The Battle To Rest

Chris Wesley —  February 19, 2013 — 3 Comments

A few years back I was training for my third marathon.  The regimen leading up to the big race was grueling.  I had to change my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.  Sacrifices in family, personal and even professional life were made.  Keeping my training schedule were a priority.  Finally, it got to be a little too much.  I just remember refusing to run one day and then taking a break from the training for an entire 10 days.  When I resumed training I had never felt better.  The rest was well needed.

Youth ministry is a lot like preparing for a marathon.  The days, the weeks and seasons can be grueling.  Sacrifices are made and in the end you can hit a wall much like you do in running.  Unfortunately, taking a break isn’t so easy because you need your job.  While you might be able to take a step back (even away permanently) from a race you need to take the proper steps for REST.

REST as a youth minister means:

  • Enjoying time with family.
  • Spending time with God.
  • Falling back in love with your calling.


There is no question there is more rest can bring; however, being able to find it is a totally different issue.  In order to find rest you need to:

  • Schedule It In: Sounds funny to schedule in rest; however, by putting in breaks you give yourself margin.  During busy seasons you’ll use up that margin; however, when the pace truly slows down you will be able to take advantage of the “extra” time you’ve given yourself.
  • Say “No”: There is a fear that by saying, “No.” you are telling people not to trust you.  In reality you are embracing your limitations which is good.  If you are overworked and have too much on your plate not only will you sacrifice the things you enjoy, but resent what it is you are doing.  Find people to hold you accountable to saying this helpful word.
  • Build Trust In Your Team: You need a team around you who will step up when you need to take a step back.  This allows you to do the things that refresh and rejuvenate you.  To truly trust your team you need to work on situations where you let them take on leadership, and ownership of the youth ministry. It’s ok if they fail and mess up, if you show them love and direction in return.  A team you can trust is one that will help you rest.

Again, youth ministry can have a grueling pace.  If it’s not approached with margin and limitations you’ll find yourself consistently burned out.  Unfortunately, gaining rest isn’t as simple as laying your head down on a pillow, you need to take necessary steps.  A youth minister who can rest, is one that can go the distance.

What steps do you take to find rest?  What sabotages your efforts?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



My wife and I used to live in this awesome apartment in midtown Baltimore.  One evening we had just come back from the grocery store faced with a dilemma.  We were faced with carrying a large amount of grocery bags from our car to our apartment (On the 4th floor) in one trip.  The reason we needed to do it in one trip is because there were no more spots in the apartment parking lot and it was too late at night to leave anything of value in the car .

So we attempted to do the impossible.  As we unloaded the car our bags began to tear, so we decided to move quicker; however, they kept tearing.  We picked up our pace, thinking we could make it to at least inside the building when suddenly everything spilled onto the pavement.  Disaster struck because we thought we could handle the load.  Nope, we were carrying too much.

There are times in youth ministry when you think you can handle the load.  Unfortunately, responsibilities pile on top of one another, the weight gets heavier and next thing you know everything is just spilling everywhere.  You’ve lost control of your ministry. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to recognize when you are doing too much until it’s too late.  While it is difficult to recognize there are a few signs.  For example, you know you are doing too much when you:

  • Do Not Sleep Well
  • Work Longer With Less Productivity
  • Feel More Irritable
  • Keep Disappointing Others

It’s when you start seeing these results that you need to sit down (Even if you feel like you don’t have time) and:

  • Map Out An Ideal Schedule:  You are working and living in chaos because you are lacking a vision for your ministry.  Even if it doesn’t seem likely you need a plan that will help you manage your time and responsibilities.  Plan each day and include everything, even your lunch breaks.  If you had total control over your schedule what would it look like?
  • Build Guardrails:  You’ve gone off the deep end because you didn’t have anyone or thing to warn you that you were too close to the edge.  Find people who know your schedule to keep you accountable.  Go back to your schedule and set a time when you review your commitments.  If you get paranoid about doing too much, good, you are on the right path.
  • Know The Word “No”: One of the largest reasons you do too much is because you don’t know how to say, “NO”.  Granted you might say it to others; however, how are you at saying it to yourself?  Even if an opportunity looks good, if you cannot handle it, if you are unsure about it’s expectations caution on the side of not doing it.  If you aren’t a fan of saying, “No.” in fear of missing out on something big, build up the confidence to say, “Let me think about it.”

If you do too much you’ll burn out of ministry.  Knowing when you are doing too much is key to longevity and health in ministry.  Set-up a system that protects you and has you focused on why it is you do ministry.

How do you safeguard against doing too much?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

14 days until New Years Eve, Seven days until Christmas and 3 more until the end of the world (At least that’s what the Mayans say).  In the next several weeks a lot will be happening and that’s because everyone is in a season of transition.  During these times it’s so easy for a youth ministry to get derailed because seasons of change are messy, fast moving and crazy.

Especially during this time of year, nothing is of the usual. All of your students are away from school, some go away on vacation, while others are in the midst of midterms. Nothing is normal during a season of change.  But, when the dust settles, it’s important to keep moving as if nothing changed.  You need to keep the momentum of your ministry going.  If not, it’ll be a long winter and rough spring.  So, how does one make the transition from one season to the next?

Embrace God’s Grace: Do what you physically can do and allow God to do the rest.  It’s easy during season of change to overextend yourself.  Unfortunately, if you are depleted of all energy, there is no way to move forward without feeling burned out.  Make sure you schedule in time to sit with God, even if it’s just five minutes a day.  It’s essential that it’s scheduled in.

Pass On Future Tasks: During times of transition it’s easy to get focused on the now and forget what’s coming up.  Before you get in the midst of the chaos pass off future responsibilities to volunteers or coworkers.  Doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as stapling paper, just get it off your plate so that you can do what only you can do.  When the chaos settles down you can walk into the next because everything has been prepped.

Write Down Goals: Make a check-list of tasks that need to be done.  When you get moving it’s easy to overlook simple tasks and responsibilities.  Each day check that list several times and use it as a way of measuring your progress.  Celebrate each time you eliminate an item and then move forward.

Sleep, Rest and Sleep: As hard as it might seem try to get as much sleep and rest as possible.  During times of high stress it’s tempting to resort to staying up late, eating, and other bad habits that will slow you down.  You need to maintain your energy; therefore, with the free time you do have, take it to refuel and refresh.

Transitions and seasons of change can be difficult; however, with a healthy pace and focus you’ll make it through.  Build a system, don’t be afraid to rely on others and above all else know that God is walking with you.

How do you move through seasons of transition and chaos?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Clear Your Calendar

Chris Wesley —  December 13, 2012 — 9 Comments

It’s the end of the year and for many of us the days are moving faster and the amount of work is multiplying at a neck breaking speed.  In youth ministry you have those seasons that pull, push and beat you up.  The ones where you wonder whether or not you can hold on for another round.  You try to tell yourself, “This season will be over soon and then I will rest.” But the end never comes and the busyness continues on.

The solution to combating those busy seasons is by simply CLEARING YOUR CALENDAR.  That’s right take an eraser, whiteout, samurai sword or hand grenade and blow that thing up.  Actually, take a breather, refrain from using those measures and try these four steps instead:

STEP #1: Prioritize Your Week - Look at what you do and categorize them in the following ways:

  • Must-Do
  • Negotiable
  • Totally Unnecessary

If everything appears as a must do then sit down with a trusted friend or coworker and have them analyze your schedule with you.  Let them ask why and whether something can be adjusted or eliminated.  Put what’s important in your highly motivated times.  Delegate and eliminate the unnecessary and watch your calendar breathe.

STEP #2: Frame Out Your Days – It might differ depending on the day; however, by marking down consistent start and end times into your schedule you will create a framework of discipline.  The reason your day runs long is because there are no boundaries.  With no boundaries chances are you are taking too many breaks because you do not feel the pressure of a deadline.  By finding that you can work 40 hours in a week and still be effective is liberating.  It allows you to have a life outside of youth ministry.

STEP #3: Build In ME Time - You might be incredible at scheduling your professional life; but, how are you at your personal?  It sounds wrong to plan in quiet time, family time and even when you eat; however, if you find work bleeding into home life you need to take drastic measure.  By building in ME time you’ll find your relationship with God and others drastically improve.

STEP #4: Revisit Consistently – Granted you can’t always plan a busy season; however, as you feel the pace of your schedule change take the time to look at your calendar.  Repeat steps 1-3 and make the adjustments that are necessary to survive and thrive.  Have someone you know analyze your calendar with you.  Allow them to tell you where they see holes and areas of improvement.

While you can’t clear you calendar completely, you can take better control of when you need to do what you do.  It’s not the most attractive discipline; however, by managing your time you enable yourself to grow as a leader and youth minister.

How do you guard your time?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



Have you ever felt that your job was like running a marathon through a swamp?  No matter how hard you worked, you just feel like you are sinking and bushwhacking through mess after mess?  When you turn on the lights of your office in the morning you groan at the piles of paperwork?  You ever just want to delete all the messages in your inbox?  And you wonder, “How am I going to get anything done with all these meeting?”  Yep, that can be youth ministry.

If you feel like you are stuck in circles or never going anywhere in your youth ministry it could be for a variety of reasons.  Some are as simple as taking a vacation, while others are something more serious like a conversation with the pastor.  But, before you can follow through on the solution you need to understand the problem.  To move forward you need to know what’s actually slowing you down.  The reason you could feel like you are running through mud is due to a:

  1. Lack of Organization – Do you have a plan for your week or day?  When you walk into your office you need to have a strategy to how you are tackling ministry, otherwise it will be tackling you.  Too many times youth ministers are reactionary to what is going on around them, all this creates is chaos.  By having a plan (With some flexibility) you can create systems that will keep your inbox empty, your creativity flowing and your ministry healthy.
  2. Shortage of Accountability – While you want a pace that’s comfortable for you, you need people who are going to push and challenge you through the difficult times.  When you face problems solo, the burden will slow you down.  You need someone to share your triumphs and trials with.  You need a support team that will help you move forward when you can’t do it on your own.
  3. Drop In Communication – Lousy communication means lousy ministry.  If your emails are rants, your messages are ill-prepared and you only say things once, be prepared to find yourself frustrated.  When you clearly practice effective communication you begin to learn the power of delegation.  You will see how your words impact productivity.  You will grow as a leader.  Effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing your ministry into a movement.
  4. Disconnect In Spiritual Growth – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with God, then what do you really have?  This is the easiest place for a youth minister to be hypocritical.  You tell your teens to engage in scripture, to tithe, to share the Gospel and go to worship; however, you don’t even do it yourself.  You can struggle with those habits; however, if you are not at least engaging in them, you’ll find that you’ve lost your calling.

In order to approach all these areas you need to find the time to address them.  That means scheduling an hour or so each week to look at your organization, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  If you aren’t taking the time to analyze these areas, then you will once again find your productivity and effectiveness take a hit.

What else could slow down your ministry?