Let’s face it, youth ministers on a whole are not exactly specimens of great health. Our stressful lifestyles, non-stop schedules, being pulled in multiple directions, and trying to keep up with teenagers all contribute to health issues for many youth ministers; and that is not to mention eating habits that resemble the teenagers we work with.
I have worked with varying effectiveness on this year after year, but I have learned some things that have helped me along the way.
1. Wear A Fit Bit and aim for 10,000 Steps Per Day.
Having something count your steps serves as a way to be accountable. Getting up and being active throughout the day, even if it is as simple as walking, is good for our health. On days when I am stuck to my desk and find it hard to get out, I will walk around the block of the church or take a stroll around the inside of the church building. When I am doing this I take time to pray for the church and my ministry, which helps pass the time and can help me feel productive.
2. Download a Calorie Counter like My Fitness Pal or Join Weight Watchers.
One of the biggest killers to my weight and health goals is the snacking I do throughout the day. In addition to that, I make assumptions about what is good for me and what is low in calorie. In order to make my life “work”, I keep a calendar, make lists, and take a ton of notes. To assume I can manage my health without taking notes and keeping track is naïve.
3. Find Accountability or Workout Partners.
We all know the Christian life is meant to be lived in community. This same idea works in other areas of life as well. When working on our health, and specifically dieting and weight-loss, whether it is working out or making food and eating decisions, having someone else or having a small community of people who can hold each other accountable can be so helpful.
4. Make A Plan.
If I am not careful, my life totally gets away from me. The way that I combat this is to calendar just about every aspect of my life. And while this may, from afar, seem to leave little opportunity for flexibility and last minute things that come up, it in the long run allows me to accomplish so much more. As a result, I have found that if I am going to commit to making my health a priority I have to schedule it into my life. I have learned to calendar in my workout times as well as the meals I am going to eat and where I am going to eat them. If I can get a handle on these things I find that I am way better off.
5. Avoid Going to Meals with Students.
The health-killer for me is eating out with students. I have found that even if I eat something before or plan on eating after, whenever I am with youth at their favorite fast-food restaurant the temptation is almost overwhelming. The best way to combat this is to meet with students during non-meals times, like over coffee after school or mid afternoon at a non-restaurant location. But, if I do find myself hanging out with students at a restaurant I always make sure to know in advance of getting there what I am going to order and eat. Since this is also a problem on trips away from home with students, I make sure to pack more-nutritious snack bars, yoghurt, and nuts. Even knowing what restaurants we may stop at along the way help me to mentally prepare myself for what I will order.
6. Remember You Aren’t as Young As The Students You Work With, and Your Metabolism Isn’t What It Used To Be.
Wouldn’t it be great if, as a youth minister, our metabolism worked at the same rate as the students’ we work with do? How often have I sat across from skinny student who is scarfing down a double-cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, as if to tempt me away from my desire for a more healthy life. Like many things in our spiritual lives, being away of pitfalls is key to avoiding situations that are detrimental. Understanding our bodies, our health, our lifestyles, and the demands we face in a realistic, open, and honest attitude will help in great ways in the long run. It might sound a bit cliche, but the honest truth is we can’t be effective in ministry on this earth if we are dead. Healthy living not only leads to a great change of longevity of live, but it can be key to longevity and effectiveness in our ministry to teenagers.