Care for yourself

A lot of people are asking how they can best keep doing effective youth ministry in the current situation. I think the #1 answer is, care for yourself! (And the #2 answer is care for your family.)

This situation is causing stress and the stress is likely to escalate. Before adding more stress by putting unnecessary pressure upon yourself and your leaders to keep the youth ministry train moving, take a step back and remind yourself of an important truth. Ready?

God is more concerned about you than He is about the youth ministry.

It’s been great to see the creativity and the tech-savvy being shown as youth leaders came up with ways to keep connecting with their young people. All this is good and thank you to those of you sharing your ideas and experiences with others in our facebook group. It’s an immense help to read these ideas and figure out how to apply them to our setting. Please keep sharing what’s working for you, and if you have questions, ask! Someone else is sure to have the same question and someone else again will likely have a solution.

But at the same time let’s start by being honest with ourselves. Many of us will be concerned about elderly relatives or those with respiratory conditions of compromised immune systems (or perhaps that’s us). Others will be worried about employment and paying the bills. Some of us will be protecting young children from fear and worry or will be trying to work “normally” from home while faced with demands for attention from young children who don’t fully understand. Others will already have strained relationships within families and these will come under greater strain as we spend more time together in a stressful, uncertain environment.

Whether we are paid to lead the youth group or not, we’ll be coping with some or all of the above while at the same time feeling some obligation to try and keep the youth group running, albeit remotely or virtually.

To you I say, “God’s got this!”

We all know that but perhaps we need reminding. His Spirit is still able to work in young people’s lives even without us leading the youth programme each week. (He does it every summer, remember, when youth group takes 6-7 weeks off!)

If you’re a volunteer youth leader who oversees the youth ministry and you’re having enough trouble keeping things together for yourself and your family then don’t feel pressured out of some sense of duty to have to be setting up skype/zoom/social media/whatever groups to keep small groups going, particularly if doing so is at the expense of you or your family’s mental health and well-being.

Decide what you can manage and what you can’t and let your church leaders know. If all you can manage is phone calls/messages to young people offering pastoral care and support than that’s amazing! It might be a good reminder to your young people that you are more than just a “programme provider”. You’re someone who cares about them.

Similarly, if you’re employed by your church, talk to your pastor or elders about what you can cope with and what you can’t. Let them know about some of the pressures you’re facing outside of work. I hope I’m not naïve, but I’d like to think our church leaders will offer plenty of grace and support at this time rather than demanding you work at 100% to keep all the balls in the air. If you need help in talking with your church leadership about their expectations, I’m happy to be an advocate on your behalf if you don’t feel listened to.

Beyond that, I’d like to do what I can to support you at this time, aware that everyone’s needs are different. If you want someone to talk to who is outside of your church situation, give me a call on 0278415321 or send an email if you prefer. I’ll do my best to be a listening ear.

One idea is to consider developing your own buddy support group with other youth leaders or youth pastors. Some of you know each other through Youth Summits. Why not resume some of the support you received in your small groups by inviting a few you’ve met to Skype together regularly. If you want to connect with others in this way but don’t know where to start, let me know and I’ll help set something up

Friday mornings at 10.30am we will do a youth leaders’ Zoom call as a way of being able to connect with others. I’ll ask just one question: “How are you doing?” You can talk about yourself, your family, your ministry – whatever you choose to! Any youth pastor or key volunteer leader is welcome – even if you just want to listen! The meeting ID is 703 934 904.  Download the Zoom app and enter the ID or go to https://zoom.us/j/703934904 .

Finally, stressful times can either drive us closer to God or further away. Make time with Him a priority and begin each day soaking yourself in Scripture and prayer.  A lot of our stress comes from our perspective yet when we spend time with God, our perspective shifts from how we see things to how He does, and that always brings reassurance.

I’m finding the following verse comforting: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3).