How to Recover from a Bad Day in Youth Ministry

Have you had one of ‘those’ days lately in your youth ministry? You know the one… A bad night at youth group where nothing went to plan… A student who made a horrendous mistake that you didn’t see coming… That parent who chewed you out and didn’t give you any grace… Or maybe your leader has not appreciated all your hard efforts…

No matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid having bad days in ministry… Working with people is messy, and we have to admit it, we are flawed people too… But how can you and I recover from one of those days?

Here are some things I have to be reminded of often: 

1) Tomorrow is a new Day: When you and I have a bad day, there’s often the feeling that we will never recover from our predicament. However, God is not done with us and no matter how much we’ve messed up, or how much someone else has hurt us, God gives us a fresh start each day. Seek the safety and shelter of God and discover His fresh start today!
2) It’s not about us: Sometimes we take tough days way too hard simply because we are hanging on too hard and trying to do everything in our own strength. Some of us, if we are honest, have been fueled by people pleasing in an unhealthy way. When a student rejects us, or parent is upset, or a leader in the church is hard on us, we take it too personally. It’s good to remember that our strength, purpose, and affirmation should come from God, not people. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God, his plans, and his purposes. When you and I get caught up with people pleasing, we begin to elevate others and ourselves above God… Refocus on Him.

3) We Learn: What can you learn from this? If you have had a bad day, don’t use all your energy wallowing… Begin to ask God to teach you lessons from the day. So often we repeat the same mistakes again and again simply because we missed crucial lessons and failed to ask God for wisdom in our mistakes or tough times. What is God teaching you through this bad day? Is there some area of your life He is trying to shape and mold?

4) Find Others Who are Going through it. If you are not part of a youth ministry network or don’t have youth worker friends to share life with, make it a priority today. So often we think that we are the only ones going through challenging times. However, it’s so helpful to be a part of a group who truly understands the youth ministry journey.

When tough times come, it is imperative that we have others to lean on, share with, and to learn from.

5) Celebrate Victories. How often do you journal your successes? Do you save the notes and cards that students, parents, and leaders give you? If not, it’s time to start keeping a ‘kudos file.’ When the bad days come, it’s so encouraging to be able to go back to the affirmations and successes. It’s important to see that it is not all doom and gloom. Build on your successes and stay focused on the best of what you do.

6) Go to bed… Sleep helps everything… If there is one piece of wisdom I can give you, it is simply this: Go to bed, get a good nights sleep, and expect to feel better in the morning. It’s amazing just how much a good nights sleep can do for you. The difference in a situation can be like night and day after a good nights sleep… Literally!

So, how do you recover from a bad day? What have you learned to stay focused and positive? What would you add to this list? 

Phil <><

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4 Responses to How to Recover from a Bad Day in Youth Ministry

  1. Christopher Wesley October 16, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Phil, great post and subject to discuss. I usually recover from a bad day or week by going for a run, cooking or writing. It’s about embracing the Sabbath and doing what God has put in your life to find restoration.

  2. Morgan Paddock October 16, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    I have had several of these days in a row. It’s turning into a bad “week.” I know I need to create margin to avoid burn out….now just doing it is the problem! 🙂 Thanks for this article. Very timely.

  3. gwen bliss October 16, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Count your blessings and thank God for those blessings…and peace soon follows. Reread Psalm 91 for the millionth time. Never loses it’s power.;)

  4. Phil Bell October 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Chris, great encouragement. The sabbath makes everything look different doesn’t it?

    Morgan, praying that God will give you peace and comfort in your challenging week. Remember, His strength not yours 🙂

    Gwen, great passage! Thanks for the encouragement!

    Phil <><

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