The Life Of A Youth Worker Is Not Easy
The life of a youth leader is not easy.
This call carries a lot of responsibility and pressure. Many people: parents, students, church members, pastors, co-workers look to you to have all the answers or “save their child”. The best way to help a youth pastor is to help people understand that the nurture of a child or youth is not the sole responsibility of a youth leader. A youth leaders job is not to “save” a child. It is the collective work of parents, guardians, families, church member, and pastor, teachers, communities to nurture the life of a child.
Most of the time, churches and parents can forget this and it can cause a lot of pressure and drainage for the leader. The youth leader can begin to stop thinking of actual ministry and start creating activities and events to keep kids busy and to appease parents and congregations. Sometimes they can miss those moments of relationship because they are so busy planning. Planning lock ins. Planning mission trips. Planning games for Friday night. Don’t get me wrong all these things are good and help youth ministries. But, the main goal of a youth ministry should be relationship. Their relationship with God and relationship with the world around them. If leaders are burned out and empty it is easy to lose sight of that goal. It becomes much easier to just “get it done”.
So how can churches help youth leader lead successful, healthy lives? How can youth leaders help themselves to live more successful, healthy lives?
Let me suggest giving them time and space to reflect, pause, listen, and live.
Reflection is a way to assess what has happened. It is also a way to think about God’s blessings so that we are reminded that we are not alone of this journey and that God does have a plan for us. I have found time of reflection to be life giving especially when I feel like nothing is going right or will ever go right. I am reminded of times when God showed me a better way or a clearer way or simply just “a way”.
Taking pause is important because we can get caught up in the cycle of “busy”. We can go, go, go without taking a moment to just be still. Jesus was all about being still. Going up to a mountain. Traveling “to the other side”. I believe Jesus was all about naps!
God has something to say and the leader needs to be in a place to listen. This goes hand in hand with pause. If there is so much noise that the leader can’t think straight they will not be able to follow through. There needs to be space for the youth leader to get out of the youth room. Get away from the teens and find a spot where the only voice that is heard is that of the Holy Spirit. I understand some people will find this difficult, but I promise, it is necessary. Too much chatter can cloud your mind and heart. If the leader is clear of chatter then they are clear to make wise decisions.
Contrary to popular belief among teens…youth leaders have lives too! I am especially sensitive about this when it comes to leaders who are single or have no children. Just because they may be single or have no children doesn’t mean all their time can be a the church. Allow them (or yourself) to live, explore, and enjoy life. You will have a much happier leader on your hands. And, as a youth leader, you will be a much happier worker. Not only will you be happier, but you will have something to share with the students. Some of my best stories, analogies, and revelations have come when I have a had a chance to experience something or someone outside the church walls. There’s a world out there…go explore!
There must be time and space for youth leaders, all leaders to pause, reflect, and listen to what God is doing in and around us. Leaders can practice spiritual disciplines such as silence, solitude. Take a personal retreat to reconnect with God. Keeping a Sabbath day is important , necessary, and Biblical. There must be time to replenish what has been drain. And time to restore what has been emptied. If this process of replenishing and restoration doesn’t happen, burn out is inevitable. When burn out happens it is not pretty. It is not easy to recover from.
Replenishing the Soul
Everything has a rhythm…seasons, music, life, water. Everything has a flow that God has put in place. So, don’t you think God placed the same change and flow of seasons in us. There is a rhythm to our lives. There is a beat to our days. And when we are off beat, off balance we tip. We get poured out in some way. And the problem is most of the time we don’t recognize it so we continue to empty without a replenishing of our souls. I learned the hard way what kind of toll not listening to the rhythm plays in your life.
A few years ago, I realized how empty I was. I felt it in my soul. I had become out of tune and off balance. It hit me that I hadn’t had the space to listen for God. So, I asked for some Sabbath time away from work. In the quiet and stillness of a small retreat room, I heard God again. I felt God again. And I realized it had been so long since I had been in that place. I had been pretending, running on fumes.
After that moment, I began to slowly fill up again. I found, in scriptures, the strength to get to the heart of what God was trying to tell me. And my life began to take a different turn. I admit that I am still in the process of replenishing but now I know the signs and I know the remedy. I know that replenishing is about stopping, praying, shutting up and listening, and being honest about where you are so that God can begin to fill those spaces that are empty.
When a church and pastor pray for a youth leader and allow this time they are not just saying how much they value the leader, they are showing it. When a youth leader takes time to do these things that are not just doing the job, they are taking seriously the call. No, this call is not easy. But, with the support of leadership, prayers of people around a youth leader, a dedicated heart of a youth leader, and the help of the Holy Spirit it can be strong, healthy, and God led.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.