burningmidnightoilHow much sleep did you get last night?

I’m not asking what you did last night or the night before that required you to stay up late. It was probably quite noble and likely “for the kingdom.”

Maybe this is even a pattern in your life. You have a bunch of work to do, but want to make sure you spend time with your family during the day. It’s why you put off some of your work until late at night…that’s why God invented laptops, right?

Still, how much sleep are you getting?

Or perhaps more clearly…when are you going to bed?

That alone is worth asking, even if you tend to get in your “eight hours” on a regular basis. Perhaps you’re getting the right amount of sleep, but you’re going to bed on a schedule that puts you at odds with others in your home or the people you see throughout most of your day. You snag a “fourth meal” at Taco Bell, or prep your favorite late-night snack, and plug into whatever you’ve been waiting to get to all day.

It could be for any number of reasons:

  • You’re trying to stay flexible: Ministry requires you to be available on the fly, and you know one of your prime times to serve others is late at night.
  • You’re trying to have some “me” time: Your DVR is backed up with shows you’re still waiting to catch up on, and maybe the only time you feel you can watch them uninterrupted is when everyone else has gone to sleep.
  • You can’t think during the day: It feels like whenever you sit down to get something important done, someone knocks on your door, calls you, or sends you an email that needs your immediate attention.

Maybe you can relate to all of this.

Maybe you can relate to none of this.

Let me ask one more question that goes just one layer deeper.

Who gets to decide what’s healthy in this area?

A friend of mine told me years ago that sometimes you need to give yourself a “fake heart attack.” He had a family member who had an actual heart attack and was told by a doctor to radically reorient his life. This meant new habits with eating, exercise, sleep, and more.

The doctor set the standard.

My friend shared how his family member struggled with this, and so the rest of the household decided to join him in the changes. Everyone had a “fake heart attack” and changed their patterns to help with the real situation.

As you might imagine, the entire family’s life became healthier through the process. Each person lost a lot of weight, had new energy, kept the same sleeping schedule, and consequently bonded more with others in the household than they ever had before. Their relationship grew by leaps and bounds, and they even became more involved in church and other charitable efforts.

Maybe that feels like a Cinderella story from where you’re sitting. “I could never do that,” you might argue. Maybe not.

Unless your doctor told you that you were on the verge of a heart attack. Everything would change then, wouldn’t it?

It’s ironic how we criticize people who only come to Jesus at the last minute because they want to avoid hell. Isn’t this exactly what we do with our health? Until there’s a real fear of penalty, we’ll just keep on pushing our bodies and schedules to their limits because we see no other option that we’ll actually stay consistent with.

Allow me to end on a confession.

burning-midnight-oilI’ve written this article to Tony Myles. If anyone else has read along, feel free to comment.

Me? As I write this, I have a doctor’s appointment in an hour. I’m curious, based on how that goes, what I’ll continue to get away with… and what he’ll tell me has to change in my life.

Can anyone relate?

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2)”

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*

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The excitement of fall kickoff has subsided and now you are in the meat of your youth ministry year.  It feels good because most of the rust is off and you are just turning that wheel to keep things going.  Most times it’s easy to think, “Okay, smooth sailing ahead.” But that rarely works because after a while obstacles, responsibilities and distractions will build up.  Ministry will get harder, people will find more reasons to bail and the momentum that was created in the fall will be completely gone.  How do you keep it going?  How do you build momentum in the middle of your year?

Change Things Up – You want to show that your ministry is willing to change without showing instability.  That means changing up the topics in which you talk about, and possibly rearranging the format of your program.  Just as you are supposed to change up a workout routine to stimulate new muscles, you’ll want to change a few things up in youth ministry to stimulate new faith growth.

Pour Into Your Team – Half way through the year your team is going to grow tired and even a little burned out.  Maybe their small group hasn’t maintained the attendance they wanted, or they could be dealing with a teen in crisis.  It’s even possible that a major issue in their personal life is going on.  Even if it’s a one-day mini retreat, pour into them, and cheer them on.  Give them the motivation they need.

Doing Something New – Whenever something or someone is new a little excitement forms.  Whether it’s a new video game in your hangout space or a new speaker delivering the message, take advantage of its freshness by promoting it.  While it might not be the most mind blowing achievement, new always brings about some momentum.

Pace Yourself As A Leader – When the craziness of a season subsides it’s important that you as a leader take the time to cool down.  That might mean revisiting your schedule and working within the limits.  It could mean taking a day of Sabbath to reconnect with God.  If you aren’t ready for the long haul, neither will your ministry.  To maintain momentum you need to be willing to push it when it is needed, so rest up.

Ideally you want your ministry to consistently grow on the same trajectory over time; however, that isn’t realistic.  You are going to find obstacles and distractions and that’s why it’s important to rest.  You will face hitting a rut and that’s why it’s important to shake things up.  There is no exact science to how much newness, change or motivation one should pour into their ministry; however, if there isn’t enough momentum will slide.

How do you build momentum mid year in your ministry?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.