We have reached the middle of the summer and you still have another trip or two, a fun day at the pool or beach and a handful of Sunday schools before we reach the end of the summer. That would be fine and seem almost possible except that you’ve had at least one parent call the senior pastor, had to make a report of suspected abuse because of something a kid confessed to their small group leader, and you have an email you have to return about the state of the church van after your last youth trip.
Lesser youth workers would start working on their resumes. They would fly off the handle and make rookie mistakes in handling frustrated parents and staff, but you aren’t going to. You are going to make it through because you are going to remember three things to help you make it to the end of the summer.
1. You don’t ultimately answer to the church.
Yes, you answer to the church in terms of your paycheck, but ministry is an act of service to God. Keeping that in mind helps you put all the rest in perspective. Did you leave the van a mess? Yes. But is it an eternal problem? No. It’s not a big deal on the cosmic no matter what the maintenance staff person says. They are coming at you talking in overblown terms, but when you remember that you are ultimately answering to God, your perspective can allow you to not respond with the level of anger that they are using. That perspective will allow you to send a simple apology and say you’ll make sure to sweep next time. Because sweeping the van is not about the state of anyone’s soul, nor does it impact a child’s immediate safety.
2. You are not responsible for every aspect of everyone’s spiritual development that ever darkens the door of your youth room.
This can be one of the hardest lessons to learn. You have answered a call of God to be used as a vessel to offer God’s grace to teens in your community. But you have to remember, it’s God’s grace not yours. Your hard work is important, but it is ultimately the job of the Holy Spirit to bring students to the moment where their hearts are being “strangely warmed.” That means that if you spend every bit of energy you have and some you don’t thinking that your work will make a spiritual transformation happen, you are wrong. Yes, your job is to take care of some logistics, prepare a lesson or two , but it is ultimately to surrender and be a conduit for the grace of God. If you don’t have any energy left after loading the bus, driving the bus, assigning the rooms, and yelling at kids to go to sleep, you’re probably doing it wrong. Stop. Take a breath and let go of DOING everything. Give some tasks away so you can focus on BEING.
3. Take a breath.
The previous two should make this one a bit easier. You will only survive if you take some time. You need a break. You need sabbath. Turn off your phone, take a nap and rest. You will not survive if you don’t care for your own body and psyche. And once it’s all over, before you have to run the race of fall, leave for several days. You earned it, and if you are going to make it all the way to December you need it.
It’s not a fool proof list, but it’s a start. Keep these in mind and you just might be able to make it to the end of the summer!