For those who don’t know me my name is Chris Schaffner. I am the coordinator for The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014. I’ve been serving at the Shelter at both KidMin and SYMC for the last few years. It is truly the highlight of my year. I am married to a saint (because she puts up with me). Her name is Trudy. I have four ridiculously awesome and weird kids, Blake (19), Charley Grace (13), and the twins Claire and Chloe (9). We are a family that is unequally yoked (Cubs vs. Cardinals). We live in Central Illinois and have been involved in youth ministry for the better part of the last 15 years.
Professionally I am a certified addiction counselor and run a local drug court program for non-violent substance abuse sufferers. I got my start in counseling due to the feeling that I was ill-equipped to handle the onslaught of acute problems the kids in our ministries presented with. We would pray regularly that God would send us the kids none of the other churches wanted, and boy did He.
We quickly found ourselves neck deep in fringe kids who cut themselves, took drugs, were suicidal, threw up after every meal, and were victims of horrible trauma that no child should ever have to endure. We were desperately trying to stop the bleeding but most days it didn’t feel like we were making a dent in the suffering.
As you can guess, we soon became overwhelmed. We often took on their suffering as our own like all good Christians should and started to feel like maybe we were failing the kids. I became resentful at the students, their families, my families, God, and myself for the pain I was experiencing. By the end of my tenure at our church my soul was empty and I was done with ministry. A bad break up with our church of over ten years nailed the coffin lid shut. Spiritually bankrupt, I swore off church altogether.
God had other plans. As I went back to school to focus on my counseling one of the classes I took focused solely on compassion fatigue. I had heard that term many times before but this time it echoed inside of me. As we discussed signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue it dawned on me that I had been a victim of this very thing. God had brought me to a place of understanding and gave me the hope that this is a condition that could not only be treated but could also be prevented. I learned that I while I was so busy pouring myself out for the students in my ministry I never replenished that which I spent. This was basic economics, if you have more going out than you do coming in you will soon be bankrupt.
Soul care is a lifestyle that must be cultivated if we are to withstand the demands of ministry. The messier the ministry is the more important soul care is. Soul care doesn’t usually happen without intentional effort. I would not be in ministry unless someone hadn’t come alongside me and taught me the art of tending to my soul. An unintended consequence of soul care is that I became a better minister and counselor. This is why I serve in the Shelter. It is why I blog about soul care. It is why I long to share with others the transformative practices that have changed the way I live and breathe. It is why I hope that you find new ways to care for your soul.
May you find rest for your soul today.
Coordinator of The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference