Betsy Marvin


What comes to mind when I say self-care?
Naps? Massages? Cozy spaces with books?  Meditation?  

Those are all good things – but self-care is also a journey into self-awareness and learning to be the you God created you to be.

Self-care isn’t self-ish, it’s learning to care for yourself SO THAT you can bring your best self into the world for God’s glory.  When we are exhausted, hurting, overwhelmed, and angry, we tend to forget to take care of ourselves.  When we’re doing great, feeling good, and things seem balanced, we tend to forget to take care of ourselves.

During this season of Lent and social distancing, why not put some time into self-care?  Many people have mentioned that they plan to spend more time with Jesus as they stay home – what an incredible opportunity to dive deeper into how God made us or deal with some of our own stuff.  Your spiritual health matters, healthy leaders lead healthier ministries.

Diving deeper into ourselves isn’t on the radar of many…in fact, I’ve heard that we don’t really know ourselves until we’re in our thirties (or older).  For many, taking the time to actually get to know your deeper self seems like a waste of time.  Or, I’m too busy, I’ll get to that when I can. Well, we’ve honestly been given time!

Yet, each week, as we lead students –we ask them to do a form of self-awareness.  We want them to face their fears, set boundaries, give themselves grace, to love themselves even as they are still figuring out who that is.  We want them to share with us, be accountable, and feel cared for as we ask them hard questions about their lives.   When was the last time you asked yourself these kinds of questions?

Self-care is:

  • …accountability.
  • …learning how you best feel cared for, and the reality of seeing your true self.
  • …knowing your personality, acknowledging your strengths and learning how to lean into Jesus with your weaknesses.
  • …boundaries.
  • …grace.
  • …rest.
  • …loving yourself. Well.

A part of self-care is asking ourselves hard questions and being honest with the answers.  Here are few to contemplate with resources to dive deeper:

I love the great British baking show, the accents, the kindness, the amazing creations.  It is one of those shows I can binge watch easily.   As I watched the finale of one of the seasons, I was amazed to hear the winner, through her tears say, “I am enough.”  She was hit with the reality that she won, she had enough in her to win, and she was humbled and aware.    Has that reality ever hit you?  That moment when your heart realizes that you are truly enough – that in Christ – you have EVERYTHING you need.  HE COMPLETES US. 

As you take time to discover what might be hard, let me tell you:

            You are enough.
            You have everything you need to do exactly what God has purposed you to do.
            You are loved to the depth of your soul with no judgement.
            You are enough.
            You have what it takes.      

Romans 12:1-2 tell us,

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

You know it.  Live into it.





There’s nothing quite like super powers to get the conversation going. Take a moment ahead of time and write each of these questions on the board or print them out on a sheet of paper. Instruct the students that they will be answering the questions and designing their own super hero logo. Give them a pool of shared art supplies and blank paper to get started on their logo. After five minutes, go around the room inviting each student to share their logo and answers to the questions.

  • What typical super power would you most like to have?
  • What typical superpower would you least like to have?
  • What is a superpower you have never heard of a fictional superhero having that you would like to have?
  • What would you call yourself with this atypical superpower?

This ice breaker is a fun take on the idea of filling. Assign one person to be the group’s timer and another as the interviewer. The interviewer will ask each student questions from the list below and they will have 30 seconds to answer as many questions as they can.

  • What is your favorite pie filling?
  • What food can you eat until you are too full?
  • How much money does it take to fill your car with gas?
  • How full is your dirty laundry basket right now at home?
  • When was the last time your phone storage was full?
  • Do you like to have a full schedule on the weekends or an empty one?
  • What is your favorite doughnut filling?
  • How many balloons do you think it would take to fill this room?
  • Have you ever tried to fill someone’s desk drawer with rice?

Viral videos fill our news feed and our demand our attention multiple times a week, this icebreaker capitalizes on the current trend to ask students to consider why it’s happening.

Go on YouTube and search for the most current viral video.  Preview for appropriate content…and choose one that you can share.  One that is really fun can be found at:  Share the one that you choose with the group.

Spiritual Question:  Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Jesus chosen returned during our generation?  Would the video of his return go viral?

Sometimes you just need to have some fun.  The whisper challenge is a hilarious game that went viral online with people making all kinds of laughable misunderstandings.  It became so popular that it was featured on Jimmy Fallon.  For an example of how this game is played, watch Jimmy Fallon as he plays The Whisper Challenge below. 

Choose two people to participate.  One person puts on headphones with a loud playlist so they can hear.  The other has a stack of cards with words printed on them face down.  The person without the headphone will pick up one of the cards and say the word or phrase printed on it softly to the person wearing the headphones.  The person with the headphones will try and guess by reading the other person’s lips. 

Play as many rounds as you like  – have some fun with it.  For your set of words use themes from the scriptures we have been exploring:  Body of Christ, Baptism, Spiritual Gift, and Greater Gift.

  • What makes the game a challenge?
  • Why do you think it’s so hard to focus with the loud music in your ears?
  • Valentine’s Day is all about love, what are some words you would use to describe ‘love’? 

Here’s that example video from Jimmy Fallon: 

Each of our lives fit together in a profound, beautiful connection the Bible refers to as the Body of Christ.  It’s like a puzzle!  For this active discussion, pull out a small-number puzzle set or buy something like this online.  On the back of each piece write the reference 1 Cor. 12:27.

  • Have each student reach into the box and pull out a single puzzle piece (or a couple based on the number of students and the number of total pieces.   Without knowing what the picture is, have students guess what they think the picture is.  After a few guesses, have the students try to put the puzzle together.  
  • The only rule: students can only touch their OWN piece – no one can place it in the puzzle for them.  
  • After the students struggle for a bit, THEN share the puzzle picture and have the students continue once they know the goal.  They must keep the rule!

Once the puzzle is completed explore the process with these questions:

  1. What made this puzzle hard?  What made it easier?  
  2. Make the connection to the Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12, how does it  correlate with this process?

Spiritual gift inventories can be a lot of fun to use with students as they meet them right where they are developmentally: discovering their identity.  Not only do they help students understand who they are, but they put that identity answer in the context pf spirituality hoping them see that who they are is a gift from God and can be used by God.  This is part of our Epiphany Lessons for youth this year, but can be used on its own as well!

Begin by discussing spiritual gifts:  

  • According to Paul (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), where do spiritual gifts come from and why were spiritual gifts given?
  • Why is it important to explore these gifts?

Take the time to have students do the inventory right now.  I like this one from First UMC Richardson, or another from The Fun Church.  Print them out ahead of time so that youth can complete them in the room.  Then Take a moment to debrief the results:

  • Are you surprised by the results?  In what way?
  • If you are not surprised, how do you see these gifts in your life?
  • Looking at the results as a group, how can you use your gifts to serve the church?  

Baptism is a great gift, and the main focus of the first lesson of Greater Gifts, our Youth lesson series for Epiphany.  This activity brings the metaphor of baptism (water) into the space to help focus the discussion on the meaning of this sacrament.  You can read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 as a preparation for this discussion.

Begin by pulling out a basin and pouring water into it.  Invite students to pass it around, look at it and touch the water while you are discussing the meaning of baptism.

  • Do you know what being baptized means? Why is it a big deal?
  • Have you ever been baptized?
  • After students have shared whether they have been baptized or not – spend some time sharing what your church teaches about this sacrament.
  • For example: in baptism we recognize that we belong to Christ’s church, it is covenant (promise) by parents to raise their children to know Jesus, God’s grace is available to all, grace is given freely, for adults is it a symbol of being washed clean by Christ’s sacrifice. You can read more about what we believe about Baptism on the UMC site.
  • SHeShare what a certificate of Baptism looks like.  Ask what other things in life are marked by a certificate?
  • Why use water? What symbols does it make you think of?
  • Why do you think baptism is seen as a gift?


The coffee shop is humming in the early morning as we wait in line to place our orders.  As we shuffle toward the order counter you notice a few ear-budded business people are hunched over laptops, an older gentleman reads the paper at the high table while his wife reads a book, and a loud group of high school kids has just arrived for their morning caffeine.  The aroma of coffee and toasted bagels surrounds us as we find a table, remove our coats and acknowledge how cold it is outside today.  The typical small talk follows as we wait for drinks, did you finish your shopping?  How’s your family?   Finally, drinks in hand, we get comfortable and dive in as the fireplace heat begins to warm our toes.   We’re meeting today because you asked.  You’re in the midst of messy ministry, feeling a bit exhausted, and just need someone to listen that has been there, done that.

“How have you stayed in this for so long?”  You bluntly begin. 

 I respond with, “I’ve learned that’s not the right question.  The question is, WHY have I stayed in this for so long?”

“No,” you answer a bit frustrated, “I mean how?  This is exhausting, hard, and overwhelming.  I’m not sure I signed up for all this!”

“Didn’t you sign up to do ministry with students?”


“They are exhausting, hard, and overwhelming so why would ministry with them be any different?  Sadly, you may not have known it, but this is what you signed up for.”

You look at me a bit defeated and stay quiet.

“You can do all things through Christ,” I say with a smile.  “Did you go this route because you thought it was all heartfelt sharing and huddles?  Did you choose youth ministry because you ultimately just want to be a pastor and this is a step?”  As I pause, you begin to take this in.   “Did you choose students because you thought the flexible job in a church looked like fun?  Maybe it’s because you love to see transformed students, maybe you had an incredible youth leader and you want to be the same for someone else, maybe, ultimately, you feel God has called you to serve him in this way.  What’s your why?”   

Why have you chosen ministry?  

Why do you choose to pour into students and lead them?

I continue, “Whatever your WHY, it needs to outweigh the how.  When your WHY is worth it, you figure out how.” 

Why! That’s the question.  Because of my WHY, equipping students to walk in their fullest way as disciples of Jesus, I had to figure out how to manage the hard, messy, unpredictable world of students and families in ministry. The WHY has outweighed the days of hard, the voices of conflict, and the seasons of tired.   My WHY has led me to the how I’ve needed to keep going.  For Example:

  • Because I want to last in ministry, I have learned that self-care is critical. 
  • Because I want to lead well in ministry, growth is invaluable.
  • Because I can’t do this alone, empowerment of others is monumental.
  • Because I want to help students find freedom in Jesus, my own freedom needs to come first.
  • Because I want every single student and family to know they are loved by God, made in his image and have purpose, I need to believe this for myself.

The how is; self-care, learning, sharing, and holding onto Jesus tightly so that I can continue to pursue the Why.  You need to figure out the how that works for you to maintain your why. 

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there’s a season or everything, seasons do change.  Yes, we like the smiles when we show up to a basketball game, we love the Thank You from a parent after a retreat, but we do what we do because we want students to experience the love of Jesus and his transformation in their lives.  Students are messy, conflict-driven, self-focused people – that’s the deal.  But, we get to lead them to Jesus!

Whatever the season for you right now, take a breath and remember:  

You are called by God to share his story and love with students, this is an incredible honor.  Let the blessing of that honor sink in deep and fortify you.  You are WHY He did what He did, you are WHY he was born in a manger, you are WHY he healed blind men, you are WHY he suffered, you are WHY he lived.  He knows you are worth it.  You matter. You are capable and you are needed.  He is the WHY, and He’ll show you how.

Are you feeling defeated and tired?  Has the mess of ministry overshadowed the wonder?  It’s time to ask remind yourself why you do what you do.  

What do you need to do to hold onto it?

How’s ministry?  It’s a question we’re asked all the time but it can be incredibly hard to answer, right?

Tis the season of looking back and forward as one year ends and another begins.  As you look back over the past year, I’m sure you can see moments of transformation and grace, laughter and salvation.  But I’m sure you also see hurt, conflict, messiness, and pain. In ministry, we see both and sometimes it’s just plan exhausting and hard to find the hope and peace of Christmas in it all.  

The holidays, a wonderful, hard, sad, joy-filled, family-oriented, lonely, and busy season.  Everywhere we go we see sparkling decorations and the words Joy and Merry. As workers for Jesus we know that Jesus is worthy of celebration and focus, yet for some of the families you serve, or maybe for you, this season will be hard.

It has been a season of hard in my ministry world and this Christmas season I feel, more than ever, the need to recognize that this amazingly joyous season will also be the first Christmas without a dad for one family and without a daughter for another.  It will be the first Christmas spent with parents in different homes and for others it’s another holiday that leaves them feeling very very single. As some anticipate Christmas day, others are dreading it. To those of us doing hard right now, here are a few things I’m choosing to remember in the midst of the tension between joy and pain.

Jesus understands hard.  He lived in the hard. His own town didn’t believe that he was who se said he was and his siblings thought he was nuts.  One of his closest friends betrayed him. He dealt with pushy parents expecting him to heal their kids and he lived with an entire people group laying their unmet expectations on him.  Yet, Jesus says, Come all who are weary and I will give you rest.

Jesus understands grief.  His reaction at the death of John the Baptist gives us view into the grief at losing a cousin and friend.  Jesus dealt with the sorrow of losing his earthy father, Joseph. His tears at the tomb of Lazarus and his look of pain at Peter’s denial remind us that Jesus experienced loss.  Yet, He is the way, the truth, and the LIFE.

Jesus understands lonely.  He spent 40 days alone preparing for ministry while dealing with Satan at every turn.  He faced the Sanhedrin alone. He sought his heavenly Father in the night, sweating blood, alone. He reminds us that he will never leave your nor forsake you.

To get through, to see a bit of hope, we need to soak ourselves in the truths that he lived.  We need to remember that he understands, he is there and his desire is to carry our burdens and sorrows.  We need to lean in, let him heal the broken places, and remind ourselves that we are not alone.

If you are experiencing life in all its messy and hard like me, maybe the verse that has been my rock can speak to you as well.  God’s words in Isaiah are still true today.

So do not fear for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you. I will UPHOLD you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

May the peace WITH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING guard your heart and mind this Christmas season.  Jesus was born to bring us this peace and he is with us always, even to the end of the age. May God bring your heart rest this Christmas season and may he bring healing and clarity into your new year.