Rest and Refresh: 7 keys to a youth ministry Sabbath
March 8, 2017
Statistically, most youth ministers burn out and move on in under two years. How can inadequate, ordinary people like us buck the trend and go the long haul in youth ministry, reaping the reward of a long-term investment in youth, siblings and parents?
Jesus declares: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38, cf. Ezekiel 47:1-12) When you said yes to Jesus, He dug a well inside of you where the water of His life springs up new each day.
For better or worse, our personal well-being - spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically - is the channel through which God's Spirit pours into the lives of others.
Our job is to keep the well clear so that this Living Water can flow freely, filling us and overflowing into others. There's a handful of practices that have kept me alive and well in youth ministry, including: physical fitness, clean eating, disciplined sleep habits, daily journaling and prayer, Christian friendships and life-giving hobbies - but the number one habit is one day off. Here's the seven key parts of my favorite day of the week!
1. One whole day for rest - really. This is not a day for running errands or doing chores - you can squeeze those into your working days, or an additional day off. This day is set apart for activities that keep your inner life clean and bright. This day is for you to drink deeply from the well of living water for yourself. The Biblical word for this day off is Sabbath, and our creator God designed one day of rest in seven because He knows we need it to live.
2. Sleep. On this day you have permission to leave the alarm off and sleep in until you are refreshed. If you're still tired, afternoons are made for napping.
3. Quiet the media noise. On this day your phone takes a break from being boss of your life! Set it to 'Do not disturb' and pretend it is a landline - leave it plugged into the wall. I check my phone at noon and just before dinner, but I love that it will not interrupt my day at random. Avoid your social media feeds and limit your screen media consumption - call it a weekly fast if that's your thing. AbsoLUTely avoid your work email. On this day you want to clear mental space for God to refill you with his peace and love, and there is a degree of quiet that is required to hear and receive from him.
4. Physical activity. Our physical well-being is intricately connected to our emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. While mental and emotional health are internal and complex, for most people physical health is a pretty simple equation of eat clean + get sweaty a couple times a week + hydrate + sleep! On this day do the physical activity that leaves you feeling flexible, loose and refreshed. It's the quickest way I know to feel better!
5. Creative pursuits. On this day I feed my creative side by getting into my garden or going on a walk in the local river valley, by visiting an art gallery or a special coffee shop, or by making time for writing and creating that is not ministry-related. For some of you feeding your creative side might mean listening to music, puttering under the hood of your car, cooking a spicy meal, or baking with your kids.
6. Life-giving friendships. Some days off I need the rest of quiet and solitude, and perhaps you are the same way, but over the course of a month I try to mix in times with family or friends who pour life into me. These are the people you don't feel you need to be 'on' for, people who take a load off your shoulders by listening to you, laughing with you and praying for you.
7. Right-size yourself. The truth is we are not Jesus Christ. On this day I entrust all the people in my ministry world into Jesus' care. Those disillusioned parents are right - we can't transform the hearts of their children. That’s the work of God’s Spirit, and He is secretly, powerfully, constantly at work in my life and the lives of everyone around me. On this day, entrust all the people in your ministry world into Jesus' care. Your job is to keep the well of your inner life clean and clear so that God’s Spirit can pour life into you and through you into the lives of the young people in your care, six days a week. On the seventh day, your job is to rest by the well and drink.