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Shorts—check! Favorite kicks (or flip flops)—check! T-shirt from a past youth event—check! It’s officially summer in the land of youth ministry! This is a time full of memories, paperwork, and endless drive thru runs for lunch or much needed caffeine. (If we put as much into retirement as we spend at Starbucks, we would be SET!) We practically live in our cars and sometimes wonder if it would be easier if we just slept at the church. There is SO MUCH GOING ON!!! Between camps, mission trips, community service projects, mud wars, and whatever other adventure we can dream up it’s hard to know which statement is more true: “I’ll sleep when I die” or “I’ll die if I don’t sleep.” Often both ideas are in play. Here’s the thing though…S T O P. You and I must R E S T. (Some of you are arguing with me as you read this and some of you may want to stop reading but don’t!)
We all know what “camp tired” looks like and feels like.
Camp is amazing and so many kids encounter a real Jesus somewhere between the wacky games and worship chorus’. Recently, I was in a van full of 20 somethings—many quickly approaching their 30’s—and it was amazing how many of their faith stories came back to camp or a mission trip or a youth retreat. These are young men and women who made decisions about college and choices about their vocation out of a totally different paradigm. They asked Jesus for direction and vision and dared to dream that their education and their work could matter for the kingdom! It totally makes “camp tired” and crazy summer hours worth it—right? I think we’re asking the wrong question. How long do you want to be in the game? How long do you want to be able to help create these amazing experiences for kids before your marriage or your physical body or your emotional health just gives out? How long can you keep this crazy pace before your heart dies and there’s nothing left to give?
Check out Exodus 20:2-17. Yep. It’s the Top Ten Big Ones aka the Ten Commandments. I know you know them, but let’s be reminded. In v. 8-10 it tells us to keep the Sabbath holy and that part of this is NOT working. This is THE most culturally acceptable commandment to break. Here’s the thing about that though—busy doesn’t make you important, it just makes you tired. I know for me personally, I struggle with this one. There are always things that need to be done or stuff that needs to be tweaked or planned. My heart worries that I won’t be able to get it done in the hours that I have. Really this thinking is me just blowing up commandment #1: I shall have no other God’s besides the One True God…. I forget sometimes that I’m not the boss and my list of things to do is not the god that I serve.
Here’s a crazy example of this in action.
Check out the creation story in Genesis 1. It tells us in v. 31 “by the seventh day God has finished all the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all His work.” Notice it doesn’t say that all of his work was done…. It’s also interesting to note that God R E S T E D on Sunday even though he knew that all kinds of crazy was going to break out in the Garden of Eden on the following Tuesday thanks to Adam and Eve, a piece of fruit, and a little snake in a certain tree. He KNEW and He STILL rested! Practicing the Sabbath is a true act of faith. It is having active trust that we can accomplish our assignment in the 6 days given for work and that God’s got the week, and the summer too. So what now?
- Take control of your calendar: This means saying “no” on a regular basis so get used to using it. It means marking out days for REST with a Sharpie and then sticking to it. It means asking the hard questions about why everything is even on the calendar for the summer anyway. (Parents are tired too and so are kids.)
- Understand that Sunday is NOT your Sabbath: Even if you have no “official” responsibilities on Sunday, you are not “off.” Why? Because you have keys to the building and you know stuff. If there is anything wonky in service or someone is locked out, you are the go-to person. You are on-call so you are not really off. Seriously, this is a reality check.
- Schedule vacation and then GO ON VACATION: If you are married or would like to be, vacation is marriage insurance. Get in the habit and be hard-core about it. It doesn’t take money to get this done either so no excuses. I have a couple of friends who literally trade houses for the week and then tell everyone they are gone. They sleep in, go to the movies, try new places to eat, and don’t answer their phones. Seriously, GO ON VACATION.
Please know that I get that this is hard.
I can remember summers where I did 2 camps and 3 mission trips all within 9 weeks as a youth worker. I thought all of that was my job. It was not wise. There were several occasions I seriously thought about ditching youth ministry all together because camp tired had become my normal. We can’t do that and survive. Kids and parents need us to be in this for the long haul. This is more than a marathon and the stakes are too high to quit too soon. This is about more than just managing our time or our energy. It’s about our hearts and relationships and demonstrating our trust in God through holy rest.
Kerry Loescher has more than 20 years of professional youth ministry experience and currently serves as an instructor at Oral Roberts University, teaching youth ministry, outreach, and leadership. Kerry’s passion is equipping leaders to help kids and families connect the dots between Jesus and their everyday lives. She and her husband, Randy, are the proud parents of six kids, three crazy dogs, and a random plant that has somehow managed to survive this adventure.