Is Your Identity “Youth Ministry?”

When I get together with my friends, I talk about youth ministry the same way they would talk about their spouses, children, or pets.

Let’s be honest: I’m obsessed. When I first drafted this article, the following was true: I get paid to work with at-risk teens for 240 hours a month. I put in at least 40 hours a month as a youth ministry volunteer. Let’s not even get started on the amount of time that I do stuff for YouthMin.Org, ha! Then let’s look at my hobbies: Reading youth ministry blogs. Reading nonfiction books on Theology and Jesus. Listening to Jesus Jams.

MY ENTIRE IDENTITY IS CONSUMED BY MINISTRY.

(sometimes caps are necessary)

I know that I’m not alone.  And let’s be honest, not everyone is endeared by this. First-off, it takes a special person to want to work with teenagers…who wants to listen to stories about working with teenagers?

As I’m beginning in a new position as a full-time youth director and ditching my previous schedule (gone are my part-time youth pastor, full time hero days!), I decided I needed to reevaluate the way that I do ministry. Here are some resolutions I have decided to take among myself in order to regain a personality:

Make some boundaries.

Sabbath. DO IT! Start making time for yourself, for your family, and for rest. Turn your phone off once in a while.  Say “no” to people when you feel overwhelmed. As I begin my new position in a new church, I am making sure I clearly define my “work life” from my “home life” so that I can have A life. That means sometimes I work late on a Thursday night so that I can take full advantage of my Friday and Saturday off.  This way, when I hang out with people, I’m not in the “ministry mode.”

Drop some responsibilities.

I don’t have to be in Super-Heather mode all of the time, saving the world from teenagers.  It is needed to drop some things in order to make some time for other things. Pay attention to the responsibilities that should take precedence–self-care, family, relationships. You may be called to ministry, but you are called to first take care of your health and your family.

Pick up a non-ministry-or-Jesus-or-teenagers-related hobby.

Find something that can in no way be tied back to ministry. Take an art class, dance class, photography class, cooking class, or take up a sport.  Do something with people your own age who aren’t teenagers and who you don’t work with.   If you’re married, hang out with your family; if you’re single, date!  Fun is a must, and I’m not talking about Chubby-Bunny-fun, but being-with-friends-fun.

What are some things that you do to separate your identity from youth ministry? Also…is it really that bad to have youth ministry as your identity?

2 thoughts on “Is Your Identity “Youth Ministry?”

  1. Aaron Helman says:

    Heather, this is a terrific post and a terrific thought. More people should read this, for sure.

    I’d say it probably isn’t good to have youth ministry become your identity. It’s tough to really take a Sabbath if you don’t have many hobbies that aren’t directly related to your work.

    I’d also be worried that I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where, if God called me away from youth ministry, that also would mean I lost my identity.

    Okay, comment written. Going to share this right now.

  2. Kelsea says:

    Heather, I came across your blog and was really encouraged! I volunteer to lead the junior high group of our church’s youth group and one of the very few young adults at my church. Seeing your enthusiasm about youth ministry, and also being a woman leading youth ministry was very encouraging to me. My heart is definitely in youth ministry, and while it’s just a volunteer position for now, I can identify with wanting to reach the youth for Christ! Thanks for your posts!

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