I am taking a break from the swirl of activity to let some Tylenol kick in. As happens far too often in youth ministry, there has been a tragedy and the past week has been spent working, praying, and ministering to youths that are grieving.
This has led me to the fact that there are some necessary items for one of the most important things when you find yourself in the role of youth minister in a crisis - making sure you are taken care of (thereby able to minister and survive the tragedy without burnout).
Pain reliever of choice. Headaches will happen. I try to always keep Tylenol & Advil in my drawer. This is also helpful for when those ice breaker games get a bit out of control.
Some sort of way to treat yourself. I'm a girl. This means I have my favorite scented hand cream. The scent is calming and it gives me a moment that I can literally breath deeply, say a short prayer and carry on. And let's not forget the caffeine sources of diet soda, Irish Breakfast tea, and coffee.
Tangible reminders that there are good times to the ministry. I have a page-a-day calendar of photos of Australia that remind me of WYD 2008. Then there is the little espresso cup I use for paperclips that two girls bought me along with chocolate covered espresso beans at NCYC 2007 so that I would be able to stay awake. They sit right under my monitor and give me something to think positively about.
Prayer. Prayer for the kids, the families, the parish, the school, and for yourself. I have a few favorite things I go to. A book that I will do a shameless plug for is Walking Humbly by Thomas Flowers. The author is related to a college roommate. That aside, I find the poetry and scripture to be a great 10-20 minute chance for me to refocus. It has really been great to help me realize that there are so many ways to look at a situation.
Alright, the headache is coming under control and there are things to do.
Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 65, was killed. He was found in the rubble of the bishop's residence. The Cathedral's roof collapsed. The seminaries in Port-au-Prince are mere rubble. With a country that is 80% Catholic, they are not only suffering profoundly from the very necessary human needs, but also from a spiritual leader. Please, give what you can to assist them and also offer your prayers for this, the poorest country in this hemisphere.
If you are looking for materials to help you in your youth or young adult ministry, NFCYM has a few things already posted. I am guessing we will see more available on other sites soon.
I like to have my "Jenn gets hit by a bus" (thank you C.J. Cregg for the idea) folders in my horizontal file, ready for the moment when my clumsiness catches up to me and I'm in a hospital thus missing whatever event is going on. Those file folders ideally have the next full week of ministry contained in them. This way volunteers or other staff could just grab them, find the outline, originals of handouts, etc. They would be all set.
Today is not one of those days. I think I may actually throw in the towel for the whole week.
On the upside, the crunch of running out of time finally helped me break the mental block I had for what to do for a retreat session with the teens.
I'll continue to work just under the wire this week. I hope by the time I head out of town on January 24, that I am planned through the first week of February!
Okay, so the phrase "Keeping it real" is outdated. It is however, appropriate for today's musings.
I would ask if you are always busy at work, juggling somewhere around 89 projects, and trying to find time to eat your lunch/dinner, but hey, if you're reading this, you're in ministry. I'm assuming we're all a bit swamped.
Since Thanksgiving I've been trying to improve how I live. Some of this is finally hanging the pictures up around the house or replacing the rug that somehow just died a painful wrinkly death. Another part is trying to eat better and be more active (please ignore the couple of Trader Joe Salsa Tortilla chips I just ate - way better than Doritos). I've noticed all this helps. I have a higher level of energy, I'm a happier camper, and I've confused my dog by switching bathroom items from beige to cranberry red (she was scared of the bathroom for a couple of days).
Now that I've created some better habits for myself, it is time to check my habits here in ministry. I've been at this for 6 1/2 years. While I'm not as wise and experienced as many of the sage youth and young adult ministers out there, I do know this discussions . I cannot let myself get complacent or coast on what is working now. What works now may not work tomorrow. These ministries are always changing and always experiencing outside influences that can be overwhelming.
While I hate to add something more to my ever-growing, everlasting To-Do List, I am going to add in time to, well, dream. Brainstorming is to much focused on the nuts and bolts, the logistics. We've already got a pastoral plan. I purposely choose the word dream because it implies ignoring limits, utilizing creativity, and reaching far beyond what other forms of thinking often gather. From this will come the things that then will be plugged into brainstorming sessions.
Well, my leadership will be here in about 20 minutes for our monthly planning meeting, time to get them dreaming too.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
I've decided to become vegetarian. Factor in my not eating or drinking any milk product and you've got a lot of fun eating at retreat houses.
Making this decision, based off a variety of reasons, has made me much more aware of those around me. I believe I am now more sensitive to those who either have special diets by choice or necessity. I can better appreciate the frustrations when accommodations aren't available to meet those needs, or when there is just one menu item open (often a salad if you can't have cheese or milk products).
It has also made me more responsive and positive to the teens who are just starting to make similar declarations of some sort or another. For me to make a dietary change is simple enough. With only my dog in the house, changes in what is put on the table or in the lunch pail each day are purely my choice. (For the record, she likes the switch - she loves seitan, noodles, and spinach.) However, teens who for their own sets of reasons decide to become vegetarian or make another similar lifestyle change face many more difficulties. It is easier for me to understand those now and to help support them where appropriate and to encourage them to do the research and find support to make sure they are getting all the nutritional needs met that a growing body needs.
I also appreciate how often a teen is told, "Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts." I just heard that last night from an acquaintance. It got me thinking about how often teens who decided to change their lives, fight for a cause, or otherwise do something significant with their lives meet with discouragement. We may wish to point to their peers, but if we look closely, we'll see it is often the adults around them.
When your teen says, "I am ___________," what is your response? It is hard enough to change the world these days, so shouldn't we do everything we can to help support the youth and young adults around us who declare that they want to make a positive change in themselves?
Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn't know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong.