My Story of Ministry Health

Yesterday I posted an article that I had hoped to challenge the issue of healthy ministry. After observing the condition of youth ministry and the state of the heart of the youth worker, I wondered if it was time to begin a conversation about how to better care for the youth worker. Year after year, much time and energy is spent on helping the youth worker cope, heal, and/or re-evaluate their call to youth ministry.

Today, I thought I’d tell a little of my story and why this topic is one I think we as youth workers should engage and even think a little proactively.

I have worked with students for over 20 years. From volunteer to part-time to full-time, small churches to larger churches, from the local congregation to serving on a denominational board, city to suburbia to the rural; youth ministry is more than a career. As a full time youth worker, I have served in two churches, serving at least 5 years or more. In both cases, I have been blessed with overwhelmingly positive experiences. Sure there were the up’s and down’s, but in general, my time at these two churches was wonderful. In both cases, departure has come at my request, as my wife and I felt the hand of God leading us to new ministry opportunities. In the first church, the departure was wonderful, and even after we left, relationships continue to grow, deepen, and bless. As we think about leaving our current church, we hope to experience the same loving farewell.

Yet, as I listen to youth workers, I an shocked by some of the unhealthy stories I hear. I wondered what it was/is, that makes the difference. So I started thinking about what has made my time in ministry positive and healthy? Here are some of the things I thought of…

1. Pastors Who Once Worked with Students has been a blessing. In both churches, the lead pastors once served as youth workers. They understood the pressures and realities of working with students. They knew the importance of relationships, discipleship, and ministry and the dangers of focusing on numbers, size, and programming influences.

2. He Had My Back when the times became difficult or challenging. This has been huge. I can’t say that all those years working with students were filled with roses. I had my share of thorns along the way. But what made those times bearable was knowing that my senior pastors had my back. I knew I could trust them. I knew they were working with my best interest in mind. Even when I needed someone to speak into my life to help me grow, these guys were able to do so in a loving way.

3. I Served Without the Veil. I strongly believe in the practice of openness in ministry. Every week I would meet with my pastors for a check in. These check ins consisted of a Bible study, prayer, and ministry sharing. I would take that time to share all that was happening with the student ministry; the GOOD and the BAD. I wanted my pastors to know what was going on in the ministry. I reported the joys and high points and the low points, situations, and issues that rose up between students, leadership, parents, and even the community. This was huge when those rough spots came. In just about every case, the pastor was already well informed and able to understand the situation better.

4. More Than Co-Workers, They Became Friends. In both churches effort was made by both sides to be more than staff members. At my first church, the pastor and I would have lunch together every other week. This was a “No Work” lunch. We spent that time catching up, sharing life, and getting know each other. We became friends. And that friendship/relationship was important.

I wonder how many youth workers spend time outside the staff meeting with their senior pastors? I wonder if senior pastors even know how to connect with their youth workers beyond the weekly report?

Do you have healthy relationship with your senior pastor? What does it look like? How is it nurtured? How does he care for you? What do you do bring to the relationship beyond damage report following last weekends lock-in?

I’d love to know story. Please take a minute or two and share in the comment box below!

– jay

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