First marathon I ever ran in I never completed, in fact I almost died. The more time ticks on the harder it is to remember the feelings and sensations going through my body, but what I do remember is this:
I’m passing the mile 23 sign of the Baltimore Marathon (2004), everything is a blur, lying down on the ground, telling people to get the explicit off of me and then nothing. Next memory is waking up in an ambulance screaming the Hail Mary.
Basically I was dehydrated, which surprised me because I thought I had done a good job keeping up the fluids; however, I was more prone to dehydration because the 48 hours leading up to the race I was battling a severe cold. That’s smart, right? Most people would say, “Why would you run if you were feeling sick?” Honestly, I had given a year of my life to train for this race, a lot of emotion and I felt that this race would release years of baggage that I was carrying about myself so I ignored it even though I knew the consequences could be bad. I probably just didn’t know how bad.
When it comes to ministry there are habits and situation that if we ignore will not only make us fall short of our goals but be our ultimate downfall. Sometimes we feel so much responsibility that we ignore the problems that surround us instead of facing them dead on, such as:
- Working Hours: I’m not going to get into a debate on how many hours a week a youth minister should work, but there needs to be structure. If you don’t set on a number you’ll find yourself overworked. If you don’t pick a time and stick to it you’ll find your priorities misaligned.
- Spiritual Growth: Studying a book of the Bible for a message is not personal spiritual development. You can gain great insight, but it won’t fill you in the way you need it to fill you. If we can’t separate work and worship then we are going to look at our relationship with God like a job. If you need assistance find a spiritual director or an accountability partner to move you forward.
- Physical Health: Just because you are a youth minister doesn’t mean you have a legit reason to gorge yourself on Chick-Fil-A, pizza or Taco Bell. Just because you can hangout all night with the teens doesn’t mean you should. And just because teens spend hours in front of the computer screen doesn’t give you the excuse either (unless you are reading this blog). If you aren’t physically healthy it’s going to affect your energy level and let’s face it youth ministers need a lot of energy.
- Relationship With Your Pastor: This is a big one and probably one of the hardest ones to face. I’m blessed to have a great Pastor, but our relationship hasn’t always been hunky dory. In fact he and I meet on a regular basis to talk about where we are in our relationship. There’s going to be times where I push his limits, and times where he spreads me thin, but if I’m slamming him in public, if I’m not supporting or honoring him, then shame on me. Not everyone is going to click with their senior pastor, but it’s a relationship that needs to be worked on. If it’s a totally unhealthy situation consider leaving, pray about it and find support. Remember if a senior pastor and a youth pastor do not get a long people will know and it’s poison to the church.
I’m blessed because my job has helped me find professional and spiritual coaches. By having these people in my life I’m held accountable to examine areas in my life that can be easily ignored. I sometimes wish I was smarter with my running, but I know if you ignore a problem, if you focus on your pride it’s end you. If you find yourself on a path to burnout, destruction or maybe just a little frustration I would suggest finding accountability in a small group, mentorship or counseling. Find someone to advise you and pray with you so that you don’t find yourself falling apart.
What are other areas in church ministry that should not be ignored? And how do you address them?