Youth Workers Living with Life’s Pressures

lovely girl with a mug of coffeeHow do you view the stresses you experience as a youth worker? Do you cry when you hear the words “ski trip”? Do your youth ask if you had any fun when you were young? Do you wince when the phone rings? Did your class choose The Walking Dead as their favorite TV show? Did they suggest “Bloods” as the nickname for the class?

Youth leaders have a variety of sources for stress. The progress your class makes often can’t be measured. You may have a sense of incompleteness. Youth are, by definition, not the most mature people. Teenagers can be infuriating. Reflect on the stress in your life. What are the signs when stress is getting to you? Does it take you longer to fall asleep? Do you take more aspirins or drink more coffee? Do you laugh less often? Do you get angry easily? Do you feel like you are running out of time?

The cost of ignoring the causes and symptoms of stress is frightening. If the seven deadly sins were chosen today, ignoring stress would make the list. As Christian teachers, stress is especially dangerous because it pushes us away from Christ and genuine ministry. These five correctives to tension-filled lives are God’s gifts to us all.

Play, for instance, is meant for adults. Reflect on the playful experiences that refresh you. God’s gift of play may encompass reading a novel in a hot bath, listening to a symphony and pretending you’re the conductor, playing basketball, or pitching horseshoes. As you lead your youth to see play as God’s gift, ask what form a commitment to play would take for you. You might choose to sign up for a pottery class or work in your shop once a week or join a racquetball club. Consider how play will be helpful for you.

Silence is God’s gift to help ease our anger, help us recognize priorities, calm our competitive natures, deal with feelings of inadequacy, and keep us from panicking. Like youth, we live in a constant stream of noise. Think about how you enjoy silence. Do you need quiet time early in the morning or a walk around the block each night? Consider making an appointment with solitude.

Simplicity is the gift by which we move beyond the stress caused by the things which own us. Often we seek security through the acquisition of wealth, but our striving becomes a source of stress. Living in a material world brings headaches and heartaches. How can we take seriously Jesus’ words and example? You may need to give something away or stop wanting something you don’t need.

Friendship is essential to living joyfully in a tension-filled world. We need each other. Some of our priorities get in the way. We let productivity, busyness, and superficiality keep us from having close friends. Decide to be a better friend by making a phone call, taking a break with an old pal, writing a letter, or giving a gift.

Authentic worship offers a glimpse of life beyond our stress. A personal commitment to worship might be a pledge to focus on a particular element of worship: to pray, to confess, to sing, and to listen to the voice of God.

As you lead your students, may you also receive play, silence, simplicity, friendship, and worship as strength-renewing, joy-producing, hope-restoring gifts of God.

This originally appeared in Intersection.

Carol Davis Younger is the editor of Reflections and coauthor of Mark Annual Bible Study with her husband Brett.

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