We love the students in our ministry, don’t we?

They cause us to laugh so hard we cry. They challenge us to staring contests with billboards (we always lose). They come up with the wackiest ideas, and they try their very hardest to keep us up to date on the latest slang (bless their hearts).

We would do anything for them.

They are the reason our cell phone is on loud next to our bed at 3:30 in the morning. We have cried tears of bitter pain on their behalf and along with them. They have shown us the incredible amount of hurt in the world, which seems to be exposed to our high schoolers at younger and younger ages.

I know I am not alone in saying if I could, I would give my students the world. I would take away the pressure of being skinny enough, of making the baseball team or of finding the perfect date to the prom in a heartbeat if I were able. But I can’t.

Youth ministry (or any type of ministry, really) can be just plain emotionally draining. We feel it – the ache, the tension, the joy, the excitement. A text from a student can change the entire course of our day. A Wednesday night at youth group tires us out in ways we didn’t even realize were possible. Sometimes, we come back from youth group and want to share the amazing ways Jesus was working in our students’ hearts in such a short amount of time, and sometimes we come back and just want to throw a pizza in the oven and have our backs rubbed.

Both are legitimate.

Youth worker, your emotional health matters. Because each day has the power to be filled with such intense emotions, we need to recognize the mood swings and learn how we respond to them. It is downright difficult to lead a student who struggles with depression if your own depression is out of control. It feels like the straw that breaks the camel’s back when a student makes a joke about how “old” you are after a long day of fighting for more funding for your summer mission trip. Sometimes, stress from our own personal life causes us to have to take the night off, or the month off, or the rest of the year off.

Learning to cope with the different mood swings you will have in youth ministry begins with recognizing that this is not an easy task. Retreats and Serve trips can make it seem like youth ministry is a lot of fun, and it certainly is. However, if we are only in it for the fun we get to have sporadically throughout the year, I would argue we are in it for the wrong reasons. High school is hard, and it tests our kids. Being an adult is hard, and it tests us in some pretty significant ways as well.

So when the hard times come, and they frequently do, it’s important to have an action plan in place for yourself to combat the ministry blues. Treat yourself to some alone time, and do what it takes to recharge there: buy yourself a cup of coffee, take a walk, or take a nap. Make time for those you are close to outside of ministry: leave your phone in the car when you’re out for date night, binge watch your favorite series on Netflix with a friend, or call your parents.

Know that your emotional health matters equally as much as that of your students. Do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy for the sake of your family and friends.