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.
Step 2: Recognizing stress
The second step is to recognize stress when you’re experiencing it. If you want to know what is stressful to you, you need to become aware of how you feel throughout the day and throughout the week. Keep a ‘stress journal’ so to speak. At what times do you feel happy and energized? When do you feel tired, down or stressed?
Hint: stress can manifest in different ways, for instance as an increased heart rate, a heavy feeling in your body, a sick feeling to your stomach, headache, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, etc.
Step 3: Identifying causes for stress
Once you’re identified what you feel as stress and when you feel it, dig a little deeper and ask yourself what you are stressed about. Can you see a pattern in your stress journal, are there certain events, days, people that cause stress?
It’s important is to know what’s causing your stress because this differs from person to person. There are a lot of things in youth ministry you can get stress from, but what may be stressful for me may not cause stress for you. You need to start identifying therefore what causes you stress.
Does conflict stress you out?
Lack of support?
The lack of balance between work and private?
Maybe parents stress you out?
Changes in your plans?
Students that are hard to reach?
Interruptions in your daily or weekly schedule?
For me, conflicts were a major source of stress. I’ve worked in a church where there was a big leadership conflict going on and it wore me out. Every day I would go to my church office with a headache and being sick to my stomach and all the ‘fun’ in my job was gone. It took me a while to realize what the exact cause of my stress was.
Which brings me to the last step: once you have acknowledged, recognized and identified your stress and the causes, how can you prevent this stress? We’ll look at that in a next post.
Do you know what the biggest stress factors are in your life and your youth ministry? How did you find out?