The Strains of Ministry: How to recover from the long days

I just turned 30 and after eating plenty of sweets in celebration this weekend I’ve realized my body is telling my body, “You can’t handle a second (giant) piece of cake like you use to.”  In the past if I ate too much the day before I could go for a run the next day and let my metabolism do the rest…now it just sits in me like a brick that needs to be surgically removed.  Also I find myself lower on energy when I stay up until 10:30pm…10:30pm come on, the news hasn’t even come on then.

Now, I know I’m not getting much sympathy from my peers who are well over 30 and that’s okay.  But, I think we all know that there are those nights, weeks, and events where we need to recover not because we’re old, but because the emotional and physical strains of youth ministry can have a toll on our body.  So how do we recover?

  • Look at Your Diet:  I’m serious, I know we’re not all professional athletes (maybe none of us are except in dodgeball) but what we eat affects how much energy we have to take on a long day of ministry or even that all nighter we some how convinced ourselves would be awesome.  Pizza, chick-fil-a, chips and soda will make you crash and burn like 5 year old on Halloween.  I know we have busy lives, most of us do eat home cooked meals, just don’t try to eat like the teenagers.
  • Rest: Pray and sleep, pray and sleep, pray and sleep.  If you can start your day with prayer after a great night’s rest you’ll have the energy to take on a tough day.  For me I come back from a night of ministry wired and in the past I’ve wined myself down by watching television, but all television does is stimulate your mind even more.  Taking time to quiet myself in prayer and then making sure I get to bed at a decent time will guarantee a brighter morning.
  • Pace Yourself During The Day:  Sometimes we burn ourselves out because we pack our schedule with back to back tasks and activities.  We’re going to have busy days and sometimes back to back meetings, but if you aren’t finding time to reflect, think and be creative you’ll just be doing and not growing.  When you have days filled with doing you are moving towards a more tired existence.  Learning how to be more productive doesn’t mean doing more, sometimes it means doing less.

Again, we aren’t athletes, we’re youth ministers but being able to handle a long career takes recovery and planning.  I know some of it sounds basic but sometimes we forget all the basic.  We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of the students.  I know this isn’t something we often talk about but what do you do to rest, relax and recover from the strains of ministry?