One of the things I enjoy most about co-producing the FYI on Youth Ministry podcast with my colleague Nica Halula is planning conversations we hope will benefit youth leaders and watching them come to life. At every step of the production process, we think about you!
Apart from focusing on your needs for ministry sustainability, we integrate practical takeaways and action steps for you to use with teens in your week-to-week ministry.
In season 4 of The FYI on Youth Ministry, we focused on the vital need for ministry leaders to care for yourselves—for the sake of both your well-being and the teenagers you serve. In the spirit of being practical, I’d like to share my top takeaways from each episode this season.
Episode 1: Regularly make time to assess your life-ministry balance and adjust rhythms of work and rest
Our season kicked off with Kristel Acevedo talking about ministry rhythms that work for you. Although we may feel a cultural tendency to go, go, GO, Kristel reminds us that our needs change at different life stages. Youth leaders are humans, and we’re all part of families and communities. Whether you are a student, a parent, a spouse, bivocational, changing jobs, having a child, grieving a loss, managing health issues, or experiencing other transitions or changes in your life, these events warrant an assessment of your needs and availability.
If you are married, have roommates, live in an intergenerational household, or have family or non-ministry commitments, it might be helpful to invite your loved ones to help you assess. Inviting them to weigh in can help you clearly communicate family and ministry boundaries and availability. It may provide opportunities for those in your life to support you in your ministry, and can help you and those you care about find and adjust to healthy rest rhythms.
Episode 2: Nurture intentional, first-name-basis relationships
Do you have close friends for whom you are not a “youth pastor,” “youth leader,” or “minister”? These are people who call you by your first name and listen with empathy, but might also call things out and keep you accountable when necessary. In this episode, Dr. Kara Powell names the importance of these relationships for longevity in ministry.
So much of a youth leader’s energy and time is spent and invested on others. Meaningful relationships and conversations in which you do not have to focus on ministry—the “fill-your-cup” type that offer a change of topic and pace—can be restful. Those who know us and our interests outside of ministry ground us in the fullness of who we are. And when we do share about our ministry, it is helpful to talk with someone who can offer a more objective perspective.
Episode 3: Build trust little by little
In this reassuring conversation about the decline in youth ministry participation, Brad Griffin mentions that “Trust is built little by little.” Not only is this a reminder that it takes effort to build trust, but it also takes the pressure off because it reminds us that we are not under a relational deadline. Yes, we need to make continuous effort, but it does not have to be extraneous. We need to be intentional, but we are not under pressure to accomplish trust.
Building trust with teenagers takes time. Building trust among your team also takes time. Relationships require work over time, and that’s okay. We don’t have to be BFFs with our team or students by a specific deadline. Each young person opens up when they are ready, and you will build safe relationships and dynamics with your team little by little.
Episode 4: Go for a walk
If you have yet to try episode 4 guest Lisa Nopachai’s guided walking prayer, I encourage you to listen at your earliest convenience! Lisa shows us that experiencing awe is a life-giving practice we can cultivate by going on short walks.
Episode 5: Get more sleep!
Long-time FYI friend Dr. Christin Fort shares great ministry resiliency practices in this episode! Referencing a story from 1 Kings 19, Christin reminds us, “Your physical body actually needs to pause so that you can do the things you are called to do.”
Getting enough sleep might be difficult for some of us, and may not always be possible. But think about how you might add some minutes to your night's sleep. What boundaries do you need to set? What responsibilities do you need to share, or need help with? Where can you sneak in a short 15-minute nap, or make time for one? Sleep might at times seem like an indulgence, but it’s actually one of our primary needs for basic functioning.
Episode 6: If you’re a leader of color, it’s okay to be suspicious
Dr. Joyce del Rosario’s conversation with hosts Jennifer Guerra Aldana and Brad Griffin was incredibly insightful and helpful for me. Like Joyce, I am both a leader of color and a woman. Yet she named aspects of my experience I had not articulated yet and provided a new perspective. I was particularly drawn to her practice of cautious suspicion. Leaders of color in predominantly white spaces cannot assume that other leaders (including leaders of color) are socially aware of our context or their own social location. Sometimes being cautious helps us be safe and mitigates the burden or hurt white spaces may inflict.
A practice of suspicion helps us to be cautious and deliberate for our own safety. It encourages us to trust our own process of vetting spaces and individuals so that we can discern how safe we can be and to what extent we can invest or authentically be part of those spaces.
Episode 7: Check in with yourself, and check yourself
In order to care for others, youth leaders must be aware of how past or present trauma in our own lives may influence our leadership and work with students. So for the season 4 finale, we asked Dr. Dave Wang to talk about trauma-informed discipleship.
When you or a loved one experience a difficulty, or when recovering from past trauma, give yourself time to see how you are doing and seek any support you may need.
Along with checking in, we need to check ourselves! As Dave cautions, it can be tempting to move from trauma to healing and triumph over adversity too quickly. “Checking ourselves” means not pushing ourselves or our students. Healing takes time; each person processes trauma at their own pace. Don’t rush anyone through it.
Check out season 4 or relisten!
Listen to these helpful tips and dive deeper into hope-filled insight on self-care for youth leaders by heading over to our podcast page right now!
Tweet this: Self-care is for ministry leaders too! Season 4 of the FYI on Youth Ministry podcast is all about caring for yourself in youth ministry. Here’s a recap of top tips and links to every episode.
Photo by Omar Lopez
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