This post also appears on Canadian Youth Worker.
Much has been written and talked about regarding the necessity of youth workers caring for their own souls. This is a critical habit to develop. The truth is that unless you are tending to your own soul care, the ministry you are engaged in and serve with won't do it for you.
I've seen way too many friends and colleagues burnout in ministry because they neglected the health and development of their soul. And when burnout happens, it's more than just the individual that suffers. Their entire community bears the scars and wounds that soul neglect creates.
There are many different habits that can become soul-nourishing. Here are three of my top three:
1. Playing or listening to music. Music has the ability to lift, emote, transform and transcend situations and circumstances. In different seasons of my life I've been drawn to different genres to help restore my emotional capacity, or process the difficult nature of pending circumstances I was feeling. Songwriters like Adele and Ryan Tedder (and others) have the ability to translate their pain and joy into song in ways that help others process their own current reality in a fresh perspective. Even classical music can help with decompressing after a difficult day or conversation.
When you are feeling on edge, music can be a tool to help you recalibrate. Listening to or playing music can become a soul-nurturing habit.
2. Watching movies. Sometimes living into an unfolding story as seen on screen can provide you with the necessary processing time you need to tend to your soul health. Stories are powerful invitations to celebrate, create or hope. Movies can be springboards into hopeful perspectives and outlooks in leadership challenges. When a protagonist triumphs over evil, it can be a reminder that every leader faces challenges and can discover a way to work through them. When an antagonist becomes all-consuming, the viewer may be aware of his or her own ability to become the negative influence we seek to overcome in different seasons.
And sometimes you just need to laugh. Visually displayed humour can invite us into a 50,000 ft perspective of our own hardships or challenges while reminding us of what is really important...living life instead of simply managing it.
3. Creating conversation. We all need people we can talk to and confide it. Whether that is a spouse, close friends or a network of other youth workers, who are your allies in your foxhole? Do you have people you can be completely candid with, or are you always in the habit of keeping up appearances? Authenticity is the gateway to a healthy soul. It is absolutely critical for every leader to find fellow sojourners who support, uplift, pray for and challenge them. We weren't created for isolation, and we will not survive on our own. We need each other.
What have been your most healthy soul caring habits? What would you add to this list?