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Time Management in Youth Ministry: Keeping the Sabbath

This post is part of the Time Management in Youth Ministry series. If there’s one thing you need to do when you’re extremely busy, it’s to take one day a week off: keeping a Sabbath. It may seem like a stupid thing to do when your to do list is bigger than ever, but trust me when I say it’s the best investment you can make.

God gave the command to keep the Sabbath for a reason (even though the Ten Commandments have a different meaning for us than they did for the Isrealites). We need this day of rest for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Keeping the Sabbath is an investment in our health, our family, our relationship with God and with others. If you just keep on running, you’re gonna find yourself run out, run down and overrun at some point.

What (not) to do on a Sabbath

The word Sabbath has to do with an active abstinence from work. Now, we could go all legalistic here and make a list of stuff you’re not allowed to do on the Sabbath, but in my book you’re missing the point then. It’s not about what you’re allowed to do exactly, it’s about taking time to rest, to relax, about spending time with God and your family. The Sabbath is about slowing down, about breathing, about being instead of doing. Anything that doesn’t fall into that category should be something you don’t want to do on the Sabbath, lest you miss its purpose. As Brady Boyd rightly wrote in an article on keeping the Sabbath: the Sabbath is supposed to be a blessing, not a chore.

The Sabbath should be about relaxing, doing those things that fill your tank so to speak. For me, that’s reading, watching a movie, or playing a board game. Or just sit in the garden, enjoy the sun on my face and watch my son play silly games with his daddy. The Sabbath is also about spending time with your family, giving your kids your undivided attention, visiting your parents or take your spouse out for a romantic dinner. It’s about spending time with your friends, catching up and being there for each other. And last but not least, the Sabbath is about spending time with God. Read the Bible (and not for sermon prep!), take time to worship, just enjoy God’s presence.

After a Sabbath, I can actually feel my stress levels get down. I get new perspectives, because I’ve taken a step back from my work and gained new insights. I have new energy and I start my new workweek refreshed. Often, I am also re-energized in my relationship with God. Reading is an important part of my Sabbath and I learn so much (and relax at the same time!).

Plan your Sabbath

It’s important to plan your Sabbath, for it won’t happen if you don’t. For me, keeping the Sabbath on Sunday was impossible. Right after the service, people would be lined up to talk to me about youth ministry related stuff. Also, we had youth ministry events three out of four Sunday evenings. So we made the Saturday our Sabbath and that worked well most of the times, though in hindsight I should have been even more strict about keeping it.

Communicate your day off to your team of leaders and volunteers and to youth if necessary, so they know not to call you. Unplug your computer for the day or if that’s impossible, shut down your email program so you won’t be tempted to look at emails. If people call, either let it ring, let the answering machine get it or tell them to call back tomorrow (and don’t fall into the trap of ‘it’s just one really quick question…because for an hour afterwards, you’ll still be thinking about that call and therefore not relaxing!)

Practice the Sabbath

Keeping the Sabbath takes practice. If you are anything like me, letting go of everything doesn’t come easy. I’m not good at doing nothing…but I need to learn. Like Steven Mitchell pointed out the other day on his blog: “The only way to get better at something is practice. I’m going to practice the Sabbath more.” That’s what I’m hoping you’ll decide: to practice the Sabbath more.

When do you keep Sabbath? Is keeping a Sabbath something that comes easy to you or is it a struggle?

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Rachel Blom has been involved in youth ministry in different roles since 1999, both as a volunteer as on staff. She simply loves teens and students and can't imagine her life without them. In youth ministry, preaching and leadership are her two big passions. Her focus right now is providing daily practical training through www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com to help other youth leaders grow and serve better in youth ministry. She resides near Munich in the south of Germany with her husband and son. You can visit Rachel at www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com