You finally found it! You found a Sunday and you deem that Sunday to be holy and without anything for the first time in several months. You tell the students you’re not meeting. You put it on the calendar. You e-mail parents. You put it on all social media pages.
In the next few days you begin hearing the low grumblings, the kind every youth worker dreads. “Why would she cancel?” “There’s nothing happening that day to warrant youth not meeting.” “I’ll be bored at home if we don’t have youth.” “That was the ONE Sunday I could come this month.”
And just like that, you begin to question your decision. Was it wrong? Should I have picked a different Sunday?
Rhythm is a big deal. The book of Ecclesiastes is full of rhythm. Go check out Ecclesiastes 1:1-11. The writer is expounding on the rhythm of life. As youth pastors, we can be terrible about rhythm.
Overprogram. Overcommit. Frankly, I’m over it. Why should the youth ministry be in charge of programming an already overly programmed child’s schedule? Why does something ALWAYS have to be happening?
Several years ago I overprogrammed my summer and my life. My summer is generally 8 weeks long. We had two out of state mission trips (both 8 days). We hosted a multi-church event called Tribe Wars that was Olympic type games. It was 36 hours of non-stop insanity. I also attended our denominational youth gathering. My grandmother passed. I moved. I was in grad school and taking a summer course. We had regular summer youth events as well.
I did not take any vacation time. I could barely breathe in between trips and events. I was miserable. I wasn’t drawing near to God. Frankly, I was sacrificing my family and my life on the altar of ministry.
In the fall and the next year cycle, I vowed it would not happen again and I tried a grand experiment. What if I didn’t program things? What if I simply DID as little as possible and spent time working on relationship building with my students.
Spoiler Alert: It was PHENOMENAL. Not only was I a much happier person but I was able to make time for the things that mattered. I also enacted a no youth on holidays rule that I have carried to every church I have served. My rhythmic calendar abides by the following rules:
- We break for most major holidays that involve families like Mardi Gras (it’s a Louisiana thing), Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
- We have nothing happening the week before school begins and the week after school ends to allow for family trips/shopping for back to school.
- There will be no less than 5 days between any overnight event/trip.
- Vacation must happen in the two weeks leading up to June and in the first two weeks of August. (But really vacation happens quarterly even if it’s not long)
- There will be at least 3 weeks between Christmas and spring kickoff/end of summer and fall kickoff. (this allows for planning, calendaring, administrative tasks, and the general putting away of all the things ministry related that you spent months using)
You know what else this rhythm does? It teaches your students and parents that you are not super human. You create a culture that values the idea of sabbath. In the end, none of my students missed anything that we had done the previous year and neither did the parents. I grew in deeper fellowship with my students.
Be bold. Take a risk. Change it up. Rest. Breathe. Teach. It will be okay.
Tori Mick is the Director of Youth Ministries for Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. She earned her M.A. in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological Seminary and The Center for Youth Ministry Training. She is passionate about youth, worship, social justice, and issues of race. When she’s not hanging out with her students, you can find her hanging out with her sweet dog Roscoe, traveling, trying new food, or reading a great book. You can connect with Tori on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER or her BLOG.