Want to know something crazy? Normal people get two days off of work every week. Youthworkers usually get none. Don’t think I’m right? Check your calendar.
You might be saying, “I get Mondays off” (except for those two hours of staff meeting…) Or you get Fridays off (except any weekends with a retreat or a lock-in.) Same thing can be said for many of your Saturdays. I once did an exercise on counting days off and realized I had done about 255 youth events in a year.
I’d like to blame the culture – that our culture rewards busy-ness and constant work. I’d like to blame the church/employers – that there are expectations for me to be at every youth event and for the youth calendar to be completely full of weekly programs and special events. I’d like to blame workload – that there’s just too much work to be done during a normal week. I might even want to blame my desire for program perfection – as in, if I just do one more thing on Saturday morning, the program will be that much better.
I confess now that I am the worst at turning the “off” switch on work mode.
For the last few weeks we’ve been covering the seven promises in the We Love Our Youth Worker (WLOYW) covenant. These are promises that churches make in order to care for their youth workers, and that youth workers promise in return to their employer/church. So far we’ve looked at the importance of prayer support, retreat/reflection and training/development.
The fourth promise that a WLOYW church makes to a youth worker is “We will give at least one full day of rest each week.”
We believe that taking regular time off helps maintain our youth worker’s passion and energy for his or her work with young people.
We promise to require our youth worker to take at least one day away from his or her role each week and at least two weeks per year to do something different.
The youth worker in return promises “We will take at least one day off each week and vacation time.”
We promise to take time for rest and Sabbath as we invest in a family, spiritual and social life outside of the youth ministry.
Now, I know that taking time off is important. The costs of not taking time off include getting burnt out, losing your sense of self and losing your relationships with others. I had a reality check on this about a year ago. As I sat in a training event for my volunteers, the teacher talked about incorporating your hobbies into youth ministry. I realized that, as a professional, full-time youth worker, I didn’t really have any hobbies outside of youth ministry that I was spending time doing. I had let my profession take over my personal life and define who I was. (I know I’m not the only youth worker out there guilty of doing this, right?)
I realize now that how I was living was unhealthy and unsustainable long term. In healthy youth ministry, in order to be effective long term, we need sabbath time. A day off a week is a great start (did you know “normal” people get a weekend that is two days off? Just thought I’d point that out.) Hobbies and interests, friendships and fun OUTSIDE of youth ministry can all be part of your sabbath/day off time.
Remember, taking a day off isn’t about your being selfish. You will be a better youth minister if you are refreshed and taking time to rest. If you can successfully model the importance of sabbath time, you will be a healthy spiritual role model for your students as well.
You might also want to check out this article about why Sundays might not be a youth worker’s sabbath day.
We need a world with healthy youth ministries and healthy youth workers. If you are interested in talking to your church about We Love Our Youth Worker, you might want to know that WLOYW in the United States will start taking applications for churches on March 1, 2012. Click here to learn more.
Would love your responses:
What does a day of rest look like for you?
Does your church support your taking time off?
How do you make sure you have time off from work? What strategies have you used to make sure this happens?
How does the amount of days off of work compare between you and the rest of the church staff?