New Year resolutions are worthless if you depend on discipline alone. If you want real change in your life, you have to change your ineffective habits. Creating new, healthy habits is the only way to make your New Year resolutions last longer than February.
So let’s have a look at three healthy habits each youth pastor should have in order to be effective. Today we’ll discuss the first one: rest. Without rest, you may be a very effective youth pastor, but you won’t be one for long. If you’re in it for the long haul, if you want to prevent burnout and depression, you have got to make rest a habit.
The first habit you should really form is keeping a Sabbath day each week. It doesn’t have to be the Sunday (or Saturday if we’re completely strict), it has to be a day where you don’t have any youth ministry obligations and where you can find true rest. That means no work at all, so no phone calls, no email, no work related social media, etc. Spend time with God, with your family and with yourself. Rest.
There’s a reason for the fourth commandment. God gave this commandment in the context of our relationship with Him. We need this day to refocus on Him and on the priorities in our life: God and our family. But I think God also knew we need this day of rest to be able to function well the other six days.
It’s not easy being strict about keeping a Sabbath and you may have to fight a battle to get people to respect it. But you have to start with sending the right message yourself. Plan your Sabbath and communicate it well to everyone who needs to know. And do all you can to prevent your day off from getting interrupted by work.
A second healthy habit with regards to rest is the habit of planning a vacation each year. I’ve heard of pastors and youth pastors who haven’t taken a vacation in years and are actually proud of it. I just call that plain dumb.
You don’t need just one day a week of rest, you need rest on a yearly basis as well. In my opinion, you should take at least two weeks a year off, preferably more. I understand that it may be tough financially to actually go away (though if you really want to and are willing to spend some time and energy in coming up with a budget friendly and creative idea, you probably could manage to get away at least a week), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time off at all.
Again, taking time off all work is important for you, to give your body and mind the rest it needs. Compare yourself to an elastic band, if you are constantly overextended, you will lose your elasticity and snap at some point. But if you allow fort time to relax, you will be able to stay ‘elastic’ for much longer.
But it’s also important for your family, to really give them your undivided attention for a few weeks. They usually sacrifice a lot in order for you to be a youth pastor, so honor that sacrifice and give back when you can.
A third form of rest you should make a habit of as a youth pastor, is having retreats. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or big, just a day a month or every two months where you step away from life as you know it and spend some time in solitude to pray, meditate, read God’s Word and think.
This can be quite scary, as it can and probably will confront you with issues you need to deal with. Part of the reason why some of us like to be busy, is because it prevents us from having to look too deep inside ourselves and face what’s lurking there. But God will bless a time of retreat tremendously if we give Him the opportunity.
A last form of rest you really should make a habit of, is the principle of ‘slow club’. Mark Yaconelli introduced me to this concept of slowing down on any particular day instead of rushing and just appreciate whatever is around you. Just take the time to marvel and wonder, to appreciate and enjoy instead of running around. Even an hour of slow club every other day or so will bring you peace and rest.
In the next two posts, we’ll discuss two more healthy habits for effective youth pastors, so stay tuned!
How are you doing when it comes to rest? Which one of these four should you make a habit of and how are you going to do that?