Quit youth ministry until you find out who you are/something that you love. If your favorite thing is youth ministry and it’s all you can talk about, either quit your day job and find a new one for a while or, if you’re a really strong person, keep your day job and go to counseling (or watch Silver Linings Playbook or The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and figure out what you love and who you are and do more of that (being who you are and doing what you love…because I think God created you that way).
I worked in youth ministry all through college, then a year after college and just became really discontent and on top of that was struggling with realizing that this melancholy that I was living with/trudging through was, as I suspected, depression. It was time for a change and I left the church I was in to go work for a non-profit called SIFAT (Servants in Faith & Technology) in Lineville, AL (sifat.org). I was always interested in the “missions” part of youth ministry and knew that SIFAT would be an important developmental step for me. On top of that, I needed to heal. So, I went there, to the “middle-of-nowhere”, AL. It was like I found a non-religious monastery. And, I think I healed a great deal.
In the solitude there, while I worked and learned about the rest of the world through the global village experience, slum experience, community leaders from all over the world participating in the practicum for 5 weeks and some of the best friends I’ll ever have who are the heroes that I worked with. I got outside of the world I was in and was inspired and changed and realized that I love gardening, growing food, learning about the rest of the world (already knew that), rock climbing, and that I can meet new people and not be afraid of them, because they aren’t going to necessarily turn out to be terrible/disappointing (they can actually be awesome). I learned love, hospitality, community, integrity, what being passionate feels like (I had lost that feeling in depression), and understanding/striving to understand.
I had started counseling before I left the church I was in and that helped me get to understand depression more and understand why I was struggling so hard with it. I learned that eating poorly or not eating makes depression worse. I learned that not exercising wasn’t helping. I learned that poor sleeping habits/not having a regular sleeping schedule (staying up all hours of the night and sleeping all day to be specific) makes it worse. So, I started to try to do better at that before I went to SIFAT and when I got there the lifestyle I had only made me healthier.
I was up way earlier than I had been used to (with our schedules sometimes starting at 5:30am), was working outside, and was eating healthier/didn’t have a ton of money (I was raising my own support to live there and had a weekly stipend) to buy as much junk as I used to eat/eat out all the time. SIFAT teaches nutrition as well and my friends there ate healthy and I learned about nutrition and learned to love eating better and loved that it made me feel better too..
I might say that God sent me to SIFAT because I know that my mind was way to foggy to make such a great decision myself at the time that I went. I learned myself and learned other people and learned life while I was there with nothing better to do in Wedowee/Lineville, AL.
Finding out what I loved helped me and finding out what I love helped me, I think, because it gave me more to talk about than “ministry”. Maybe a lot of youth ministers because youth pastors right out of college or high school and so that is the only thing they love or it is what their time/life is wrapped up in. There’s just more than that out there and there’s more to talk about/experience.
All of that to say, if all you talk about is your youth ministry to your youth, that’s a bummer because they should know the other good things in your life like your family and your friends and what you love to do/where you love to be/your favorite song/your favorite movie/what you care about in the community.
If all you say all the time is “are you coming to this or that on this day or that day with the youth group?”…If all you say is “hey, I haven’t seen you at youth lately”… maybe say something else next time or throw in a few “how are you’s” or “how was your weekend’s” or “I went to a show or on a hike this weekend and here’s why it was awesome”–I think their response will be something enjoyable.
So, if you can’t quit youth ministry right now, at least stop talking about it all the time.