I was at home sick yesterday. Allergies mixed with general exhaustion collide to make this youth pastor what MTV might call a “hot mess”. I planted myself on the couch for as much as I could, turned off my phone, ignored my computer, and floated in and out of sleep. I could tell by the rapidly changing content of my dreams that my mind was having a hard time slowing down.
Summer is both the sweet spot and a killer for youth ministers of all types. It’s the time when we get to connect teenagers with experiences that they’ll tie to their faith for a lifetime. It’s also the time when we wear down, lose sleep, go the extra mile, and forget that we too are human in need of rest and spiritual renewal.
If you feel like this is you. You probably should quit reading this and go take a nap. I always liked how Mike Yaconelli used to tell us youth workers at convention every year… “for some of you, this is your chance to take your wife and lock your self in your hotel room for four days!” He had a way of telling us the truth and loving us at the same time. (This was also the reason for the conception of more than a few “convention babies”.)
But it’s true. After a thrilling (and exhausting) summer we all need to do a quick check up:
Are you getting enough sleep? (At least 7 hours.)
Have you been eating healthy meals? (The CiCi’s Pizza bar doesn’t count)
Is there room in your schedule this week to pray and to dream?
Have you been able to unplug, for at least a day, from ministry?
Can you name at least one personal friend that you’ve spent time with this week? (youth volunteers, church staff, and teenagers don’t count)
If you have kids, do you remember their names? Just kidding, but have you spent time in their world listening and playing with them?
If you’re married, have you spent time doing something fun together?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions you might want to rearrange some things this week before the frenzy of back to school hits us all square in the iCalendar.
And if it helps, do what I did last week. Ditch being creative. Ditch being innovative. Ditch giving 110% for one Wednesday night and use the tools that are sitting on your shelf. Throw Rob Bell’s Nooma: Lump in the DVD player. Use the questions that are posed in the booklet to spark conversation. Don’t think too much about it. You’re a smart youth pastor and you deserve to let one night of the year breath a little. Order the good pizza. Play games that you know that don’t require any set up or any supplies (Ninja, Human Scrabble, Elbow Tag, Number Clumps, Look Up Look Down,). Call in all your volunteer support to hang out with you and help you get to know the students who show up. Throw on your favorite play list for walk-in music and whatever you do, don’t stress for one night this year.
There’s going to be another Wednesday night when all pistons are firing, let this one be one where you don’t worry so much. Then go home and rest….in whatever way that works for you REST. I needed that yesterday and my gut tells me that you may need it too.