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How is your soul?

How is your soul?

How is Your Soul?

It’s not a question you hear very often, especially at this early stage of the new year.  Usually the questions during this season focus on our resolutions, perhaps kicking a bad habit, dropping a few pounds, or accomplishing something on your bucket list.   But for a moment, let’s ask a different kind of question, one that goes a little deeper than the weight registering on your scale.   How is your soul?

Now before you answer, let me clarify something.  I didn’t ask you…

  • How is your ministry going?
  • How is your ministry growing numerically?
  • How are your adult leaders caring for your students?

Now in and of themselves, these questions are good, and should be asked from time to time, but none of them get at the condition of your soul.  I think it’s tempting for us to answer the very internal question of, “how is my soul”, with an external run down of the tasks we’ve accomplished.  We tend to monitor our health based on what we’re doing and producing, rather than the condition of our own soul.

If you are anything like me, the first time someone asked me this question, I was simply silent.  I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have words for it.

So let’s try it. Take off your ministry hat for a second, lay down your various roles and let’s begin to be attentive to our own soul.

Here are a few questions to guide this process:

Is your soul feeling tired?

Many youth workers are dangerously tired.  The endless demands of ministry, relationships, and the unending needs of a demanding generation can make us numb with fatigue. It’s not uncommon to see people in ministry leading reactively and simply powering up for the next task in front of them.  The idea of practicing spiritual disciplines, silence and solitude, and prayer might feel like an exciting thought but seem unattainable in your current situation.  A key to getting out of this tired cycle is recognizing the demands will never end.  Only you will be able to give yourself permission to stop.  Grant yourself permission.  If you find yourself in this place, silence, solitude and rest may be of great benefit to you.

Is your soul feeling disconnected?

Here’s a sobering thought: Sometimes the work of the ministry, kills the work of God in us!  Like good post-industrialists, we begin to see ourselves as machines.  We dispense spiritual advice, wisdom, and teaching while in reality we’re disconnected from our soul and consequently disconnected from God.  Often, disconnected leaders remember when God felt close, or when they had time to pursue Him, but that is no longer.  Reconnection happens in stillness. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). But before silence can happen, space needs to be provided.

Is your soul feeling underdeveloped?

We have this tendency to rely on what we can see right in front of us.  We’re not good at giving time to the subjective or things which are unseen, and our souls fit that category.  We believe it’s there but we aren’t quite sure what to do with it. And when our church focuses more on helping someone discover their spiritual gift and plug into a ministry role, we tend to neglect helping people understand the development of their own soul.

If you find yourself asking the question, “how do I develop my soul?” Let me suggest a few places to start.  Begin to meet with a spiritual director, someone who could guide you through the development of your soul.  Take time to read a few key books on spiritual development.  Two that I’d suggest would be The Critical Journey by Janet Hagberg and Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen.

Is your soul feeling healthy?

Some youth workers are in a healthy place where ministry, relationships, and family all flow out of a healthy spiritual formation.  Their life and work is a profoundly simple overflow of being with God.  No longer trying to obtain, impress, or manipulate, they are simply living a life of love fully connected to how God created them in their soul.

Stop for a moment and read back over that last paragraph. Did you find yourself skimming it or deeply resonating with it? Even that can be indicative of the condition of our souls.

Now that one week of 2012 is past,  how is your soul?  In light of your answer, what steps might God be calling you to take toward a healthy spiritual formation?

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. Dan01-19-12

    Rick, This is why I love the Project. Great stuff.