This weekend was the weekend we welcome the incoming seventh graders to the youth group. Saturday afternoon was spent with small group leaders and teenagers playing field games while their parents were in a few informational meetings. At the end of the afternoon, students split up with their small group leaders to go hang out for the evening. As always, it was an awesome time.
I left the event as I always do: energized, invigorated, hopeful, excited. … Welcoming these fresh faces into our youth ministry recharges my batteries and gets me excited for the new school year.
But it also reminded me how worn out I can get over the course of a school year. I know other youth workers can relate. And so I found myself thinking about what we can all do to keep our spiritual and relational energy up as the year progresses.
Here are a few thoughts I came up with (when you get to the end, maybe add your own in the comment section):
Fill your bucket
I have a favorite phrase that describes the role of personal spiritual growth in the lives of youth workers: “We teach out of the overflow of what God is doing in our lives.” Imagine yourself as a bucket. When you’re growing closer to God through prayer and engaging with God in the Bible, your bucket gets filled. You lead teenagers by dipping into this bucket and pouring out what God is already doing in you. If you aren’t keeping your bucket full, you’ll find that one day you don’t have anything to pour out. This is when ministry becomes drudgery. You get burned out. You lose your joy. It can be prevented if you stay connected to God in your own personal life.
Relationships are fuel
Sometimes we forget the “who” of youth ministry and instead focus on the “how.” This leads to spiritual exhaustion. We get lost in the process, or the programs, or merely the demands of youth ministry, and we forget that what we do is all about people. If we want to keep our spiritual and emotional energy high, we have to remember to focus on people.
The great 20th century American philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same is true with youth ministry. It moves fast. If we’re not careful, we can forget to celebrate the wins in our ministry and in the individual lives of students. If you want to stay energized, stop and celebrate the wins. Note them. Make a point to draw the attention of your students and team to them. Victories, no matter how small, will help keep you going.
Simply put, nothing leads to spiritual, physical, and emotional drain faster than trying to do it all by yourself. Period. If you have a team, lean on them. If you don’t have a team, build one. Do whatever it takes to move forward, locking arms with others.
Keep your calling in front of you
Want to keep yourself energized for the task ahead? Don’t ever forget exactly what that task is. Remember, you’re not just a Sunday School teacher. Or a small group leader. Or your church’s minister to students. God has a job to do and He chose you as the means by which to accomplish it. You are part of God’s plan to draw a generation to Himself. Don’t forget that.
So these are my thoughts for making sure we stay spiritually and emotionally charged during the long-haul of our ministry year.
What did I miss? What would you add?