We all want a break, right? In fact, a popular advertising campaign used to tell us we all deserved one. Well, I agree, and I have a radical proposition for you: your entire ministry deserves a break. Today. It’s an art I don’t see practiced as much as I think it should: taking an intentional break from your youth ministry. But I believe the benefits are far-reaching on both personal and corporate levels.
This is really a post for Youth Leaders and their volunteer teams, but I think parents and students would be wise to read and support this wild and crazy philosophy! Here is my theory: Youth Ministry “Program” as we call it should not be a 52 week program. Like a school calendar, I believe there needs to be some natural breaks in our programmatic year. Most Youth Ministries get a Sunday morning off for Easter and maybe one because of a congregational meeting or other schedule conflict. On top of this, an occasional mid-week program is cancelled because of weather, a missions night or some other rare phenomenon. I challenge you, on top of these few breaks you should take the last 2-3 weeks of the summer (August) off from ALL regular (and even irregular) youth ministry events. I am not saying “take a vacation,” I am saying, take an intentional youth ministry program break.
Go ahead! Shut off the lights to the Youth Room! Lock the doors to your small group meeting room/house! Cancel two Sunday morning gatherings (aka “Sunday School”) and keep the Youth Program Calendar clear from about August 20 to Labor Day (or some other 12-15 day stretch before you “kick off” your fall programming). Again, let me reiterate, this is NOT A VACATION. In fact, if you’re smart, you’ll take your vacation at a different time of the year so that you feel you’re truly getting a break from everything then. Take note in regard to my above challenge, I didn’t talk about taking a break from relationship: the bottom line, this may be your best time for relationship! This is about creating space for a number of things to happen. Here is why I believe you should do this:
- It Gives Your Team The Rest They Need/Deserve. Many Youth Pastors/Directors have been blessed with a faithful volunteer team. Giving everyone the last couple weeks of the summer off from everything will give these volunteers the down time they need to rest; perhaps they’ll have a rare-Sunday morning sleep in (because they miss Sunday school, they may just come to the later service, if at all)? The Wednesday night break may give that husband and wife duo an added date-night or the mommy-volunteer the opportunity to tuck her younger kids in on an evening when she would typically be serving the teen kids of other parents. These little blessings go a long way in the life of a volunteer leader.
- It Creates A Need. Food, clothing, shelter… for that matter, air. These are the things that we all take for granted. Admittedly, these things are far more important than a Youth Group night, however we don’t often recognize something until it goes missing. Taking a two to three week break from Youth Ministry program will actually create the want/desire/need again. Students, staff and even chauffeur/parents will come back with great anticipation when you kick-off your fall programming because they will have missed what went missing, which leads to the last point…
- It Tills the Soil For Change. I believe that youth ministry programming needs to constantly be evolving. Stagnancy is toxic. Recently, in Hawaii, we were advised to not swim in a fresh-water stream that led to the ocean because of a parasite that lives in all of these streams; the cause–stagnant water. Stagnancy (non-change, no current, etc.) happens in ministry as well. It is really easy to say (and believe) that you (the Youth Leader) want to see change take place in your program, it is another thing to make change happen (for some reason the church really doesn’t like change)–side note to the church: read Acts!!! change happened. I believe the Youth Leader might find that this two to three week break gives him/her the time to think through creative ways to make the changes that are necessary. Kicking off the new program year gives the opportunity to implement change (perhaps as simple as adding/subtracting 15 minutes or as complex as changing the night and times completely). The break gives the Leader opportunity to build individual buy-in and ownership with students, parents and/or leaders while enjoying a cup of Coffee or a lunch together. Keeping things fresh in ministry breeds fresh soil for seeds to be planted and new life to begin.
Over ALL of this is a spiritual emphasis. This (break) can easily be justified as Biblical. May a break from the norm draw us all in to a place of prayer, deeper study, soul searching and renew a vigor for the ministry that Jesus has called us to!
If a break is not what you have on your calendar already, it may be too late to try this year, but then again, maybe this was exactly the encouragement you needed to implement what you feel you need? Understand that proper communication is needed in order to have even a “break” be successful. You will most likely hear some concerns (some might call them “complaints”), or even prayer requests (Lord, will Pastor Joe please come to the realization that he made the mistake of canceling something my kids need). But, I think in time, everyone will see how much this little break is a blessing for the staff, a need-creator and an excellent opportunity to get creative and implement some needed change.
Again, I’d be happy to converse with anyone who would like to go deeper on this subject or seek some advice on how to make a it a great break… Facebook (search: Brian Aaby) or email me brian[at]youthmark[dot]com.
So I say, take a break! Amen?