship with Christ, many of us just run out of time for it.
I wonder what this looks like from God’s perspective. Busy bees flying around? Herding squirrels? Or I wonder if it looks more disturbing. I wonder if in the very heart of our Maker, there is a sense of remorse that the very men and women He has called have forgotten the stirring in their own hearts. If we are called into youth ministry, our hearts have been shaped and molded by God through faith in Christ to live this calling. If we neglect the relationship that molds us, how will we ever keeping moving others forward?
Trust me—I am not one of those guys who says you have to have a certain amount of time reading, praying, and meditating each day. My relationship with Christ changes and has varied over the last nine years of my faith journey in Christ. But one thing is for sure, my relationship is a priority.
Let me share with you some foundational principles to stay strong personally in ministry that have helped me.
Personal Prayer Time
We can spend so much time praying for students, leaders, and the church that we sometimes never let our own heart just commune with God. We need to have the ability to get away and just talk, vent, share, and listen with our entire being to Christ. So much of us is constantly being given to others that we need to allow time for our hearts to be refreshed. I often turn to John 17:6-26 and allow myself to recite Jesus’ prayer for myself. Looking at the heart of Jesus, I feel encouraged that life and ministry will not be easy, but aligning myself with God’s heart for my life as a follower of Christ does help me put things in perspective.
I view this as a personal conversation with you on the wonders of God. Allow your mind and voice to verbalize some of the “power of God” thoughts you have had lately. Look back on a journal entry if you journal. Review an area of Scripture that made you pause and wonder deeper on what you were reading. Verbalize what God is doing in you. If you really want to try something different, record your voice and listen to yourself ponder on the thoughts of God.
In almost nine years of ministry, I have never had someone model being a healthy youth pastor. I have tried seeking out several people, but it never matched up. What have I done to resolve this? I have done three things.
- I have aligned myself with books by people who share my same heartbeat for ministry. To me, they are paper mentors.
- I listen closely to others in ministry who have proven themselves, and learn from their sharing. In the world of iTunes, it is so easy. I have a couple podcasts from pastors who I listen to because I value their heart and desire for the movement of Jesus Christ. I allow myself to be refreshed by them weekly.
- I have personal knee time. I have several people in my life who I choose to spend personal time with. I ask them key questions about life, marriage, family, struggles, politics, coffee flavors, fantasy football, and much more. We spend knee time together where we sit knee to knee and share life. I allow their lives to be a model for me and I want them to challenge me on what they see in my life that is not healthy. Having a mentor(s) is incredible and is a necessity to continue pursuing a life that glorifies Jesus Christ.
I truly believe the hard part of ministry in the first couple years is keeping our hearts fresh and really focused on Christ. So much can distract and take away from “doing” youth ministry. But “being” a youth pastor does not remove the fact that we are still a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost. Because your relationship with Christ is critical not only to your effectiveness but also to how you model being a follower Christ while you are a youth pastor, take that seriously.