The concepts of self-care and personal soul care are making a huge splash in the world of ministry blogs recently, and I think it’s an important movement that can make a huge difference in so many ways. In a role as a ministry leader, seeking the time we need to nourish our own hearts is expected by the boards of churches that hire us… often until they realize that means there are times in our schedules and that we might not be available to the church, that we won’t be there every second of every event at the church. Sometimes these unspoken expectations are very real and made evident in comments in performance reviews. Other times, we assume these expectations and fear being seen as selfish if we take the time and space we need to feed our souls. This dangerous cycle leads into burned out ministry leaders who aren’t able to pour into the lives of others, or deal with challenges they face in healthy ways as they might if they took this time to be fed. However, too many times there is an implicit message that we have to go at this journey on our own, that our self-care is our own undertaking and some hidden quiet process that’s ordered, neat and tidy. In reality, soul care is messy, and it should never be a solo act.
We often set a pace which leads others to expect our availability all the time, creating boundaries so that we can have space for the personal, private, “just you and God” parts of our soul care means that we might need to have honest conversations with people around us, and the people we are serving in ministry about creating healthier boundaries, and also asking for support from close confidants to encourage us and hold us accountable for keeping these boundaries in our personal walk with God.
Beyond our personal spiritual growth in the area of soul care, we need to take time to consider the role of relationships and community in tending to our hearts. In ministry, it’s important to build relationships with people inside and outside of your church community. Introvert or extrovert, we are all created for community. A significant part of self-care is having people in our lives we can be ourselves with. Last month at the Open Boston event hosted by Youth Cartel, I had a really meaningful experience. There were a lot of great ministry ideas shared, and I was especially blessed by things shared in the two “Soul Care Track” workshops I went to. What I took away was not just the ideas shared about community in those workshops, but the actual relationship building that went on throughout the course of that day. I was reunited with old colleagues and classmates, I was able to turn some acquaintances from social media into face to face friendships, and I met new people and formed brand new friendships. It really helped me realize how nourishing it is to have people in my life who I can trust with tough stuff when I need to. Having moved to a new community, and starting at a new church, it’s easy to say I’m “too busy” for getting out and making new friends, but when I’ve taken time to do so, it makes such a difference. Our souls are not just fed in silent retreats or prayer closets. Our souls are also fed physically and spiritually at the dinner table, on a walk through the streets of Boston, or on a sports field. We can be fed by our stories, seeing how God is working in others can have an impact on ourselves. This idea also pertains to the world of social media. I’ve really been re-thinking how and why I am using social media. Can this idea of relational soul care even translate into our world of social media?
Here are are some sources for youth workers that I think can be a huge help and I share these out of personal experience!
We Love Our Youth Worker– a movement encouraging faith communities to pursue creating a spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy working environment for youth workers and other staff members in faith organizations. http://weloveouryouthworker.us/
National Network of Youth Ministries– Discover ways to connect with others in student ministries in your area, or those with similar interests. I’ll admit that membership comes with some other perks and discounts as well, but the connections formed are the biggest and most important benefit to being a part of this great ministry! http://www.youthworkers.net/
Simply Youth Ministry Soul Care Advocates– Need someone to pray for you, or even walk you through some challenging times? There are a lot of great people ready to serve you through Simply Youth Ministry Soul Care! http://conference.youthministry.com/for-your-soul/soul-care/
All this being said, I’ve had lots of personal ups and downs in my own soul care journey, and have developed a heart to want to be a listening ear and advocate for those in ministry struggling to find the support they need as they try to nourish their own souls. You can find me on twitter @faithfulmeg3, send me a direct message if you want to talk more! May we all seek out relationships where we can be honest about how things are really going, where we can be ourselves, and where mutual learning and encouragement can take place!