Thanks to Josh for letting me guest blog on MTDB. I had to have him stare at a picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “These are not the droids you are looking for” to convince him. And it worked.
This can be a difficult time of year in youth ministry, especially for us northerners. Discouragement runs rampant like gossip among cheerleaders. And we question whether we’re in the right place. Pizza delivery jobs look attractive – and definitely less stressful. The reality is that youth ministry has a devious way of pressing us to the point where we feel frayed and spent — and we just want someone to clean up the mess in aisle ‘us’.
I want to say one thing: Stay Encouraged. What you do in youth ministry is important. I get to see the results of your work – and it matters. So, hang in there.
In my work with leaders, I’ve noticed five practices that help cure the ministry blahs. They aren’t anything you probably haven’t considered before, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. So, here’s my prescription to cure the ministry blahs. And, hey, I am a doctor.
1. Take your temperature: Watch your reactions – especially when things don’t go your way. Do you get angry? Fearful/insecure? Depressed? Lonely? These emotions are the canaries in the cave to let you know something’s wrong ahead. Anger is most common and, unfortunately, most of us are unaware of how we respond to others. Pay attention to how you react and learn why you feel that way. Those feelings could be telling you something.
2. Develop a non-digital hobby — this one may seem weird, but it’s one of my new recommendations to leaders. And it helps. Most healthy leaders I see have a hobby where they work with their hands or get outdoors. It can be fishing, sailing, gardening, biking, golf, tennis, woodworking, bird watching, weight lifting – or even dodgeball. I’ve seen dramatic changes among hard-driving pastors — changes that their staff and family appreciate. And, no, scrap-booking doesn’t count.
3. Get away on a non-digital retreat – as I blogged a few weeks ago, the social media world draws us in and demands more and more. It’s never done. Take a two-day retreat from all of your screens and from consumerism’s “discontentedness”. Create some margins in your life — get acquainted with a good book, your spouse, and the outdoors.
4. Renew your first love — Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day (and I hope you’ve done well to celebrate). I’ve discovered that I need to renew my love for Jesus — to remind myself of what he’s done in my life and of his call on my life. When I’m in the blah’s, I’ve often forgotten the “to serve” element of youth ministry (Mark 10:35-45) and made it about me. So, I’ll do whatever it takes to renew my relationship with Christ and quit being so self-focused.
5. Take intentional ministry steps. Pick five students you don’t know well to invest in for the remainder of the school year. It’s easy to figure out how to coast until the end of the school year and just manage. However, developing an intentional and relationally intensive ministry to five new teens will remind us of why we entered youth ministry in the first place — to personally make a difference in the life of youth. Some of my greatest youth ministry ‘successes’ with students came during these February/March efforts.
If you tried any of these (and they helped), I’d love to hear about it. You can let me know at terrylinhart.com. And stay encouraged. What you do in youth ministry matters!
Terry Linhart is co-editor of the forthcoming book, GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY, and author of the popular TALKSHEETS: LIFE OF CHRIST series.