Stress management in youth ministry


This is the fourth and last post in a short series in dealing with stress in youth ministry. We’ve been talking about the stress that is youth ministry and why youth ministry may even be extra stressful compared to other jobs. In the last post we’ve discussed how you can acknowledge, recognize and identify the stress in your life and youth ministry. This brings us to the fourth step: preventing stress.

Let me start with the bad news: you’ll never completely eliminate stress from your youth ministry job, whether you’re a volunteer or on staff. Working in a church, working with people and especially young people will always result in some amount of stress. But there are things you can do to keep the stress level acceptable and healthy.

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Preventing stress in youth ministry

stressed man

We’ve been talking about the stress that is youth ministry and why youth ministry may even be extra stressful compared to other jobs. So to summarize: youth ministry is stressful, even more than other jobs. The question that needs an answer is then what we can do about it. Is preventing stress in youth ministry even an option and if so, how do we go about achieving that?

Step 1: Acknowledging stress

Preventing stress in youth ministry isn’t an easy-breezy thing to do. It starts with taking stress seriously and not just saying or thinking that stress is normal or that it’s just part of your job. Yes, a certain amount of stress is normal in youth ministry, but not to the point where it affects your health or makes you consider quitting. So acknowledge what you feel isn’t normal and go from there.

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The discipleship approach that got Paul Martin fired


Paul Martin is a youth pastor who has just moved from Birmingham, Alabama to a small town in Nebraska (wow, talk about a change of scenery!) and he has recently published the brilliant book Masterpiece: The Art of Discipling Youth (be sure check out the review of Masterpiece we did). Since I only know Paul from his equally brilliant blog, I thought I’d ask him some questions about his book, discipling, youth ministry and whatnot.

A lot of books are written from what Bill Hybels calls a ‘holy discontent’, was it the same for you?

It’s true in the sense that this was a book I needed to write. I felt crazy for 15 years for how I did discipleship and youth ministry. I worked in several churches but what they said and wanted me to do, was different from what I did.

I was working in this church and at a certain point I was told that I needed to learn to perform. Only six months before I had exceeded all expectations in my review, but now they were unhappy with how I was doing things. There had been budget cuts and I had lost my staff. We didn’t have money anymore, so I started to do discipleship the way Jesus did it. And I ended up getting fired for it. [Read more…]

The power of shame: I’m saying ‘me too’


If you have never heard of Brene Brown, you’re missing out. Brene Brown is ‘Vulnerability TED’ as she says herself, a worldwide ‘celebrity’ after her famous TED talk on vulnerability I blogged about before. It’s a talk that has had a lot of impact on me as well, which was why I was very motivated to watch a new TED talk from Brene Brown, this time on shame.

Now shame and vulnerability aren’t topics that appeal to a lot of us at first glance. But what Brene Brown has to say is important and it has consequences for how we do youth ministry as well.

In youth ministry, I think we’re at a cross point, a point where we have to choose a new direction, a new way of doing things. But deciding on a new way of doing youth ministry involves risk, innovation, change…and none of these happen without vulnerability and every single one will make you face shame.

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7 Youth Sermon Ideas from the OT

youth sermon topics

1. Joseph: Trusting God in difficult circumstances

Bible passage: Genesis 39, Romans 8:28

Key message: God will use our difficult circumstances for good if we trust Him

Synopsis: Joseph was first sold into slavery by his brothers, then falsely accused by the wife of his employer, resulting in him being out in jail. Yet God blessed him where ever he was and ultimately made him king of Egypt under the pharaoh. God used Joseph’s difficult circumstances for good, but it called for trust and patience on Joseph’s side. Can we do the same in the midst of our difficult circumstances, can we trust God to use these for good?

Tip: don’t forget to explain who Joseph was, not every student will be familiar with his story. [Read more…]

Why youth ministry is (extra) stressful


In the previous post on The Stress that is Youth Ministry, we saw some shocking statistics about pastors and stress. But let’s face it: even though the scope of responsibility may differ, being a youth pastor isn’t that different from being a pastor. Especially in bigger churches, leading the youth ministry can be a lot like leading a church. Which means that those statistics may very well be or become a reality for youth pastors as well.

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The stress that is youth ministry

stressed out man

Youth ministry seems to be synonymous with stress. Ask a youth pastor how he or she is doing and the most likely answer will be ‘busy’ or ‘very/extremely/absurdly busy’. Or maybe when they feeling like sharing, they’ll even say ‘stressed’. I have met very youth pastors or youth workers lately who weren’t overworked, busy, and/or stressed to the point where it really wasn’t funny anymore.

See if any of the following sounds familiar to you:

You’re working (far) more hours than you should or have to

You’re experiencing constant stress

You often feel tired, exhausted even

You often feel overwhelmed to the point of either panic or the inability to act at all

You’re experiencing spiritual drought [Read more…]

Why God’s promises can cover a multitude of our sins in teaching


God’s Word never returns empty.

It’s a great promise and an encouragement for youth leaders who are trying to reach students with God’s words. But it’s also one of those promises that can cover a multitude of sins. Our sins in bad, lazy teaching for instance. Our sins in not building deep and true relationships with the students we minister to. Or our sins in failing to apply what we teach in our own lives.

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The 7 regrets of youth pastors (2)


Looking back isn’t always easy. Many of us have regrets when we look back on our life and ‘career’ as a youth pastor. We’ve listed four regrets so far in our first post on the 7 regrets of youth pastors: avoiding conflicts, not communicating the vision enough, settling for a low salary and not training a successor. Here are three more regrets many youth pastors have:

5. Not taking care of yourself

As youth pastors, we seem wired to put ourselves last. We take care of everyone else, but we forget to take care of ourselves. Our own physical health, our spiritual health, they don’t get the attention they need to stay healthy. As youth pastor Jason Sansbury tweeted to me: [Read more…]

The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

regrets graffiti

I’ve been in youth ministry for about fourteen years in one capacity or another. Looking back, I sure wish I would have done some things differently. I’m fairly sure many of us feel that way.

Now I personally think regrets are a waste of time but ‘7 things many youth pastors wish they’d done differently in hindsight’ didn’t sound quite as catchy for a title…

So here, we go with 7 things many youth pastors wished they had done differently aka the 7 regrets of youth pastors:

1. Avoiding conflicts

As Christians, we’re supposed to be loving, kind and forgiving. The problem is that this often results in an avoidance of conflict at all costs. I’ve let certain situations continue for too long because I wanted to avoid a conflict. Well, the conflict happened anyway and it was much nastier than it would have been if I had faced it head on.

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