February 17, 2010

Rest is Good...Really!

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. The holidays hit as my wife and I headed to her families in Maryland, then we had a big youth retreat in New York City and then…I went on vacation for a week in Orlando.

To be honest, I have been in ministry not for almost 8 1/2 years and this was the first time ever that I have taken a week off in the middle of the school year. In years past, my wife and I have always taken a vacation at the end of August, coinciding with a break to allow for final vacations and heading back to school. Beyond that, we’d take a long weekend here and there but never a full week. But man, did I need it.

In previous years I have come to the conclusion that just one week of vacation each year is not enough. Also, I have noticed that my workaholic tendencies have begun to run away with my life starting in January as I try to recover from the stress of holidays, prep for my upcoming Winter Retreats and then focus on our quickly approaching summer mission trips. It’s too soon to say whether this year is going to be different but I already feel in a different place having had some time to stop and breathe.

I think many in our profession struggle with taking a break. Ministry never stops…there are always kids to call, Facebook or text. Our phones are buzzing at all hours of the day with questions from parents about an upcoming trip. And who wants to live with the guilt of taking a week off from Youth Group and take the risk that a kid misses hearing about Jesus!?!? Ok…maybe a little extreme but I will admit I was there earlier in my career and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

As I’ve gotten older I have learned to set some firm boundaries in order to avoid burn out. Here are my thoughts about rest…some of which I do fairly well with, others of which I am still working on.

1) A Youth Pastor needs one day off a week and one flex day a week.

For me, Monday is my day off and I am pretty hardcore about it. I don’t check my work e-mail, I avoid the office and I even turn my cell phone off…all day! Call me on any Monday and you will hear my voice mail greeting telling you I take the day off from my phone and that I will get back to you on Tuesday. I also try my best to avoid doing errands or paying bills on this day too. Monday, as best as my wife and I can swing it, is our sabbath of resting and not doing any work. As a workaholic, if I am not firm about this, it won’t happen.

Saturday is my flex day. Two to three times a month, Saturdays are a day off from normal work but yet is usually reserved for errands, bill paying, etc. I also keep my phone on and check my e-mail or Facebook occasionally. The other Saturday’s a month are the occasional events or activities with kids.

2) After a weekend event or trip, a Youth Pastor needs two days off.

For me, I try to take Monday and Tuesday off just to recharge my batteries and get some rest. If you are a Youth Pastor and you have figured out how to get two full nights of sleep on a youth retreat without using duct tape, please let me know your secrete.

3) It is not necessary to have internet and e-mail on your cell phone.

I know this one might sound a bit anti-cultural but seriously, if there is something that is serious enough that needs your attention after work hours, they wouldn’t be communicating that in a e-mail. I realized this fact this past summer on our mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Having my e-mail on me at all times just prolonged my work day and prevented me from relaxing when I got home. Not to mention the constant vibration or dinging all evening didn’t help with spending time with my wife. When I got back from the trip I canceled internet and I have really loved it ever since. There have really only been once or twice that I can think of that I have actually missed it or been annoyed not having it since August.

4) A Youth Pastor needs at least three weeks vacation.

I have come to learn that I need a week in the summer and a week in the winter in order to stay sane and avoid working myself into a hole. This also helps my relationship with my wife have some very important quality time and allow myself to pause and de-stress. The other week of vacation is for time with family around the holidays, graduations or other special occasions but in most cases those times are not without a bit of stress and shouldn’t take the place of important, de-stressing vacations.

5) On average, a Youth Pastor shouldn’t work more than 50-55 hours a week.

We all know in ministry you have weeks that are well above that and overs that compensate for those weeks by going under. On average though, I don’t think it is healthy to go beyond that on a consistent basis. Seriously, the world only needs one savior and they already have Him…and just to be clear, you’re not him (or her)!

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