Last week, we talked about the need for self-care in the area of our bodies and how church members can help their staff members achieve some needed changes. This week, I want to look at another area that may need to be addressed in the lives of your student ministry workers — their mental and emotional well-being.
Stress is a monster that can destroy us and our ministries if we let it. It can affect our health, focus and effectiveness as servants of the King. However, it is something we all have to deal with; we can’t simply stuff it away and hope it will take care of itself. We need to invest the time and energy to deal with the mental and emotional strain in our lives. If we hope to be useful for the students God has placed us with, we should take care of ourselves in these areas. When we don’t, we may become irritable, withdrawn or unfocused.
So, what are some ways that you can help your student ministry workers and church staff achieve a greater sense of balance in this area? What can we do to help our servants? Here are some suggestions:
• Normalize counseling. For so many years, counseling has been looked down upon in our churches. Our people are told to simply just have more faith and trust God. While I agree that faith and dependence on God are vital in every situation, there are situations that call for tools only a counselor may have. When dealing with intense loss, grief and trauma, a great faith-based counselor can make all the difference. I know that when my father passed away suddenly in 2010, I was completely lost. I still did the things I needed to do, but was struggling. Sitting down with a counselor who shared my faith allowed me the opportunity to step through my struggle in a way that I couldn’t with anyone in my church. If your staff member is struggling to make deductible or their insurance doesn’t cover a qualified counselor, consider backing your investment in your staff member. Help them step through their struggle.
• Allow them time to mourn loss and maneuver big changes in their lives. The men and women who work with your students are often expected to simply show up no matter what is happening in their lives. To a degree, that is a proper expectation. Life does not come to a halt at every difficulty. However, there are times when we need to say to those staff members, “You need to get away from the routine and focus on you.” Deaths, weddings, graduations and more can bring about big emotional shifts. Giving your staff time to work through those will allow him or her the opportunity to come back more focused.
• Provide the opportunity for prayer retreats and continuing education. Sometimes, a conference can make all the difference in the mental well-being of a minister. It allows that person to be exposed to new ideas and to meet others that are facing the same struggles. The re:Charge Leader’s Oasis sponsored by the BMAA is a great event to send your leaders to. This year’s event is being held Sept. 27-29 in Hot Springs. You can find more information at bmaamerica.org/recharge. In addition, the BMA of Arkansas Youth Department will host our annual Student Ministry Workers Retreat at Central Baptist College on Sept. 17. This one-day event is designed specifically with the student ministry worker in mind. You can find more information about it and register on our website, StudentMinistryMatters.com.
It is important that you help your student ministry worker invest in the mental and emotional self-care they need. This area is often easy to miss as many will choose to hide how they are doing on the inside. However, we cannot ignore this area. Help your servants.
If you work with students or in the church in general, you need to take care of yourself. Sometimes, you must be your own advocate. Do what it takes so you can continue serving right up to the day that God calls you home. Don’t give up or quit. Find the people that can help you navigate the stress and challenges you face. If you need help in this area, reach out to me at BMAyouthdepartment@gmail.com.