Take some time for yourself. I’ve seen numerous youth workers and pastors post about the unrealistic expectations their supervisors have set on them during this time of crisis. Let me just say, I’m sorry. It’s not fair. You matter. You matter not just because of your work, but because YOU are a child of God. From Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved”:
Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.
If you’re not caring for your own soul and taking time to connect with God and others, you won’t have much to offer those whom you’re called to minister. So take a breath and take a moment to figure out how you need to proceed, not out of panic and not out of everyone else’s expectations. Lead from a place that is centered in Christ. Pray, listen, and watch for your community’s most pressing needs, and start from there.
Over the next several weeks, and quite possibly months, the Center for Youth Ministry Training will be sending out resources to help you care for your own soul and to help you minister during this time of pandemic. To start, here are 5 helpful tips for YOU the Youth Worker:
1.You are not alone. There are others trying to figure out how to minister to youth and families in this new era as well. Connect with other youth workers in your area to generate ministry ideas and see how you can care for and pray for one another. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Join an online network of youth ministers if you haven’t already. There’s a lot of youth ministry networks on Facebook in particular.
2. Create a plan or some type of daily rhythm for yourself and your family and make sure time with God is a part of it. Do what works for you as you try to keep physical distance from others. While you can’t go to your favorite local coffee shop right now, maybe you can set up a little coffee shop type nook in your home for reading and journaling. While you can’t meet in person with your BFF or your ministry colleagues, there are tons of online options to be able to still connect together.
3. Just as you need a plan for your own new home life during this time, you need a plan for your ministry too. This will help keep you sane. You won’t be able to tackle all of the ideas at once, so try to take one step at a time, one day at a time. As an example, check out this free download: a communication plan created by Rev. Robert Sturdivant, Minister to Students at Trinity UMC in Birmingham, Alabama. If you have questions or feedback, you’re welcome to contact Robert directly.
4. God is still God even in the chaos. Anxiety and fear feel like a new normal, so be intentional about practicing gratitude and seeking joy. Start a gratitude journal. Write down 5 things each day that you are thankful for. There’s a lot of power in actually writing these things down. Or start a joy jar. When you experience joy, write it on a piece of paper and the next time you’re feeling down or frustrated, pull out one of your joy notes and be reminded of God’s goodness. If writing doesn’t work for you, find pictures that make you happy surround yourself with family photos or a collage of pictures from magazines that make you laugh and smile. It’s also okay to acknowledge your grief and name it. We are all grieving losses, big and small. Journaling about our losses can help us process the grief, and be better equipped to find joy.
5. Finally, put down your phone and turn off the TV (or Netflix or whatever you use!) Just this morning I was watching the news from my laptop while eating breakfast and my 3-year-old was eating breakfast and watching the iPad. He was done eating and actually turned his show off on his own (don’t be jealous or anything, this is a rarity). He came over to me and said: “Mommy, I turned mine off, turn yours off.” “Ok, buddy” as I pause my show. “No, mommy, close it, close it.” I closed my laptop and my 3 year old took my hand and we sat down to play Legos. We are being inundated with the news and scrolling through social media to see what everyone else is doing in the world. Some of us need those ideas – were either bored from being stuck at home or overwhelmed by what we are trying to accomplish at home. Either way, take a healthy and needed break from the noise and the expectations you experience from others and all that they seemingly are accomplishing at home as they work and homeschool their kids. Trust me, their lives are just as messy too! Often Jesus would withdraw from the world to hear from God. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16 (NLT). Make sure to create space and time for quiet, for pause, for listening. Choose to be present with the ones you love (from 6 ft. apart of course). God is present. God is listening. God is speaking. To help you quiet your soul and be present, try these centering prayers.
What other ideas do you have to care for yourself during this crisis? How can we as youth workers care for each other? Add your ideas in the comments below!
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.