In my third year of youth ministry I hit a dark period where I felt isolated and alone in ministry. There was a lot of work piling up on my plate and instead of sharing those burdens I took them on my own. I began to resent those around me, which pushed me down a path of loneliness. Finally, I broke down and found myself venting to a few of my volunteers. They stepped up, shared the burden and surrounded me with love. I was free of isolation.
Youth ministry is not meant to be done in isolation; however, it’s so easy for a youth minister to find themselves in the midst of it. You begin to feel like no one cares about you or your ministry. Resentment, anger and frustration grow in your heart and what started out as a love has now become an annoyance. To escape the dangers of isolation you need to make sure you:
- Keep Record Of Your Journey: Journalling allows you to go back and look at events and encounters that might have lead you down the path towards your isolation. At the time what might have seemed insignificant at one time, is really what sent you down the wrong path. If you know the source of your isolation, it will be easier to address it.
- Arrange A Check-In: You need to make sure you have people in your life who will ask you, “How’s it going?” It gives you a reason to share what’s going on in your heart and mind. Make sure it’s people that will listen what you have to share and call you out, when you are misaligned with what’s important.
- Give Yourself A Break: Isolation can result from burnout. Placing margin in your schedule, and knowing when to take a step back will help you guard your heart. If you stay focused and maintain your energy you’ll be able to recognize triggers that might send you down that path of isolation.
- Work On Your Spiritual Habits: Youth ministry is a spiritual battle. Satan is constantly trying to pin you in a corner where you’ll feel like no one cares or shares your passions. He’ll make it seem like the world is against you every chance he gets. Spend time with God, study scripture and listen to his reassuring voice so you remember that you are not alone.
- Focus On Relationships: Even if your church is the only one for miles you can still connect with other youth workers. With social media, and conferences you have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other men and women in the trenches of youth ministry. Focus on those relationships and you’ll constantly be reminded that you are not alone. (For more on networking click here)
You are not meant to do youth ministry on your own, and you should never feel that way. To combat isolation find the people, places and resources that will remind you that God is with you and their are thousands of youth workers in the trenches right by your side.
What triggers feelings of isolation for you?