The pace of youth ministry in the summer can be fierce. Once the train leaves the station, trying to get rest and refuel while the train is in motion can be a real challenge. It’s rarely convenient or possible to carve out a week or even a couple of days to recharge your batteries following summer youth events. Sometimes all we get is a quick 24-hour staycation.
I’ve been there, and in fact I’m still there. The difference is that I’ve learned to better protect and enjoy a comp day. I know the challenges. You take a day off, but still check your email. You take a day off, but still post to the ministry Facebook page. You take a day off, but still answer a call from the church office. Well, I have good news…
Even if you refuse to do any of those things during your day off, they won’t disappear. They’ll be waiting for you upon your return, so no need to worry!
Here are some “veteran advice” for unplugging and refueling during your 24-hour staycation…
1. Go Big or Go Small, But Just Go! Everyone needs a day to sleep in, especially if you’ve just returned from a youth ministry trip that required a lot of driving and really bad road food. But unless it really recharges your batteries, don’t sleep away half of your day off and then waste the rest of the day on Netflix. GO DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Decide how late you’re going to allow yourself to sleep, then plan where you’re going or what you’re going to do that will bring you joy. I live in Colorado and can be in Estes Park in 90 minutes. Even if I let myself sleep until 10 am, I can be in the Mountains by noon. For me, a quick day trip to the mountains brings me joy. But I also find joy in meeting a friend for breakfast, going to see the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and taking my border collie for a long walk.
2. You No Talk to No One—You on Staycation! It’s called a day off. And you’ve earned it, my friend. Comp days should be your time. Don’t text your coworkers and don’t check your email. And for all that is good and holy, let social media go for a day. You know what? The women’s Bible study group will figure out how to play their small group DVD without you. Trust me! If you make yourself available during your days off, everyone will always expect you to answer their calls and emails whenever they want to reach you. It’s okay to have boundaries in ministry. Really, it is. Stop talking to people on your day off. Jesus told me to tell you that!
3. Jesus Take the Wheel (for 24 Hours). It’s hard to be a passenger when you’re usually behind the wheel. Let go of the pace of ministry for a day. Slow the train down, and let Jesus take the wheel for 24 hours. Say this out loud: “Jesus is in control of this day.” When I return from a day of serving with teenagers, or from a spiritual retreat, it is hard to turn my brain off. I’m thinking about everything Jesus did in the life our kids, I’m thinking about what we can do to leverage the experience we’ve just had as a youth ministry. Don’t allow your comp day to become a planning day. Jesus is for you, and for your students. Trust that after a day of rest and relaxation he will continue to guide your footsteps.
4. Prepare In Advance. We do a lot of preparation for youth ministry experiences, but how often do we prepare for our day off? Next time you’re preparing for a youth trip, add preparation for your day off to the list. For example, planning youth group for the Sunday you get back before the trip is part of planning for your comp day, because it means you won’t need to worry about planning during your day off. And if you have a weekly email that needs to go out when you return, write it before you leave and schedule the email ahead of time. Again, you won’t need to worry about the weekly youth ministry email during your day off. Protect your day off by working ahead.
5. Plan Your Re-Entry. If your ministry duties take you out of the office for more than five days, develop some good re-entry practices to boost your ability to enjoy and protect your day off.
- Set up an email notification when you return. Often we have email notifications that say: “I’m out of the office this week.” But I’d encourage you to set up an email notification when you return that says: “I’ve just returned to the office after a wonderful 10-day mission trip. I’m catching up on my emails and will respond as quickly as I can. If you have an immediate need, please call the church office.”
- Make sure your co-workers and ministry families know when you plan to be back in the office and available. Re-entry is much harder when people think you’re available but you’re not.
I realize that taking a day off for youth workers is like trying to jump off a moving train. You can do it. You’re called to this work and no one wants you to burn out. So, take your comp day as serious as you take doctor’s orders.