When I was young and single, spending time with students was simple and it was easily the best part of my job. But then I got married and we had two kids (third on the way!), and all of a sudden an evening with a sophomore meant a night away from my family. Juggling those commitments is the most difficult part of my job.

That’s why I look so forward to the second week of Christmas vacation. Students are past the Christmas craziness and I am too. By the second week of Christmas vacation, life has slowed down for me, and all of my students are still out of school.

Time to hang out! Scheduling time with students during school breaks is easy and fun. Lunches and hot chocolate breaks mean that I can spend most of my day with students and all of my evening with my family. It’s too important an opportunity to miss. Here’s how to make the most of this week:

Leverage social media like a pro.
Try this. Pick up a book. Go to the food court. Update your Facebook status to say something like this:

Hanging out at the food court until 2:00 p.m. today. If you come and hang out with me for twenty minutes, I’ll buy your ice cream!

Then wait.

Email parents.
Send an email to parents to let them know that you’re available and excited to spend some one-on-one time with students. They’ll be thrilled to get their stir-crazy child out of the house for a little bit and will take care of the scheduling for you. This is also a great way to spend some time with students who are too shy or uncomfortable to set up one-on-one time themselves.

Tell your staff what’s going on.
You don’t want someone to accidentally charge you a week’s worth of vacation just because you weren’t around the office. Explain that this is the BEST WEEK you’ll have all year to spend one-on-one time with students. That’s why you won’t be around and that’s why you won’t be available for meetings.

Are you missing out on the best week of the year to build relationships? Are you going to do anything differently in 2013?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministryto help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.