This is the third in a series of blog posts titled The Emotionally Healthy Youth Worker by veteran youth worker and therapist Jason Wilkinson. Click the link to find the first and second postings.

As a youth worker, you receive a whole lot of messages that could be painful. They come from congregation members, students, parents, volunteers, and fellow pastors. All of these messages can send you into a long-lasting funk, but they don’t have to. The work of therapists Dr. Terry Hargrave and Sharon Hargrave, and the Relate Strong material, provide us the steps to find that place of peace. With it, we can remove ourselves from the funk of the pain cycle and enter into the flow of the peace cycle. Here are three steps to help you do it:

Step #1: Find What is True: Let’s say the painful message you receive about yourself from post #2 is one of failure. It is possible that you have failed in a task or challenge, but are you, as a human being, a failure?

Some hard reflection will likely come to the conclusion that no one is a complete failure, including yourself. If you are not a failure, what is the true message about who you are? How do you find what is true about you?

Consider the messages you receive about yourself from your best moments? What feedback have your gotten from others? What does God have to say about who you are?

Go back to the previous blog post and look at your pain cycle. Ask yourself if the message you receive from that pain is true. If you feel alone, is it true that you are completely alone, or is there even just one person you can rely on? If you feel unloved, is it true that you are completely unloved? Find what is actually true about your pain. Then say the truth out loud. Then say it again. Now…say it one more time.

Step #2: Know Why it is True: The next step is to know why this is true. There are a number of different ways to accomplish this. For example, if you feel unloved, but the truth is that you are loved, you might know this is true because your family loves you, your spouse, your kids, a friend, a dog (Not cats. Cats don’t have hearts. It’s science!), and/or a God who loves you. This is how you know it is true that you are loved.

Now, reflect upon what is true about you. How do you know what is true about you? Let that message sink into the depths of your soul. Meditate upon that for a minute or two.

Step #3: The “Now What?”: Hypothetically, if I feel like a failure and tend to cope by withdrawing from people, but the truth is that I am good enough or measure up because God created and loves me, what do I want to do now?

My coping behavior of withdrawing takes me away from what I really desire and need. In this step, I can intentionally choose to spend time with my those that I enjoy, love, and respect, rather than reactively withdraw.

So, rather than react with your coping behavior that you discovered in the pain cycle, what do you want to do in light of what is true about you?

Spend time this week getting to know what is true about you and how you want to act in light of it. Next, we’ll everything together and provide a technique that will help you to get to a healthier place emotionally so you can be the best pastor you can be to lead students.

Jason Wilkinson lives with his wife and two kids in Portland, Oregon. After 18+ years of leading in various student ministry roles, Jason recently transitioned into the profession of mental health therapy where he runs Wellspace Counseling, a private counseling practice in Tualatin. You can read more about Jason at or contact him at [email protected].