I think I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when the realization hit me that we may not be having youth service “as usual” for a while. I bet you know where you were. Like many, I went into planning mode. I was overwhelmed, thinking, “what can we do, what should we do, and how long will this last?”
You all have been doing so much during this time for your students, families, and churches. You are heroes. And because of your efforts, many have been equipped and encouraged during a difficult time.
For a couple of weeks, many of us have been running on pure adrenaline. We’ve been in meetings, have curated new online experiences, messages, games, social media posts, zoom and google small group hangs, and all the while trying to care for our own families and ourselves.
Solid plans and strategies have been laid out, and we are falling into a new quarantined rhythm (I hope). With all that is happening around us, I believe there is another exciting and transformational opportunity on the horizon. The possibility of allowing our lives and our souls to slow down and, at times, be still.
My hope for all of us, is that we would remember to keep our own souls well by realizing this unique moment is not just an opportunity for innovation, but an invitation to greater intimacy with Jesus.
Four years ago, I burnt out. I was running at full speed for a very long time and very rarely took time to look back or to look at what was right in front of me. I was always pushing towards what could be in ministry, and often I missed what was. That kind of speed and hurry eventually caught up with me. It wasn’t until I was forced to slow down and even stop, that I was able to see God more clearly and see myself more honestly.
In times like the one we are currently in, I believe we have an incredible opportunity to let our souls speak. To evaluate what we are feeling and how we are doing. To examine our souls (what’s happening in us) with everything that is happening around us.
We need to allow what we have been pressing down inside of us to come up to the surface. To make room for Jesus to do a deepening and healing work in us. If the most significant thing we can bring to the people in our lives is our relationship with Jesus, then let’s use this time for precisely that.
What lies before us at this time are two great opportunities. 1) Youth Ministry innovation and 2) Heart and soul renovation – time to grow and rekindle the relationship with our First Love. And not in that order, of course.
If we can prioritize these days with a focus on time with Jesus, we will provide for our students what they really need – spiritually healthy youth ministers.
Here’s what I learned from my burnout. A healthy and growing ministry does not always evidence a healthy and growing soul in the one who leads that ministry (I am not saying this is true of you, just that we should examine ourselves). Let us lead well during this time. Let us lead and blaze new ways to be innovative. Let us create novel ways to connect and engage. And above all, let us pull away as often as we can, as Jesus did, so we can go deeper in our relationship with God and lead others to do the same.
This occasion is uncertain, awkward, and uncomfortable for all of us. A time where we are being pushed and pressed. But these are usually just the ingredients God brings change from – Relational and innovational. Pain and discomfort are not always ideal, but they are still needed for growth.
James is the Youth & Family Pastor at Kingdom Church in Morgantown, WV. He has over 20 years of Student Ministry experience and is a Youth Ministry “Lifer.” He adores His wife and is a dad to 2 boys. He enjoys playing golf with his two sons and anyone who is willing to ride in a golf cart with him.