So far, we’ve looked at two healthy habits each youth pastor should have: taking enough rest and eating well. While both seem to be purely physical, they will have a great impact on your mental well being. With the third healthy habit it’s the other way around: it’s a mental habit, but one that will impact your physical health as well. I’m talking about taking care of your spiritual health.
So what does keeping your spiritual health up look like? I don’t like the concept of rules when it comes to spiritual health, because it’s about working on your relationship with God, not some checklist you can cross off. But I think it’s safe to approach it from a definition of what being spiritual healthy looks like:
having an honest, open and continuous relationship with God, which you work on on a daily basis.
What ‘working on your relationship with God’ looks like, is up to you then. It might be Bible study or meditating on a verse, it might be prayer walks or meeting God in nature, it might be serving or solitude. It’s not about specific acts, it’s about experiencing God’s presence in your life and about constantly trying to become more Christ-like.
Fake it till you make it
As youth pastor, your spiritual health is of crucial importance. Yet the reality is that we’re only human and many of us struggle in our relationship with God. We’re so busy trying to get other people to connect with God, that our own connection suffers.
But our spiritual health is a topic that’s hard to address. Because whom do we talk to when we know our spiritual health is in trouble? Is there a safe place for us to talk about our spiritual struggles without being afraid of looking ‘weak’, being labeled ‘unfit to lead’ or even lose our job? It’s the downside of working in a church or Christian organization, where your spiritual health has become somewhat of a ‘critical success factor’. We fake it, because we dare not show what’s really happening inside us.
But faking will only get you so far. In Holland we have a saying: no matter how fast the lie, the truth is always faster. ‘Fake it till you make it’ may go a long way in some businesses, but not in youth ministry. So stop faking and fix your spiritual health if necessary.
Fixing your spiritual health
But what to do when we’re so busy we don’t know where to find the time? What to do when we know we’re faking it? What to do when we know we’re in trouble spiritually, but our church isn’t a safe place? Here’s what I would advise:
- Start with acknowledging the truth to yourself and to God. There’s a reason Jesus said that the truth will set us free, He wasn’t just referring to Himself. Just tell God what’s happing in your life and in your relationship with Him.
- Find one person you can confide in and share your story with. It may be your spouse, a friend or another (youth) pastor.
- If your church isn’t a safe place to discuss your struggles, find someone outside your church you can talk to. I’ve had great talks with youth pastors from other churches, in person or via Skype. Just reach out and find someone. Being in a youth ministry network can be of great help here.
- Show yourself some grace and give yourself room for mistakes. Struggling, doubting, even failing is okay. You’re human, you’re not perfect and you’re allowed to make mistakes. It doesn’t disqualify you as youth pastor! Forgive yourself, it’s important.
- Don’t try to change all your spiritual habits at once and don’t set the bar too high. If your issue is prayer for instance, don’t try and start praying for an hour each day at 5.00 in the morning. Pick a good spiritual habit that will fit your schedule and build it up till it has really become a habit.
- Be creative and think outside the box. Most of us are extremely busy, so try to come up with ways to incorporate spiritual habits into your schedule. Sing along with a worship cd in the car, pray during your commute, listen to an audio Bible while exercising.
- In my experience, working on my spiritual health is about small stuff more than big things. A minute of silent prayer before I eat to really connect with God. Leaving for an event 15 minutes earlier so I can pray in my car in the parking lot. Praying a short prayer for someone before I send him or her an email. Taping a new Bible verse to my screen each day so I can look at it all day. Think of small things that you could do to help you connect with God throughout the day (I’ve also listen some resources below this post).
If you are struggling with your spiritual health, what are you going to do today to start fixing this? Know that God is waiting for you with open arms, ready to forgive you, welcome you back and help you!
There are two books I want to mention that could help you improve your spiritual health. The first is Doug Fields’ Refuel: An Uncomplicated Guide to Connecting with God which offers very practical advice on connecting with God on a daily basis. Another book that will give you some creative ideas to keep Jesus at the center of your life is Rick Lawerence’s 99 Thoughts on Jesus-Centered Living (I’ve written a review of this book).