For Youth Workers Post


Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for May 1–3, 2015.


“I moved to New England eight months ago; and while it may be late spring when you read this, it is still late winter as I write. In my first winter in Massachusetts, I enjoyed the snow—at least the first three feet of it. The last twenty-four inches have been harder to bear, what with the shoveling, cancellations, delays, and rescheduling. I haven’t seen the beautiful, brown ground for a long time.

“Not one snowfall, but the never-ending weekly snow caused me to become fatigued. The snow and my response to it is a metaphor for life. While we may experience catastrophes that knock us for a loop, most of the time, the slow layering of stress upon stress insidiously erodes our ability to handle our lives with competence and confidence.

“Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and we find ourselves running on empty before we know it. Consistent care of ourselves—body, mind and soul—increases the likelihood of our endurance and stamina for the long haul. Psalm 139:14 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” To honor the wonder of our being means taking care of ourselves the way God wants. It’s hard; but with the encouragement of faithful friends, some attention to discipline, and a whole lot of grace, we are strengthened and fueled for a fruitful and vigorous life.” —Steve


devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than 15 years. He lives in the South Coast of Massachusetts and is the Director of the South Coast Mission Hub (a collaborative of churches sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts). Steve is also a spiritual director and a consultant, working to systematically redevelop parish ministries that are struggling with decline. He was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation.



  • These two songs might be especially useful in this lesson:
    >Enough,” by Chris Tomlin, relates directly to the theme “Running on Empty.”
    >Be Still My Soul,” by Kari Jobe, might be useful to play after the closing prayer.
  • If your group is into oldies, the classic Jackson Browne hit “Running on Empty” suggests that if we aren’t careful, we might find ourselves feeling empty and lost without knowing how we got there.
  • This clip from Searching for Bobby Fischer invites us to consider how much pressure is too much when we are searching for excellence.


Begin with an opening ritual: a moment of silence, a short prayer that the group says together, lighting a candle to symbolize Christ’s presence. Take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Then invite group members to answer the questions below, encouraging them to listen to the responses prayerfully, without comment or discussion. You might choose to write the responses on the newsprint.
       When has the phrase running on empty summarized the way you were feeling?
       Generally speaking, what triggers feelings of being depleted and empty? (Does lack of sleep? conflict with others? too much work? lack of exercise? too much exercise?)


Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:31

No matter who we are or how good our intentions are, we all occasionally feel over-extended and depleted. Feelings of “running on empty” may come on quickly if a tragedy hits us, or they may come on slowly and gradually as we take on more and more responsibility. Feeling empty affects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually; and attention to one of these facets is not enough. Sometimes, we talk about ourselves as if we were components making up a whole. In reality, I am Steve—a fifty-two-year-old man who is flesh, blood, bone, and spirit in one package; and everything I experience affects the whole.

Invite the group to play the Blanket Balance Game. Then invite discussion:
       What made the game difficult?
       What made it easier?

Invite the youth to think about a time when they felt they were running on empty—a time when they felt off balance with less and less space to maneuver.
       How did the experience affect your physical body? your spiritual life? your emotional state?
       How do you find a perfect balance?

We are called to care for ourselves, so that we can reduce the likelihood of running out of gas. Call attention to 1 Corinthians 10:31, displayed on newsprint. Read the scripture aloud. Paul encourages us to think about living “for the glory of God” in all that we do. Allow group members some time to reflect on what it means to give God glory in the way we care for ourselves. Then ask:
       If we consider our physical bodies as vehicles for glorifying God, how might we change the way we think about nutrition, sleep, prayer, healthy relationships, and the need for Christian community?
       How is glorifying God with all of our being like fuel for the tank that keeps us from hitting empty?


Invite group members to read in unison “Prayer for Balance,” by Craig Finnestad:

       Hectic. Rushed. Worried.
       Stressed. Cluttered. Burdened.
       Lonely. Tired. Complex.
       It is my life but not Your plan for my life.

       By your grace, become the priority and passion of my life.
       When I lackYou sustain.
       When I am aloneYou are present.
       When I am overwhelmedYou are my help.
       When I am defeatedYou are my hope.
       You provide my needs.

       Faith. Family. Friends.
       Work. Wellness. Wealth.
       Sleep. School. Spending.
       I am pulled in all directions. Pull me in Your direction. . . .

       I am unbalanced. It is my life but not Your plan for my life.
       I am pulled in all directions. Pull me in your direction.
       Give me harmony and peace.
       Give me grace and balance. 

       In the name of Jesus I pray,


Distribute copies of “Preventing Burnout” from Invite group members to think about and to discuss which of these practices or disciplines seems to be the biggest challenge. How can the youth support one another so that no one feels as if he or she were “running on empty”?

—from devozine In the Habit (May/June 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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