You Can’t Pour from an Empty Bucket, Part 1

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Relational Health

What keeps you going? Youth ministry is tough. Working with teenagers is demanding. Why do you keep at it? Not to mention, many of you have family to take care of. You’ve got your own kids at home who need you. You’ve got a husband or a wife who likes to spend time with you. So, how do you keep your bucket full?

I like to use the image of a bucket, or a pitcher, to talk about how we stay fresh in ministry. It’s a good visual for gauging personal health. After all, part of your role as youth volunteer, mentor, DCE or Pastor (and parent, too!) can be described as “pouring into others.” You’re filling other people’s buckets. Given that, how do you keep your bucket full?

Because, after all, you can’t pour from an empty bucket.

In this series, we’ll talk about several buckets. It’s helpful if we can think of our total health as the combination of several big areas of life. You’ve got four buckets in your life, and knowing what it takes to fill each of your buckets will help you keep perspective on ministry, family life and overall health. Here are the four buckets we’ll talk about:

1) Relational – interactions with other people
2) Intellectual – learning and thinking
3) Physical – caring for my body
4) Spiritual – identity in Christ

Each of these four is related to the others, and it’s not truly possible to separate them in our day-to-day lives. However, it’s helpful to talk about each area independently so that we recognize how to directly address the things that are draining our buckets.

Your Relational Bucket

What is it?

This is the health of your relationships and interactions with other people. I’m sure you can think of some relationships that are currently draining your bucket. Hopefully, you can also think of some people who generally fill your bucket. Staying healthy is not avoiding the relationships where we give. After all, pouring into others is what teaching, serving and loving people is all about! But, in order to stay healthy we need to make sure we’re spending time in relationships that fill us, as well.

In addition, there are people and settings which we prioritize above others. Let me illustrate with a story: I had a mentor when I finished college who taught me to recognize what it meant to prioritize family. He was in youth ministry and he noticed a pattern in his life. He would gear up for a big event or trip. In the preceding weeks and days the details would need to be managed and there was always one more thing that could be done to make the event extraordinary. Then the event or trip would take place. Afterward, he would take time off to be with his family. Unfortunately, time after time his family got what was left. He would finally have time for his wife and kids, but his bucket was empty! He let me see this in his life and he let me watch as he shifted the pattern and disciplined himself to take time off prior to the big event. He made sure to spend time with his family when he was able to pour into them.

What fills you?

So, who are the people God has placed in your life who fill you up? Who is it that you can be intentional about spending time with? In what seasons do you need to be more attuned to this need? Being called into God’s family means we have brothers and sisters in Christ. God cares for us through these people. Recognize the people around you as God’s family. You’re going to pour into them. Allow these brothers and sisters to pour into you, as well. It’s why God gave us to you!

How are you doing?

Make a list of the 5-10 people you’ve spent the most time with lately. In each of these relationships are you pouring out or being poured into? If you’re pouring out more than you’re being filled up, who do you need to spend some time with?

Other Resources

It’s great to know your unique personality and relationship needs. Personality type indicators like the Myers-Briggs, DISC profile or other tools are helpful. Your pastor may have these or similar resources. Simply recognizing whether you are more introverted or extroverted is a great start in this direction. Conversations with a licensed counselor can also be extremely helpful if you feel uncertain how to grow in this area.

A Fill Up
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

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