Another school year is upon us and many of us are in full swing. This time of the year can be the opposite of a season to slow down. I know many of us are through our fall kickoffs and entering into the holiday season. Fall and holidays are a busy season all around as students are still getting into the groove of classes and teachers, and parents are trying to keep some sort of order to the chaos that is the “family schedule.” Many of us as youth pastors and directors are busy as well with new students, new leaders, and new changes to our ministry and preparing for awesome holiday events it’s a very exciting and busy time. While a lot of great things come from this season- it can also lead to some bad habits too. For many of us youth pastors, this season can end up setting the tone for the rest of the school year.
Almost all youth pastors I talk to work more than their designated hours. If they are part-time, they work more than they are actually paid for. If they are full time, they still work more. There will be seasons that we do need to pour more hours in. The problem is when that becomes our weekly habit.
This is a lesson I know many of us have heard many times. Doug Fields wrote a book “What Matters Most: when NO is better than YES.”* Kara Powell gave a similar reminder at the National Youth Workers Convention in Sacramento. But while we hear this reminder many times, many of us still say “Yes” to ministry and “No” to rest and balance.
I like the boldness of Mike Breen and Steve Cockram in “Building a Discipling Culture”** when they say, “The true sign of godliness- imitating God- is to pattern our lives after him. And for God, rest is vitally important. As a matter of fact, rest from our activities is listed in God’s Top Ten. The commandment to keep the Sabbath is right up there with “don’t kill”, “don’t steal, and “don’t commit adultery.” In other words, being a workaholic is, to God, just as bad as being a murderer or adulterer. Rest is not an option if we are to walk in the lifestyle of a disciple.”
Pretty bold to put workaholics in the same level as murder huh? In a culture of workaholics, especially in the church, Breen and Cockram give us a reminder that we are called to be counter cultural even in our patterns of work and rest. As we see our students and families get more and more busy, what if we give them an example of rest that they can follow? Again, there will be seasons where life will be busy- we can’t escape from that (especially in ministry), but how can you make sure that that a busy season doesn’t suddenly become the norm? How can you schedule in intentional times to rest?
We all rest differently too. For some rest may be going out and playing your favorite hobby or sport, or catching up with friends. Others- rest may be actually sleeping, or reading a non-ministry book. For others maybe it’s a date night or family night out. Rest may look different for each of us- but it’s important to start building that into our schedules.
It may be hard to say “no” to ministry opportunities and “yes” to rest, but it gets easier as you do it. There have been times where I have tried to meet with students, parents or leaders and they want to meet on my day off. I share with them that it’s my day off- can we meet on another day? And they always seem to respect that (even middle schoolers get it!). So where and how often are you taking time to rest?
Breen and Cockran offer a good tip in evaluating you daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal habits of rest. Some of us may be good at taking a day off in the week, but we don’t have any sense of daily rest. Others of us need to make sure we start carving in monthly or yearly down time and not just crashing at the end of a busy season. Whatever it may be for you, start taking steps and putting in time of rest now before another season comes and goes and you still haven’t rested.
*Fields, D. (2009). What Matters Most: When NO is Better than YES. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/ Youth Specialties.
** Breen, M., & Cockram, S. (211). Building a Discipling Culture (2nd ed.). Pawleys Island, SC: 3 Dimension Ministries.