If you are anything like me, you got into ministry for the steady diet of greasy pizza and Mountain Dew. But, as the Bible tells us, we cannot live on pizza alone (I think that’s the King James version, if you can’t find it in your Bible). Too often we find our health is the first of the things we let slide with our eyes on the ministry. Of course, there are plenty of fit and healthy youth leaders, but if you find that you are slightly more pear-shaped than you used to be, there are some behaviors to examine to help you return to your former glory!
First, let me tell you why I care. The Bible tells us that we are caretakers of our vessels, and that we should treat our bodies with respect. I have learned, probably too late in life, that eating an entire stuffed-crust pizza by myself at an overnight is probably not doing that. We should care for ourselves physically, so we can begin to let God help us spiritually. Also, we should be a healthy example for our youth. Many of the following suggestions will benefit your youth as much as yourself.
Check out our suggestions and see if there’s something you can use to help!
Pizza is not always the answer. I get it, I get it – they deliver and are pretty cheap, and of course the kids (and we) love it! But, it’s not doing you any favors. Providing a healthier choice can be a good first step toward a healthier you(th leader). Try fruits and veggies as snacks and spaghetti or subs for a meal. Pizza might be a necessary evil in a pinch, but if you can help it, fix yourself something better.
Play along. A key indicator to me that I am getting to an unhealthy place is when I find myself leading games more often than playing them. I love playing games, so if I am consciously or subconsciously avoiding it, I may have lost a few steps. So design games you can be active playing. If you aren’t a runner, find something that will get your youth and you walking, shuffling, standing, swaying, dancing…whatever. Activity is good, and you are probably already building it into your youth meetings for your students. Now it’s time that you play, too.
Rest. We do overnights and late nights and all sorts of other nights, and more than once I’ve found myself up later than normal or even up all night. Rest is an important part of your body’s ability to regulate itself and recharge. Not getting enough is bad for you and can cause weight gain. Also, when we stay up all night, we are usually counteracting the tireds with the caffeines. Caffeine is most likely a necessary tool in your youth ministry tool box, but abusing it is actually abusing you. If you have to stay up all night, keep your blood flowing; walk around more, raise your heart rate. This will help you stay awake.
Avoid Burning. Burn out is a very real problem among youth ministry leaders, or any ministry leaders for that matter. Stress and burn out can lead to depression, unhealthy forms of coping, even physiological reactions that effect your body chemistry, fat-burning, and hormone levels. Find time to be with yourself, away from stress and work issues. Pray. Meditate. Find the way that you can unwind. For me, it’s a good movie or some video games. Identify a non-food relaxation and make sure you can treat yourself regularly.
Talk It Out. Many times, we try to maintain the illusion that we have life all figured out. As ministry leaders, we feel that pressure, whether real or imagined. It’s important to find someone to talk to about what you are dealing with, whether it be a friend, a mentor or a therapist. Counseling in any form can be good for a ministry mind, and your mental health is linked to your physical health, too. So find someone to be your sounding board, your confidant or your counselor and share what’s going on in your ministry, your life, your marriage…and defuse the stress and anxiety you are building up.
These practices are good for any youth leader, not just those struggling with their health, but especially if you are concerned about it. These suggestions are ones you should adopt and adapt to your personal routine to maintain physical and mental health.
This post was first published on The Middle Years blog.