beach paradise

(This is not mine. Ironic that I am reading it while sitting at Gate A12 in Houston. Heading out to teach this weekend in Indy at the end of 3 weeks at home. I need to save this reading for sabbath/vacation times and I’m thinking a few of you do, too. Love, Stephanie)

Grant me grace, O God, to take a risk today, the risk of not being busy. Amen.

During the summer and especially as we have time for some vacation, I think that we should give ourselves permission not to be busy, to rest in the grace of God. It’s an important discipline – one where we remember that it isn’t our productivity which earns us a place in God’s Kingdom. Rather, it is an unmerited gift, offered to us in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with letting go of the “busy” of my life in order to “be”. In many ways, I allow my overflowing calendar to give my life structure and meaning. This week, as I take some days of vacation, my prayer is that I’ll give myself permission just to be – to be a beloved child of God whose been given the opportunity to live and serve in an incredibly beautiful corner of the Kingdom.

(From Rev. Amy Coles, Smoky Mountain District Superintendent of The United Methodist Church.)

So you have an iPhone. Congrats! First off, get over yourself (OK, you probably don’t need to hear that, but most do). I hope this post is helpful for you as you think about your time off from youth ministry. I think the new iOS 6 is a game-changer for youth ministry – been using a couple new things from the new update that are incredible. Let me tell you about the 2 features you need to turn on immediately and why I think they’re a big deal for us:

When you need to get away, or take some time off, slide your phone on Do Not Disturb Mode. It still allows data, logs your calls stays up to date – it just doesn’t alert you to that fact. If you are that person who doesn’t shut down or turn it off easily, let all of the alerts slip by but still have your phone for an emergency and when you’re ready to reengage you’re up to date. Set a recurring “off time” from 10pm-7am and set it manually on your day off.

I hate skimming email on my day off – it only takes one lousy email to ruin your time away. That thing you thought was settled, that parent who is frustrated, that co-worker who doesn’t have healthy boundaries either – so take that away and set your phone to not get their emails – actually you’re getting the emails but it will only display the ones you’ve manually put on the VIP list. If you’re looking to limit what you see when you’re off, this could be a great tactic. If you use your phone for personal and church use, use VIP to filter your inbox from work mode to friends mode in the flick of a switch.

What other ways can your phone operating systems help you with your day off?


I was asked to contribute to the fantastic Slant33 blog this past week – the question was, about practical help for observing the Sabbath and rest. Here’s a clip of the answer I wrote, be sure to check out the other thoughts on the subject over there, too!

NONNEGOTIABLE: A DAY OFF. Try to reach me on a Monday. Go ahead. You’re probably going to be disappointed! Monday is the day I sleep in, making sure my phone is turned off and disconnected from the needy ministry world around me. From Sunday at about 2:00 p.m. until Tuesday morning’s team meeting, I’m disconnected. Sometimes I’ll even leave the house for the day just to not be around if someone drops by. I’m crafty like that. If I’m going to be in ministry for years, I’ve got to take some days along the way.

NONNEGOTIABLE: TIME WITH GOD/CHURCH. I go to church every week. Worst-case scenario, I watch it online or listen to the mp3. Part of my Sabbath has to include being fed, despite complete exhaustion after teaching youth services all weekend myself. I remember, in the early days of our ministry, we even sneaked away to other churches on off nights to worship in places where no one knew me as pastor. It was glorious. Again, so sneaky, I know.


Take a Day Off or Die

 —  April 16, 2012 — 2 Comments

A day off is an absolute requirement in youth ministry. Simply put: take a day off or you won’t last. Here are a few ideas to make the most of your much-needed day off.

Get with…or away from…people
Some of you need to be with people on your day off (friends, family, etc.) because they energize you and help you make the most of a day off. Others need to avoid people altogether because you find refreshment in being alone. Whichever way you lean…lean hard that direction on your day off!

Reconnect with God
Youth ministry usually only has two speeds: Fast, and super fast! If you are anything like us, it is often difficult to connect with God at any level of real intimacy during the hustle and bustle of a typical week. A day off is the perfect time to do just that! In fact, tomorrow’s edition of the SYM Today will be a devotional you can use on your next day off.

Do something simple and fun
Youth ministry fatigue usually sets in when you aren’t getting enough rest or are all work and no play. So, find an afternoon soon that you can set aside to do something fun that you normally don’t have time for. Play 9 holes of golf, go for a jog, browse through a book store, knit a sweater (that’s what Josh usually likes to do) or catch a matinee movie.

Get away from it all
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about feeling drained without just simple taking some time off. It wasn’t too long ago that I (Josh) took a full week to go completely offline and spending time with the family. Fight fatigue with fun. Hit the beach. Go to Disneyland. Leave your laptop, turn off your phone and get away.

Oh, and one last thing: often times a game-changing or potentially painful decision sits right in front of you and robs you of your passion and energy even on a day off. So just make the call! You might be surprised at the freedom and renewed excitement you feel once you get that out of the way. If it is a tough conversation, pray about it and then have it. Tackle that energy-busting obstacle you’ve been putting off and then turn off, too!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I might not be the best person to take time management advice from – I perpetually run about 15 minutes late to everything. So I don’t have it all together but have found a few ways to squeeze a little extra productivity out of the work week. Here are a few of the ones I like the most:

Get a 10-minute jump start on your day the night before
This one might not be the best one for everyone in case it would upset your restful sleep – but for me I can get a ton of work started if I do a quick check in right before bed. Once the family is set for the night and the house is quiet, I like to steal 10 minutes on webmail to set the day tomorrow. Maybe a quick scan of the calendar, a short reply, or an awareness of tomorrow’s challenges help me prepare mentally for the next day.

Turn off work on your day(s) off
When it is time to be off – be off! I realize that many church cell phones are also your personal phone, but you’ve got to shut them down. If you play hard, it’ll help you focus on work when it is time to work. Religiously take a day off, and make sure you’re really off.

Ditch TV unless you’re exercising or being productive
A great way to make sure you get both exercise and entertainment in during the week is to combine them. If you find yourself killing too much time on the couch, limit the amount of TV you watch by time on the treadmill. You might be surprised by what you could do (start a blog, write a book) if you force yourself to be productive at the same time or drop TV altogether.

Cut the distractions in the office
Turn off your email alerts. Disable Facebook’s constant stream of interruptions. Make sure Twitter isn’t always stealing your focus and concentration. Close your door if you have to. When you give yourself wholly to a task or complete it, reward yourself with a social media break or walk around the church office.

Lump similar tasks together
Let’s say you have to make 5 phone calls, write 15 cards, return 16 emails and work on budgets with multiple people. By putting these tasks into chunks of time you’ll be able to knock them out more quickly. Get in a rhythm, crank out the calls or projects all at once.

How do you squeeze more work into your work week?