Today as I sit to write this “soul care” article, my soul doesn’t feel particularly cared for. Don’t worry, I am not in a bad place and as I go from meeting to meeting today I sense Jesus walking with me. In that sense my soul is perfectly cared for, however, I also feel pulled in multiple directions and I have a million things on my mind. I am sure this is a familiar experience for you. You are a youth pastor or a youth leader, which means you have said “yes” to service in the church.  This probably also means you like saying “yes” to service in other areas, which means you likely have a million things on your mind.

That is great and wonderful! Don’t worry this isn’t a “learn to say no” article. Instead this is an article sharing some things that have helped me as I have pastored, fathered, studied, and said “yes” to a lot of things over the years. My hope here is not that you experience this as one more thing to do, but that perhaps you find a practice that might bring peace and the stirring of your soul. At the very least, I hope this reminds you to take care of yourself.  You are not Superman or Wonder Woman, you are a person who has a finite capacity to serve and love. Below are some helpful practices I have taken on and do from time to time.

  • Sit in 10 minutes of silence – I literally take out my phone, set my timer for 10 minutes and do exactly this. I take 3 deep breaths, paying attention to where the breathing engages my body. Then I count to 10 as I inhale and exhale (inhale 1 and exhale 2 and so on.) When I get to 10 I start over. The goal is to think of nothing other than my breathing. Actually the true goal is silence. Now for a movement that prides itself on hearing God’s voice, having a goal of silence might seem odd, so here is some theology to help. Before anything there was silence. Before God spoke the universe into existence there was silence. God’s first language is silence. That might not be the most convincing line of thought, I get it, but hundreds of saints that have gone before speak of the value of silence. Whether it’s the dessert fathers, or Dallas Willard, or a Vineyard “forefather” Eddie Piorek, silence has been a place of real grace for those who desire to follow Jesus. Last point, I am ADHD. I was diagnosed as a kid and it has continued on through my adult life. It is hard for me to sit in utter silence for 10 minutes. However, what I have found is that silence is exactly what I need. The best way to describe what silence has done for me is that it separates me from my compulsions. It helps create space between my feeling the urge to act, reach, grab, eat, speak, etc. and the actual doing of that thing. So try it out, maybe it will help you. The key to silence bearing fruit in your life is that you have to do it more than once and doing it consistently will help even more.
  • Make time for leisure time – Learn to set aside time for you to be leisurely. Your body needs it to survive. Your mind needs it to recoup. Your spirit needs you to treat yourself gently like God desires to treat you. There are rhythms to how your body stays healthy and full of life and energy. One of those rhythms is down time. Time where you don’t do stuff. Jesus said it this way, “The Sabbath was made for man…” I incorporate this into my life in a couple of ways. On Fridays I don’t do anything that has to do with church. The only exception to this is if there is a camp or some special event, and in that case, I find another time to take off. What taking Fridays off means for me, is that I don’t meet with people, I don’t answer church related phone calls, or texts, or social media posts, and certainly not emails. I stay away from church related activity all together. I am not religious about this but I do have firm boundaries in order to keep myself alive. To be clear, though, the thing I stay away from is church work but not necessarily all work. I do the dishes, cut the grass, work out (maybe, but probably not ), and anything else that needs to be worked on. In addition, I try to just chill and rest as much as possible. For me that means movies or sports. For others, that means working out or eating a great lunch or even shooting guns. Whatever chills you out…do that!
  • Schedule your devotional life – If I don’t schedule my devotional life with God it doesn’t happen. I mean it might eventually happen, but days go by when it doesn’t happen. This might be basic for some of you and really the concept itself is super basic, but for me I just never thought to do it. I scheduled all my meetings, prep times, and events, but when it came to my devotional life I never scheduled it, which means it didn’t happen like I wanted it to. I find so much life in my devotional time with the Lord, whether that is reading scripture, praying, worshipping, journaling, or whatever. Devotional life is vital to maintaining the most important thing we do, love Jesus. So I have decided to schedule that time, in order to make sure it happens.

I realize none of these ideas are revolutionary, but for me they have still been life changing. However its not the kind of life changing that happens in the spur of a moment but rather the life changing that happens with a “one foot in front of the other” mentality. Meaning, this stuff only helps over time, it doesn’t help rapidly. Hopefully you find some help in it yourself. Blessings!

Wes Watkins
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