I overly focus on my ministry and personal goals, which means I don’t focus enough time on my private life. In other words, my priorities tend to always be jacked up. I just keep going, going, going, going and going…without stopping to rest or refuel. I wrote about how I am trying to find a slowmo life here.
I love ministry.
I love the adrenaline.
I love loving on people.
So it is very easy for me to get sucked into the ministry vortex without reconnecting with Jesus, my family and myself.
My guess is that most busy youth ministry leaders struggle with finding and scheduling “time” to have a fun, recharging private life. This “DO ministry” and “GO, GO, GO” mentality is just reality for most youth pastors. No need to feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty or convicted. It is just normal. Most youth pastors prefer the active ministry life over the reflective and slow-paced private life.
I have had philosophers (Aristotle, Seneca, Epictetus), Christian leaders (Henri Nowuen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Craig Groeschel and Dallas Willard), mentors and youth ministry professors tell me over and over to be intentional in making time for my private life. It is one thing to know it, but it is an entirely different thing to keep doing it.
So the intent behind this post is to give you a reminder (or a swift kick in the buttox) on how to renovate the heart, soul and mind.
So here are a few reminders on how to have a great private life:
Your spouse and family are your primary ministry, they need you. Time belongs to you! You are responsible for your time—you always have a choice. You always have the option to leave or say no. No one will ever make you do anything. If your paycheck or the need to please others or a need to be needed controls you—that is adolescent behavior. Work hard and keep your priority and boundaries. Your marriage needs other married people in your life. Remember ministry is your job. Life is a gift, it is adventure! Life is awesome! Make sure you stop and smell the roses! Life is supposed to be fun!
If you are a single youth pastor—you will be the most taken of advantage person in the church. Draw boundaries. And don’t let others guilt you into the notion that you have a lot of time to give to the ministry since you aren’t married and don’t have kids. That is a lie.
Community (koine) is getting a small group of trusted people around you to speak truth into your life. In order to be a person of integrity, you need others calling you out when you are lying and pretending. Everyone pretends, everyone hides. You have to find relationships where you can be brutally honest. You need a place where you can share your dirt and really be you.
Plus you need to learn how to be the people of God before you do the work of God. You’ve got to figure out how to combine friendship and ministry. You need a friend that you can laugh with and just be silly with, or else your ministry job will rob you of your joy and laughter. Give your life to the FEW people you trust.
You at least need one person that speaks truth in your life and someone you are speaking truth into their life. Mentorship doesn’t have to be this professional or official thing. Sometimes we over-dramatize the mentorship role. You simply get a mentor by grabbing a cup of coffee and asking questions about their life. You look for mentors by looking for people who you want to be like. Find mentors who have a great private life and have great boundaries. These people are the people you want to surround yourself with Bottom line: You need someone ahead of you.
There will be a time where you need to get counseling—especially if you are in your 20s, people have wronged you in ministry, or you are getting married or your marriage needs a refine tuning. Do not be afraid of counseling. Counseling doesn’t mean you hit rock bottom. I spent five years in counseling and it was the best and hardest five years of my life. Counseling not only keeps you humble and honest, it makes you extremely self-aware. If you can…get a Christian licensed therapist. If not, find a licensed professional. Many times when you hit crisis in your personal or ministry life, it is important to see someone who understands pastoral issues and dynamics.
Never confuse personal worship with ministry preparation. It is not a spiritual discipline when you write and prepare talks. Hebrews 3:1 and 12:2 remind ministers to fix their thoughts and eyes on Jesus. Get to know Jesus. Ministry flows out of our relationship with Jesus. God has given His chosen leaders to lead with His power (Acts 1.9). Youth pastors need to intentionally carve time out so they can spend a lot of time with Jesus so He can empower us to do the work of the ministry. Take quarterly retreats just to be. Jesus is your senior pastor.
The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.
Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. You will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Silence also brings Sabbath to you. It completes solitude, for without it you cannot be alone. Far from being a mere absence, silence allows the reality of God to stand in the midst of your life. God does not ordinarily compete for our attention. In silence we come to attend.
Personal growth and fulfillment
Be a student! Read and learn. Find a hobby. Set a time once a week for your personal time. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t do it.
Design a private life that is full of family and friendship, simplicity, solitude, and of course enjoy great food and movies.
How have you designed your private life as a busy, anxiety-driven and super stressed youth pastor?