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5 Ways to Get Ready for Rest

5 Ways to Get Ready for Rest

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What is the most cringe youth pastor stereotype that you’ve ever heard? Do people think you just play video games and eat pizza with students? Have you ever heard someone ask, “So what are you going to do next? You want to be a REAL pastor one day, right?” It can be brutal, my friends. The one that has always been my bane is the stereotype that we youth pastors are inherently unprepared and “just wing it.” While there are always a few who may fit into such a category, I've found many youth pastors to be quite driven and thorough in ministry. Think about it, we contend with school schedules, sports schedules, holidays, and even other church events. Plus, who else on staff has to keep track of all these forms for volunteers and students just in case something happens? Most youth pastors are pretty diligent in their ministry responsibilities. However, there is one area in which I see many ministers, and especially youth pastors, struggle: rest.

We often think ourselves indispensable to our ministry, so we valiantly soldier on until we crash. But what if I were to tell you that this is not a sustainable method of ministry? Rest is so vital to the state of your soul. Was it not God Himself who established a commandment for rest in Genesis 2:1-3? We know He was not diminished or tired from His work, but He set a precedent for us. Jesus further explained in Mark 2 that the Sabbath was made for man’s benefit and that God receives glory when we rest and give room for His Spirit to shift our focus back to Him. Rest has become a lost art, though, especially in America. So how are we to prepare practically and spiritually for some much-needed rest?

  1. Watch and Learn Your Flow of Ministry

Ministry is exhausting, thrilling, and chaotic, yet each church and ministry team has its own flow. You and your team have your God-given skills and abilities that will lend themselves to particular seasons and situations in ministry, and this will take time to learn. Take note of last year's calendar and the times when the flow ebbs and surges. Summer is likely to be your busiest season. So perhaps the middle of August or late May would be an opportune time to rest well. Plan some downtime after periods you know will demand more from you. If the next quarter looks like back-to-back activity, plan a break, so you're ready to tackle what's next. Don't just plan for events. Plan out your rest in accordance with these events. You’d be amazed at what just a day or two will make in your attitude and body. 

  1. Develop a Release Valve

High-pressure systems (like gas and water) often have a release valve that protects the entire system. If a high-pressure system sees a sudden spike in pressure, the result could be a catastrophic failure/explosion. Wise engineers strategically place burst or release valves within the system to prevent such failures and alert everyone to potential problems. Likewise, every youth pastor needs a release valve. Find two or three people you trust and let them speak into your life when they need to check you. Your spouse or a ministry friend could be someone who has the right to step in and say, "You may not see it, but I can tell you're about to blow." When these people speak, know that you need to rest soon.

  1. Listen to Your Body

Ever notice how your body does some strange things? Our bodies have several "check engine lights" that can clue us in to an impending personal crisis. For me, it's my short-term memory. When I begin to notice a daily pattern of forgetting my conversations and tasks, that’s my red flag. I have a friend in ministry that always seems to get flu-like symptoms during intense periods of ministry. The doctors never have a diagnosis but have suggested it's stress related. After he takes two days off, all symptoms vanish, and he's fine. Learn to listen to your body. Regardless of your age or experience, you also have your limits. Listen attentively to what your body is saying to you. It often is our first indicator that we need to plan for some rest.

  1. Plan to Go

Jesus has you as an under-shepherd right where you’re supposed to be. That being said, Christ is the one who ultimately cares for and sustains His Church. It’s okay for you to let go. Google is your friend for finding places where you can go and rest. Create a running list of quick getaways and further excursions for long periods of rest. I'm not suggesting that every day you take off has to be in another state, but we all know that if we just "hang around," we often end up responding to calls or going right back into the fray. Check out your denominational resources and see if anything is available. Many denominations provide retreat centers, stipends, and getaways for ministers needing rest. Choosing natural settings that require a physical action to enjoy might be helpful. These types of environments often hinder technology's reach and can bring the quiet and isolation that you need. Rowing, hiking, and climbing work you out physically but give you room to work things out emotionally as well.

  1. Communicate Well

One of the greatest hindrances to sustained rest in ministry is a lack of communication. People don’t know you need a break until you tell them you need a break. Perhaps you are in a medium-large ministry context where you have volunteers or other staff who can cover for you when you're gone. If so, you need to let them know as quickly as possible that you need rest and prepare any materials or media they may need during your absence. Maybe you’re in a smaller ministry context and finding someone to cover for you is difficult. Reach out to some active parents or maybe even a godly former student to form a temporary team to cover for you while you are gone. One of the quickest ways to grow resentment in ministry among other staff or even concerned parents is to fail to communicate that we need help and how they can help us. Communicating with them demonstrates your respect for them and your calling. Plan to rest well, my friends. You’re going to make it!

Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:

  • What patterns of rest have you created that have been helpful for you?
  • What times of the year would you say that youth workers need more rest? How can they spend their time preparing for that?

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