Healing the Soul of the Youth Worker
by Kevin Boer
Have you ever felt spiritually thirsty, where your soul feels dried like a sun-baked desert? You are not alone. I am a great fan of Henri Nouwen. His depth and simplicity brings me back to what is truly important. I just reordered his book "Out of Solitude" that I loaned to a friend. In this book Nouwen shares the story of Mark 1 where Jesus spends a busy day of ministering, healing and preaching. Then He goes into the wilderness for time with His Father. Even Jesus needed time to reconnect and take care of His Soul.
So if Jesus needed soul care in his busy ministry, how can you take care of your soul while ministering to teenagers?
Taking care of your soul
Do you do the same as Jesus? I am not just saying doing a quiet time, which has some benefit; but being with your Father and allowing Him to minister to your soul throughout the day. Jesus was motivated by the desire to be in relationship. He wanted to be with the One who loved Him most. That is the beauty of the Trinity. God lives in community with Himself. Each Person of the Trinity enjoys being together in full acceptance and unconditional love. I appreciated how "The Shack" portrayed the intimacy of the Trinity. We can experience the same joy as we spend time with the God. I had an opportunity to take an extended time through the spiritual reflections retreats hosted by Kristi DeVito on the NNYM staff. She has great resources on her website at www.quietreflection.org.
Being in community
From our relationship with God flows true community with others. Until we are fully known, we will not be able to truly know others. In order to be in community we need to first "Be". In knowing who we are in Christ we build the foundation to truly know others. Much of our lives and the lives of teenagers are devoted to creating a false self in reaction to our pain and suffering. As we take time to drop our guard with God we then are able to do the same with others. My sister had a kitten that dearly loved affection. However when I would try topet her, the cat became all claws. We can do the same. Our desire for self protection inhibits our need to be in community. This is why being in a local youth worker network is so vital. Our fellow youth workers become people who know and love us for who we are.
Ministering out of the overflow
When we experience that we are fully loved, then we can love students fully. Many youth leaders do not experience the unconditional love that God gives them. Broken families and broken lives prevent them from understanding who God is and how God loves them. It reflects in their lives and relationships. Broke are looking for security in the relationships around them rather than on the God who loves them.
When our souls are complete in Christ we then are able to minister to students in supernatural ways. This is the overflow principal. God's love overflows from our lives into those around us. I just read a devotional from John Eldrege's book "Waking the Dead." He describes how we need to be reservoirs storing up God's abundance to flow into the lives of others. Instead, many of us are canals where we empty out once the water stops flowing. This is why it is so important for youth leaders to take care of their own soul. When I am connected to the source I have God's love pouring out. When I do not take time for Him. I empty out and have nothing more to give.
Caring for Your Soul
If you are feeling empty then take some time to connect with Simply Youth Ministry's Soul Care. Len Evans our NNYM district coordinator in Texas and New Mexico runs the Soul Care. His vision is to connect hurting youth workers with a youth ministry veteran who can listen to you and pray for you.