New Year’s Resolutions for the 2017 Youth Minister

Building Good Habits

I don’t know about you, but for me, 2016 was a doozy. I am gladly bidding 2016 adieu, sayonara, ciao, GOOD BYE!—and welcoming in 2017 with open arms.

New Year's Resolutions

As I look toward 2017, however, I recognize the challenges I face. Youth ministry is a tedious, busy, overwhelming, heavy job. As a youth minister, it is my responsibility to cultivate the spiritual lives of youth, giving them the space to engage with Christ and live into His promises. I’m always hoping to breathe love into their lives and walking alongside them as they grieve, stumble, and sometimes even fall.

It is a life-giving job, of course, but if we aren’t careful it can drain us. We work around the clock giving and working, often forgetting that we too need to be cultivating our own spiritual lives; giving ourselves space to engage with Christ and live into His promises; breathing love into our own lives; and allowing others to walk alongside us as we grieve, stumble, and sometimes even fall.

The Resolutions

With that in mind, I am setting a few new year’s resolutions for myself in order to continue to do my job well and to do it as a whole person.

1) Get a Therapist

If you already have a therapist—give yourself a pat on the back—or if it’s more your style, give yourself a hug! Therapy is for winners!

In all seriousness, our work is heavy, it is important that we have a professional in our lives to share in the burden. Additionally, whether we like to admit it or not, we are broken people. Getting a therapist is like taking out insurance on the mental and emotional health of those around us. Our emotional and mental wounds are usually invisible to us. We don’t always know how we’re hurting ourselves, our families or—GASP—those we minister to.

I haven’t been in therapy for a few years, but the last time I was, the time I spent there was invaluable. I spend so much of my time walking alongside others as they experience life at its best and worst. It’s likewise important for me to have someone…a professional someone. Depending on my husband, best friend, or mom for all of my emotional and mental support is unhealthy and unfair, and they’re not professionals.

Getting a therapist is like taking out insurance on the mental and emotional health of those around us.

So just do it. Get a therapist. Never mind your pride, the stigma, the endless excuses, just do it.

For more, read How to Find the Best Therapist

2) Make More Time for Prayer

Scratch that: schedule more time for prayer. If you’re anything like me, then you’ve said this a thousand times and then—SHOCKER—didn’t do it. Prayer is your date with Christ, so schedule your time in prayer just like you would a meeting or coffee date. Set a time in your phone or in your planner and stick to it. Start small and set aside five minutes every day to pray, then work your way into more time. The life and health of not just yourself, but your youth ministry, depends on how vibrant your prayer life is.

Ashley Null in Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer says, “Prayer renews our desire to serve God and others and all because of a fresh realization that God has loved us first.” What better way to breathe energy and love into our lives than through prayer. Pray for your youth, your ministry, your family, and yourself—but most important take time to be silent in prayer, listening for the voice of God. Few things feel more holy to me than silence. It is in silence that we can push past our own thoughts and ego, and enter into the mind of God.

The life and health of not just yourself, but your youth ministry, depends on how vibrant your prayer life is.

If you’re having a hard time getting disciplined in your prayer, consider picking up the Book of Common Prayer and praying the hours. Or after making a list of your youth, or loved ones, pick up some prayer beads and hold each prayer bead as if it was one of the youth listed—holding them in love. Adding new practices, ancient or contemporary, into your prayer life can give your spiritual life, and you, a new sense of vibrancy. Really feeling stuck? Get a spiritual director and see what you can work up together!

For more, read Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer, by Winfield Bevins.

3) Wonder and Dream

Coordinator, travel agent, secretary, preacher, Sunday school teacher, volunteer coordinator, program director, gym teacher, spiritual director, counselor, mentor, leader, pastor….the roles we play as youth ministers are endless and overwhelming. It’s easy to get bogged down and caught up in the routine.

A great remedy for pulling yourself out of the muck and mire of daily responsibilities is making time for wonder. Do you live by the beach? Walk by the ocean and allow yourself to be caught up in the vastness of the water. Do you live by the woods or a beautiful field? Make time to take a walk there and meditate on the beauty. Take time to look at the moon or to notice the cloud formations at dawn. Take a trip to the art museum or listen to one of Mozart’s symphonies.

The point is—be in awe of something. When I take time to notice the beauty around me, I naturally meditate on the beauty and love of God. I remember how small I am and that these daily tasks, while important, don’t define me or my ministry.

A great remedy for pulling yourself out of the muck and mire of daily responsibilities is making time for wonder.

Further, when I have time to wonder, I have time to dream. When I allow my mind to wander, I actually have space to dream about my ministry. Where are we going? Where is God taking us? Is there an activity or program we have been doing for years that we can clear out to make room for something new?

Dream big for your ministry, and I don’t mean at night just before you’re drifting off to sleep. I mean carve out actual time to dream, because otherwise our ministries become stale and we end up doing the same thing just because it’s what we’ve always done. Ministry feels less burdensome when we are doing something with purpose and intention, not with tired energy.

For more, read The Power of Awe: A Sense of Wonder Promotes Loving-Kindness

Resolve to Live Fully

It is my hope that these three resolutions with make 2017, and the years that follow, full of life. I would love it if you would join me! I would love to hear from you. If you decide to take on any of these resolutions in 2017, let me know and keep me posted on how it goes.


About the Author: Rachael McNeal

rachael mcneal

Rachael McNeal currently lives in St. Augustine, while working as the Director of Youth Ministries at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. She also has experience in Higher Education and Interfaith Activism. Rachael graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL where she studied Religion and Youth Ministry. She attended Princeton Theological Seminary where she received her Master of Divinity. She was featured on Interfaith Youth Core’s podcast Common Knowledge and has written for OnFaith, Interfaith Youth Core, Faith Line Protestants, Sojourners, and Huffington Post Religion.

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