Summer is almost over and school is about to start(or has started for some)! Another summer of youth ministry is in the books! Hopefully it’s been a great summer for you as you’ve poured out your heart and energy to impact students for Jesus.
As much as I love being a youth pastor in the summer, I have to be honest and admit that it can be emotionally, physically and spiritually draining. And let’s be honest, not everyone understands this part of the job. I mean it’s not like everything we do during the summer months is boring, but rather most of it’s pretty fun.
Years ago I was blessed to have an experienced youth pastor speak at my ordination service. He opened his talk by giving me a picture of what a youth pastor’s summer experience might be like. This is what he said:
“You’re going to spend a week at camp with 50 or 60 kids emotionally drained and totally zapped from giving everything you have to crisis, after crisis, after crisis. You know it’s going to be incredible. You’re going to sit outside a room 3 or 4 nights making sure the guys don’t sneak out or do any kind of raids or anything like that. No sleep for a solid week and on the way home you’ll have two flat tires and the bus will break down. And God’s call is a call to holiness because this is when the rubber meets the road, brother. You and Wendy are going to step off that bus and one of the parents is going to say, Wendy, Chris… how was the vacation?”
Yep, it’s true. Not everyone understands how, sometimes, we’re really ready for summer ministry to be over and for things to slow down a bit.
Now that summer has ended, or is about to, it’s time for you and me to focus on some YOU-ministry instead of Youth Ministry. And yes, I know the whole You/Youth Ministry thing is a bit cheesy, but it simply works. Anyway, where was I? Oh, YOU.
I want to share a handful of things I’ve found to be super helpful at the end of a busy summer. My summer wrapped up about two weeks ago and I was feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually zapped. I’ve been implementing some of these things and they’ve helped, so here are six things to help you recover from summer. I’m not saying you have to do all six, but at least a few may be just what you need.
1. Go on a date with your significant other! Summers are tough on relationships. Wendy and I have been married for 23 years, plus a few years if you count dating and engagement. We’ve experienced roughly 26 summers of youth ministry. There’s no doubt we love what we do, but when summer is over, we need time to reconnect with each other. Don’t underestimate how important this is! Oh… and if you fall into the category where your wife has been home most of the summer taking care of little ones, YOU REALLY need to do this for your bride. Get a sitter and make it happen. It’ll be fun!
2. Take a work day for soul care. There’s always ministry to be done. As soon as summer is over, the new school year is upon you with new students, new parents and the next big event. Take a day to intentionally not do any of that stuff, but rather do stuff that connects you with Jesus. I recommend leaving the office to limit distractions and not doing it at home where you’ll likely have to deal with that to do list of things that have been ignored all summer. Go to your favorite coffee shop or a library so you can spend much needed time in prayer and reading God’s word. Try not to check your email all day and limit your cell phone activity as well.
3. Start a new book. There’s a good chance you’ve not had a lot of time over the summer for personal growth through reading a good book. This is actually something you could add to your day of soul care. Try to find something that’ll help you reconnect with Jesus, reminding you of how important it is to keep your eyes on God’s love and plan for your life. I’m not talking about systematic theology or a youth ministry “how to” book. But don’t make it too fluffy either.
4. Mind your input. Just as my summer was ending this year, the presidential race was heating up. Ughhh. And, it’s still going strong. Again, I say: ughhh. I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t matter, but taking in too much of this just gets me frustrated. Before I know it, I’m thinking and saying angry things about real people whom God really loves.
I find this is true about the type of music I listen to as well. My spirit tends to reflect the type of stuff I’m putting into my brain. Too much country music and I’m expecting my wife to jump up into my truck barefooted. Check out Philippians 4:6-9 for a good reminder of how important this is.
5. Make a list of praises from the summer. There’s a good chance that for some reading this, it’s been a hard summer. Challenging parents, difficult students, plans not going the way you hoped they would. All these things can be hard, leaving us wondering deep in our soul whether or not it’s worth it. If you’re struggling with this, it may be worth it to intentionally grab a sheet of paper and reflect on the good things God did this summer. Try to focus on those moments where teenagers really started to understand God more. And don’t forget those seeds that were planted with students you finally talked with about something deeper than a simple surface conversation.
6. Finally, Take a day off and do something you love. Don’t feel guilty about this! You need to disconnect from ministry for at least a day and do something you love. Me, I’d go fishing or practice some new magic tricks. For you… Whatever it is you like to do, go for it. Unless it’s Pokemon Go. Ok, I’ll show you a little grace… even if it’s Pokemon Go.