by Jean Lehn Epp, Interim Coordinator of Youth Ministry Resources - Working with youth, children and families takes an energy that can be both empowering and exhausting. Not only is there energy needed to plan and execute activities, nurturing authentic relationships calls for giving of ourselves that can leave us depleted emotionally, physically and spiritually. Naming youth ministry as a spiritual discipline has been one of the most freeing statements I have ever embraced in my work with youth. Youth ministry as a spiritual discipline captures the all-encompassing authenticity that working with youth requires. To be oneself, to share selflessly, to share deeply from one’s own faith and relationship with God, and to be available for youth and families in crisis, costs us part of ourselves.
When we are attentive to our selfcare, we offer our regrets, mistakes, and misgivings to God, who transforms them into opportunities for growth and maturity.
Refreshing our relationship with God and creating sabbath practices in our busy lives will help to keep us from feeling overwhelmed and over extended. Taking time to nurture our relationship with God through reading scripture, prayer and solitude helps us to reprogram our minds. Focusing on what we are grateful for helps to cultivate reminders of God’s gifts to us and helps us to release cynicism and negativity. When we are attentive to our selfcare, we offer our regrets, mistakes, and misgivings to God, who transforms them into opportunities for growth and maturity.
Practicing self-care in the midst of ministry:
- Reflect on what it means for you to be a healthy adult. Where is there balance in your life? What areas in your life are in need of more balance?
- Reflect on your own relationship with your parents. As you help youth navigate their own understanding of their relationships with parents, do you have unresolved issues with your own? How are you resolving these issues and how are you keeping from projecting your own feelings when supporting youth?
- Reflect on how you deal with loss. How do you practice letting go?
- How do you model healthy relationships as a leader? Are you able to differentiate yourself from the youth you support? How do you practice appropriate boundaries?
- How do you handle difficult situations? How do you practice letting go of the need to fix everything or everyone?
- How do you respond to questions from the youth? How do you let go of the need to have all the answers and move toward being comfortable sitting with the questions?
- Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn is a resource for prayer that helps to examine and release to God what is going well and what is in need of healing in our lives.
- Worship Feast: Prayer Stations, Creating Unforgettable Experiences is part of a series that walks youth through creating their own prayer stations that invite youth to take time for reflection and drawing closer to God.
- Amy Simpson has created a resource of thirteen different interactive lessons that help youth explore spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and solitude. Diving Deep: Experiencing Jesus Through Spiritual Disciplines, also includes spiritual practices for leaders of youth as well as suggestions for retreats.
- Joyce Rupp is gifted in bringing spiritual practices into our everyday lives and inviting us to refocus the ordinary to understand its invitation to point us to God. In Fresh Bread: And Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment she guides us throughout the year in reflecting on scripture and readings that invite us into going deeper with God.
- Ben Espinoza, in Three Powerful Christian Practices for Youth Ministry, challenges us to practice the lost art of hospitality, working for justice, and living in community with our youth. These spiritual practices ground us and grow our faith like the first Jesus followers of the New Testament.