One of the things that I have learned the most in my first two years of youth ministry is that it can be extremely wearing. When you are working with youth every week who are hurting and who have very tough living situations it begins to burden you more and more. My senior pastor once did a message that talked about ministering out of our overflow and how if we weren’t refilling ourselves we would eventually run out. It hit me that day that I was beginning to run dry. I had been so caught up in ministering to the youth of our community that I had neglected to let myself be ministered to! I realized that an unhealthy leader will never be able to train and raise up a healthy congregation. I know that may sound a little harsh but it has proved to be true in many different instances. If you want to be a successful pastor to your youth you need to take care of yourself, otherwise you will be living on the edge of burnout your entire career and my guess would be that your career won’t be very long.
I began to put a higher priority on my daily devotions and that helped out tremendously but I still felt that I was running on empty. I started making sure that I was having deep conversations with those who had more life experience than I did and soaking in every drop of wisdom that I could. That helped but still I needed something more. Then I remembered back to my days of Tentmakers Training and how they told us to make solitude time a part of our lives. I also remembered how many times Jesus went off by himself. He started off his ministry by going into the desert for 40 days by himself and often the gospels record him going off by himself. One example being after he fed the 5,000 John says: “When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, ‘Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!’ When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.” I decided to give this a try and it has played a huge role in the success of our ministry and I am sure it can play a huge role in yours as well.
Start off by taking just a couple hours a week all by yourself with only your bible and a journal and see how God uses it. Then after a while you will want to start incorporating in a 24hr solitude getaway at least every couple of months. Try to make sure when you take your solitude that you are in a place that you are able to relax and have no distractions, for me it is the woods.
Make sure that you go into it without any real agenda and see where God leads you in your thoughts and reading. The first couple times I took “solitude” I used it to either plan our Winter Retreat or to write a new curriculum. That isn’t really solitude then, it is more like a 24hr work trip. I have found that when I just go out and let God lead me that He has given me exactly what I needed. I just go back from one of my solitude retreats and went into expecting to come out with a clearer understanding of the thoughts that are floating around in my head. What God ended up giving me was a lot of rest and peace. I didn’t realize before that trip how tired and worn out I was, but God did!
Take some time this week and set it aside for some time alone and undistracted with the God of the universe and see how He uses it. I know He wont let you down!