At the end of December 2022, I packed up my apartment in Upstate New York and moved myself, my golden retriever, and my three parakeets to Northern Pennsylvania. I went from a ministry position as a youth and worship pastor to a similar position, only as a children’s and youth pastor. Having been at my former church for a few years, I knew the rhythm and heartbeat of the building, the programs, the services, the extra activities we hosted. Now, I more often than not feel like a stranger. I’m still learning names and getting to know the routine of my new church family. I’m still getting used to my new office and the way the front entrance creaks when someone walks through the doors. The house I’m living in doesn’t really feel like home yet. From time to time I’ll still wake up in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn not knowing where I am for the first few moments of consciousness. In the new, different and change of this season, I’ve found myself pretty distracted, leaving little to no energy at the end of the day for healthy habits. Honestly, I’ve found myself overwhelmingly hollowed out as I try to keep up with several jobs and hours of binging tv shows and social media in hopes to recharge just enough for the next day’s work. I hadn’t been in this rhythm long before The Lord gently got my attention and asked, “Mason, is this working?”. And the answer was “Nope. Not at all”.

The point of all this is to encourage you as parents, as youth workers, as pastors, as co-laborers in Christ, to critically think about whatever is hollowing you out in this season and what’s been done to recharge. Things like gym time, healthy eating, reading a  book, playing board games, watching movies all touch on caring for different aspects of our life, but I wonder how different things would be if we include and prioritize our spiritual health in our self-care time. I wonder if the tiredness that’s easily felt, the frustrations we have, the discouragement we receive, the heartache we endure comes from a disconnect of what should be prioritized in our self-care time and what is actually prioritized.

When looking at the example Jesus models, ‘self-care’ looks very different from what most would consider doing now. It looked like tears of frustration and fear in the Garden of Gethsemane. It looked like long periods of fasting and prayer in the desert. It looked like retreating with close friends in the midst of the crazy. It looked like being present with The Father one on one, with no walls or barriers – just sheer vulnerability and transparency, leading to unhindered communion with the Giver of Life. The result? Jesus left those encounters with refreshed purpose, renewed vision, revitalized passion and direction for what the Lord had asked of him.

Hopefully what I’m getting at is starting to poke through a bit; self-care time is really important, especially in seasons where extra stressors are inevitable. The reality of it all is it’s really easy to be distracted from the presence of God instead of by the presence of God. Especially in ministry, it can be really difficult to be present and connected with The Lord. When we’re flustered by all the new or even the ‘same old, same old’, it’s so easy to make unnecessary things priorities in our self-care time. What God has taught me in this time is that the type and time of self-care I seek really does matter. As a follower of Jesus, my self-care time serves a vitally important role in regularly encountering the presence of God. That’s where the waves of life cease, where darkness and evil flee, where my stressors and anxieties can take a time-out, and where the newly hollowed out spaces become hallowed spaces of fragrant faith and rich renewal.

These were really difficult rhythms to get down as I had been used to a different way and perspective for far too long. As a Youth Pastor, I had felt like there was this pressure to have all of these aspects of life down so I could teach those I’ve been entrusted to care for. However, that denied me as a work in progress with The Lord and to not get discouraged too quickly, baby steps were really important in prioritizing my Spiritual Self-Care. I think for everyone those steps look a little different depending where we’re starting from. For myself, it looked like scheduling in on my calendar those times to be with the Lord, times to engage in spiritual disciplines, and times to be just myself. It worked getting me to meetings on time so what the heck, I thought I’d give it a shot. After a few weeks of following my calendar closely, I started craving that time more and more. When things would get a little rocky, my first response was, “Man, I want to just go be with God for a little bit”. This replaced, “Man, I just want to take a nap for a little bit”, and “Man, how many episodes of Ted Lasso did I just watch”!

Maybe you’re starting off at a much more disciplined place than I was and if that’s the case I want to meet you so we can be friends and learn from one another! Maybe a baby step for your own self-care time does look like unplugging and going to a movie, spending time with loved ones, going for a walk, etc… because those aren’t bad things at all! They may actually help see how important it is to take that time for yourself, that you don’t have to feel guilty or shame yourself for unplugging and getting an emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual refresher. Go to the gym and get those gains on! Go to the beach and soak up the sun! Go get a snack and take a nap! Watch your favorite move with your fur-baby on the couch with an unreasonably priced blanked that has no business being that cozy! Whatever it is to get you in a habit of resetting and refreshing! Another baby step; look for Jesus at the gym, on the beach, in your dreams, and in the cuddle time with your fur-baby! He’ll show up and give you the refreshment of an eternity! Be blessed as you seek him in your self-care time!

–   Mason S.

“I’ve been doing youth ministry since 2012 in various capacities. When I got started, i couldn’t get enough and just got plugged in with leaders that invested in me as a young leader and gave me the opportunity to serve. After living and learning through several church and para-church ministry experiences, I wanted to further my education and ended up getting a degree in theological studies and youth ministry. As years go by, the excitement the Lord has given me for the next generation of students and church leaders has not depleted in the slightest. It’s been an honor serving countless amounts of students at camps, churches, and different youth events over the past 11 years and I’m so excited for what’s to come for these upcoming world changers!

Care for the Leader’s Soul: A Prayer Retreat Guide

In a season that has felt like anything but “normal,” full of uncertainty and change, anxiety and grief, Jesus’ invitation to you is the same as it was for His disciples after a full day of ministry: come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. – Mark 6:31 (NIV)

How sweet is His invitation to be in His Presence and receive from Him! This prayer retreat has been prepared with love for you as a minister in this challenging season. You’ll be guided in how to prepare your mind, heart, and environment, what to anticipate, and how to journey into a time of thoughtful reflection, journaling, and prayer as you step away to meet with God.

Click here to check it out!

Renew Your Hope Youth Worker Retreat Day

In order to sustain ministry for the long-haul, youth workers need regular times of rest and spiritual renewal.

Youth workers are often tired, lonely, and struggling to survive their week-to-week responsibilities. This retreat will remind youth workers of their secure hope in Christ, inviting them to move away from fear-based habits and return to hope-based habits.

This guide to a half-day retreat is designed to help you reflect on your hopes and your fears as you do youth ministry. It’s designed to help you intentionally reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It gives you a chance to write a new prayer, offering to God your biggest fears and hopes.

Click here to find out more!