Youth Ministry necessitates some really odd hours. Long after the Parish secretary has rolled the phones to voice mail, you’re trying to track down 50 pens that actually write or 20 Bibles that never made their way back to the bookcase. By the time the last teen is picked up, the last door gets locked and the last parking lot conversation ends, your last brain cell is running on overdrive.
The result? Exhaustion: mentally, socially and emotionally. Youth ministry has left you spiritually uplifted but physically drained. It’s at this point that unhealthiness can creep in.
Nothing I’m about to suggest will be a revelation. It shouldn’t be. In hopes of increasing the longevity in and joy for ministry, however, I’d like to suggest a few very simple truths that bear repeating:
Keep Prayer Primary
Prayer does not “help” your relationship with God. Prayer is your relationship. We’ve all heard the Martha & Mary comparison used to death, so how about this one, instead: Moses led over a million of God’s children out of captivity (ministry) but, in the end, it was his personal relationship and (more to the point) lack of trust in God that prevented him from entering into the Promised Land. Prayer must precede, imbue and follow every “thing” you do each day.
Make Time to Exercise
Ministry life can often feel like you’re on a treadmill…so constantly “on the go” that you can’t slow down long enough to exercise. If that’s how you feel, you can’t afford not to exercise. It’s an investment of time. Exercise will keep your heart healthy, increase your energy level, mental sharpness, daily efficiency and self-confidence. Even getting out for a walk each day makes a significant difference. So get that heart rate up!
Receive Daily Bread
Consider the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “What constitutes our faith is not primarily what we do but what we receive.” It is in our reception of the Lord’s Sacramental grace(s) that we unleash our true Catholicism. Do everything in your power to make it to daily Mass. If that’s absolutely impossible than – at the very least – schedule a Eucharistic encounter, daily, in Adoration. It’s sadly amazing how quickly the spiritual main course for Catholics gets put on the back burner. We need the Eucharist, people, and we need it daily.
Drive Past the Drive-Thru
You know the dilemma: you’re hungry but you didn’t pack any food. You have twenty minutes before Core Members begin arriving for an Edge Night or Confirmation class. So you run out for some fast food before the meeting or, even worse, you hit the drive-thru on your way home. The problem is that the “food” (yes, I use quotes) has a long lasting and detrimental effect on our energy level, metabolism and waistline. Here are a few sobering stats for all of us:
A McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese and medium fries contains 890 calories and 45 grams of fat; throwing in a medium Coke adds an additional 58 grams of sugar.
If your conscience tells you that Starbucks is far healthier, think again. A blueberry scone has 460 calories, 22 grams of fat and 61 grams of sugar. Oh, and that Venti coffee with cream? It’ll come in at about 315 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Make the time to eat well. Take the time to pack lunches or dinners. Keep healthy snacks within reach. The reason so many youth workers feel like garbage is because they eat it.
Get some Sabbath (Rest)
Keeping holy the Sabbath is easier said than done when Sunday might be your longest workday. If your ministry schedule necessitates that your Sabbath be a Monday or a Friday, for instance, it ought to be spent predominantly in prayer, rest and fellowship with God and family/neighbor. If it isn’t, it’s time to radically redefine your schedule and approach.
And if you’re married with kids, than your Saturday schedule might need to have a far different complexion. The whole family needs to have a day where prayer and fellowship lead. This gets tricky but it is not impossible.
Spend some time in honest prayer about your week. Have chores, tasks and commitments taken the place of Sabbath rest? Is it time to simplify?
Laughter is not a suggestion. It’s not a “goal.” Laughter is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Laughter ought to be a rule for living. God laughs (Ps. 2:4). So ask yourself, “What activities and relationships bring me the holiest joy?” What movies or television shows make you laugh the most? Unholy laughter is a rejection of truth, but holy laughter is a joyful rejection of cultural mistruths and it keeps you young in mind and heart.
Figure out what makes you laugh and then put in on your weekly calendar.
Like I said, this isn’t anything new. There’s no need for anything new. You don’t need to split the atom to unleash power (besides, God already split the Adam – Gen 2:22). We need only remember these basic things and we will unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within us, the source of our truest joy.