Every week this year we are exploring the theme “The People.” Today we dive in with……
The People who keep me sane
Rev. Anita Laffoon earned her Master of Divinity degree from Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, and is currently the Youth and Children’s Minister at First United Methodist Church in Marion, NC. She is passionate about helping children and youth develop their own unique relationship with Jesus, and truly loves being a part of their faith journeys. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and photographing the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains near her Carolina home.
Sometimes youth ministry makes me crazy. Not just “wow this is really frustrating” crazy, but more like a “I might actually be losing my mind” kind of crazy. And I know (or at least I hope) that I’m not alone in this. I think we all have those pull your hair out, question your sanity, ask why God would call me to this type of moments. When that one kid does that one thing one too many times, or I answer the same question forty-six times even though I sent out 5 emails about it already, I begin to wonder if I have the mental stamina to be all that God has called me to be. In moments like this, I am eternally grateful for the people God has placed around me to walk with me on the odd journey we call youth ministry.
First on my speed dial when I need a sanity check is my peer group. If you are not already a part of one I highly, HIGHLY, recommend that you find one. These are the people who not only know and understand me as an individual, but also know and understand my ministry and so are uniquely qualified to talk me through the rough patches. We meet once a month to pray, study, and fellowship together. Sometimes when we meet we read and discuss books on spiritual formation and disciplines, supporting each other as we grow in our own faith. Other times we meet just to blow off steam, tell funny stories from our summer adventures, and decompress from a busy season. Whether we are being serious or silly, these are the people that encourage and sustain me when I need it most.
Having friends outside of church is more important than I can say. There are so many times in church when I feel like I have to be “on” – making sure an event is running smoothly, being a ready and listening ear, or just being present in the moment with my youth and their families. It is so refreshing to have people who don’t go to my church, who aren’t in my work environment, to hang out with. They remind me that I am still a normal person who makes mistakes and that’s ok. They help me see that sometimes I need a break and have even kidnapped me from work when I refused to take a break. They help me remember that there is more to me than the Bible Studies I lead or the mission trips I plan. That I am a multi-faceted, complex creation of God, and I need to nourish all the different parts of who I am.
These people keep me sane. Ministry is stressful, even more so when the people you minister to are young, hormonally unstable, emotional rollercoasters that need help navigating life. So when I am at my wit’s end and feel like I’m drowning in a sea of teenagers, I turn to the people who get it, who get me. I lean on the people who are willing to walk with me and who are not afraid to redirect me when I need it. Thank God for friends who care about me, my ministry, and my sanity.