Staying Healthy in Youth Ministry: Get Outta Here!
Rule 1: Run a ministry that fires you up rather than wears you out
Rule 2: God is in control—don’t be a control freak
Rule 3: Work for a good boss
Rule 4: Get some sleep
Rule 5: Get outta here (take time off!)
It’s time for us to head towards a conclusion on staying healthy. Today I want to visit a similar theme that I looked at months ago. Quite simply, if you want to stay healthy in youth ministry, get outta town by sundown (and stay away for a bit)!
Most of us agree that taking time off is important, however many people in ministry simply don’t do it enough. So, here’s my advice: take your day off, take your holidays, take your study leave and stay in ministry.
After getting married Julie and I moved to a location that, while extremely fruitful in ministry, was also proving to be hard work. We realized that we needed to “take our day off hard”. This meant we needed to make a very serious effort at having a good day off. The Lord was good to us and we were able to buy a small getaway cottage in a town about an hour and a half away from home which became our escape. Each Sunday night we would finish church and smile as we packed the car and headed out. We were gone … gone from our house (where people could/would drop in at all times day or night) … gone from our church (that we loved but needed a break from regularly) and gone from our ministry lives. We would leave Sunday night and be back ready to go Tuesday morning. While there may have been a few other factors that kept us going, I can tell you honestly that without this time away we would not have lasted—we would have been another youth ministry ‘casualty’.
I am a broken record on this; if you want to be fruitful in youth ministry, you must have day off that brings you fruitful rest. Ministry is a hungry beast—it wants all of you. If you enter the workweek tired, you are done.
With this in mind, some tips for your day off:
1. Do not take 24 hours, aim for a bit more.
Sure, a break for 24 hours is excellent, but your body and mind may actually need more than this. Some youth leaders take a day of that is designed to mimic the Old Testament Sabbath, they start their day off at sundown (or even noon) on one day and finish it at sundown the next. While this may sound good, my feeling is that it is merely an excuse for the workaholics to get some work done at both ends. I would strongly encourage you to try for a time out that includes two nights (i.e. Thursday night to Saturday morning or our Sunday night to Tuesday am.) The goal is to get rested, not fulfill a requirement. Learn the needs of your body clock and rest accordingly.
2. Your day off may not be the time to catch up on your Bible reading and prayer
Many of us in ministry feel guilty for not having solid devotions during the week. With this in mind, we aim to ‘catch up’ on our day off. While I don’t want to knock Bible reading and prayer, if you are finding this a task on your day off I would suggest you rethink this strategy. The solution is, of course, to work at having better devotions during the workweek. Sure, begin (or end) your day off with a devotion, but don’t be enslaved to “spiritually getting done what I ought to have done” in the past six days.
3. Spend time with people who energize you
Days off must excite you, invigorate you, energize you, and refresh you. Spend it with people who do the same. Some of you will want to be alone, good call. Others need to be with people. If you are the latter, find those people who help you to enjoy life, not suck it out of you.
4. For your vacation do not go back to where you used to minister
I have found that many ministry friends (myself included) often spend our vacation time catching up with people from our previous ministries. I have learned to stop this. It is exhausting and counter to what a vacation should be. I spent hour after hour “catching up” with former youth leaders or youth group kids when, in reality, I was simply ministering in a different setting. I went home more tired than I started.
5. Don’t feel guilty for taking your break during the school year. In other words, enjoy summer!
It is important to begin the year well. It is important to continue the year well. It is important to finish the year well. To do this, you need to have a bit of a break over summer. You may want to take your vacation then, or you may find that your summer is slow enough on its own. Personally, I rarely took my vacation time over the summer, why would I? Whatever the case, plan appropriately. I would suggest you take a week or two off approximately 6-8 weeks after the school year begins. This will help you to continue well. You may also want to have a break sometime later in the school year in order to finish well.
For those in the Northern Hemisphere, here is my suggestion: take a break in early November or late October. Take another break in late March or April. For those in the Southern Hemisphere: take a break in early May or late April. Take another break in late September or October.
6. Finally, think through your study leave / continuing education
Study leave is invaluable on a number of fronts. We get away, take a break from the usual and fill our minds with new thoughts. Use this time! Find a college/seminary that is running weeklong courses and audit one (or start a new degree!). Take a risk and sign up for a course that is a bit ‘out there’ (something outside of your comfort zone). You could even visit a new location and have a nice ‘holiday’ after your classes sightseeing. The rule here is simple: take your study leave!
Stay sane friends!
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