Is It Possible to Care Too Much For Students?
Is it possible to care too much? When does your passion for students become unhealthy?
I came across this question on ChristianForums.com and was curious to see how people responded. Some responded by saying, “No, you can’t care too much.” Others said, “Yes!” So which is it?
You can read the responses here, but I want to go ahead and answer the question here. I have a lot of kids in my group dealing with real issues in their lives. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I need God. I need God a lot, actually. As Louie Giglio so simply put it, “I am not, but I know I AM.”
Caring for students becomes unhealthy when…
- Your motive for caring is selfish. You do it for the glamor, or you do it because of the affection the kids show you. You “care” for them because they give something back.
- You don’t trust that God can take care of the students’ problems. You may think this to be true and say it out loud, but do your actions believe in God’s power? Or do you think you need to be God’s backup plan?
- You think you’re some sort of martyr. You carry around the burdens of your students and act as if you’re some sort of martyr. In a twisted sort of way, the emotional burdens bring you comfort or validate you as a minister.
An unhealthy level of caring leads to…
- Unnecessary stress. A little stress is okay; it’s part of our instinct. But an unhealthy level of stress can lead to your other responsibilities suffering. You job suffers and your family suffers. Stress also lends itself to an unhealthy diet.
- Emotional burnout. This can lead to an apathetic approach to other responsibilities or the inability to fully care for your family.
- Loss of sleep. Just this past weekend, I became overly stressed about a situation at youth group and had a hard time sleeping. I immediately sought the counsel of a wise mentor the next morning.
- Physical sickness or unhealthiness. Too much stress is actually unhealthy for you. That’s fairly well known.
How to maintain a level of healthy caring:
- Our care for students must first be given to God. Trusting in God to take care of our kids frees us to truly do ministry in a healthy way. (“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7) Constantly giving over your cares to God in prayer will help relieve your own stress. I make a list in a confidential notebook and pray to God for them daily.
- Create and maintain healthy boundaries. Take days off. While being a youth leader can sometimes seem like a 24/7 job, we need to take the necessary steps to care for our souls.
- Get counseling. Always have a mentor, Biblical counselor, and/or another youth leader that you can go to when you need to unload. I have several people I can go to in order to do this.
- Exercise and eat healthy. Sounds like a strange place to say this, huh? Seriously, exercise releases endorphins and eating healthy helps your body retain chemical balance. I (try to) run on a regular basis, but especially when I feel an emotional burden.
- Spend time with friends on a regular basis who are not associated with your ministry. Or if they are, don’t talk about youth ministry things. I admit, I have difficulty with this one, since many of my friends are also youth workers.
- For additional reading, I highly suggest Tim Schmoyer’s post How I Will Crash and Burn(out) in Ministry.
- Also, check out Adam McLane’s Responding to Stress post.
- My post on dealing with kids who keep making bad decisions.
Assess your own level of health. Do you care too much? Or perhaps too little? Do you put up too many boundaries?