YouthWorker Journal: The office phone rings. It's yet another frantic voice. This time it's a mother who just learned her teenage daughter is sexually active. She wants to meet with you immediately for counseling, hoping your skills and insights will guide her family through the rough waters ahead.

 

You're agreeable-as always. The arrangements are made. "Okay then, I'll see you Thursday at 4," you say, no hint of displeasure in your voice. "Bye now."

 

Yet another family-and yet another teen-needs your help. And though you're calm and collected on the outside, inside your heart skips a beat and your stomach churns at the prospect of helping anybody. You find yourself balking at the task ahead. You have doubts. You're in pain.

 

You realize that you're in crisis yourself.

 

Questions rage in your mind: Who am I? How can I fix my own crisis and still have the energy and insight to continue to work with others in crisis? Am I capable to function in my position when I am struggling with guilt?

 

Hopelessness? Depression? Then what follows aren't answers-just more problematic questions: Where can I, as a youth worker, get confidential and affordable counseling? Who in my ministry can I turn to for help when I'm the one who needs guidance?

 

The Wounded Leader

 

Youth workers are always concerned about professional credibility. On one hand, we try to project a confident, I've-got-it-all-together image for our students in order to portray competence. If this image fails, we risk losing face. ("Who will they lean on?") On the other hand, we're always faced with criticism from those who see us as nothing more than big kids or-at best-sanctified game leaders.

 

Our office staff, while often less critical and often more supportive, may see us merely as subordinates to the senior pastor. Perhaps they're hesitant to accept us or trust us as competent leaders, regardless of our education and the years we've sacrificed for our profession.

 

And though it's hard enough when we're battling outside fires, what about negative forces inside us? When our world's not making sense, who's available to help us back to wellness? Who's willing to help us-those who're devoted to so many others? But if we risk seeking professional help for a life problem, what does that say about us? (This question keeps many of us out of beneficial therapy!)