Take Care of Your Own Health

Over the past several months, I have been writing a series MinistryPlace.Net that coincides with a workshop I teach called “Healthy Youth Leaders Do This: ______”. The workshop looks at characteristics that promote healthy youth ministry and serving your ministry from a healthy place. Little did I know what God would do with this line of thinking in my own life…

I was determined to base this series purely in the realm of the emotional/spiritual, and leave the physical to folks like Mark at SweatCor.com (A Texas Youth Pastor who was a contestant on Biggest Loser). After all, I am not “that guy”. We all know a few. The one that posts on Facebook, “I was only able to run 16 miles this morning before breakfast,…. bummer”. I was only in competitive sports a couple years in junior high/high school, so a training regimen is not anywhere near my daily thoughts. I wasn’t even sure that the words “working” and “out” belonged together in my vocabulary.

It’s funny how God can take what you say you are not going to do, and then show you why that is precisely what you need to do. It wasn’t anywhere as dramatic as the story of Jonah in the Bible, but in a way, I can relate. For me it came in a visit to the doctors office for a pretty routine visit, then being shocked by what I saw on the scale. In that moment, I saw conviction of “you talk about healthy as a youthworker? This isn’t it!”. I knew that things had to change. What I’m sharing today is only the start of the journey, because all of the characteristics of healthy youth leaders are a daily journey, not a destination.

1) Making the realization that your health is completely your responsibility.

Just like taking care of your family, this is something that cannot be taken care of by anyone other than you. This is your responsibility alone. if you do not like what you see on the scale it is up to you to make that change if you do not like what you see on the scale it is up to you to make that change.

2) Looking for small changes and making them.

One of the things that I have learned is that you can be very successful in turning your health around is taking a few things at a time, and doing them consistently. For me, it has involved things like watching calorie/fat/carb intake, portion sizes, making sure I am active during the day, making sure I get enough sleep, and a consistent time on the elliptical 5+ days a week.

3) Looking at the resources available.

There are some great resources available to aid in making a more healthy lifestyle. If you have a smart phone of recent vintage, there are some great apps that make use of the hardware in your phone to track how active you are in the day. For Android devices, Google Fit is an example of this. You can take that a step farther with devices such as those from companies such as FitBit, Jawbone, Misfit, and others. Most of these devices work in conjunction with an app to track workouts, food intake, sleep, and some even track heart rate as well.

Another question you need to ask is “What are my options for working out?”. Yes I went there. For each of us, this part of the equation is going to look a little different. For me, one of the keys has been an elliptical that my wife and I purchased off Craigslist for pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of the same unit new. It still had some of the original packing material attached, so it was not a stretch to call it lightly used. It has been a great resource during a cold and snowy winter.

4) Who’s on your team?

Who is on your side, cheering you on and keeping you accountable? For me it’s a loving wife and some youth ministry colleagues that I have shared about my journey with, and asked them to pray with me as I take back my health from many years of neglect. Another great resource in this area is the ability to share your progress in some of the fitness apps. For example, in Jawbone’s UP app (which I use), you can set up “teams” to encourage and cheer each other on, and keep accountable to one another.

5) Maintenance and longevity.

Like I said earlier, this is a journey, not a destination. I want to be the first to cheer you on. This is not going to be easy. But, just like any of the other pieces of serving from a healthy place in youth ministry, it will allow you to be a better servant for the kingdom, and hopefully allow you to serve for a longer time impacting students for Christ. Let’s do this. We are better together.

Header image provided through creative commons. Adaptation from a photograph by Jean-Francois Gornet.

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