When was the last time you took a vacation?
I’ve been thinking about all the leaders out there that haven’t taken the time to properly rest and refresh themselves. I used to be like that. There was a stretch of seven years where I didn’t take a real vacation at all, and only ever got away for the weekend. I can tell you from experience that not resting is dangerous to you, your job or ministry, and deadly to your family.
Now, I think that most of us know that. We can always point to someone else and say, “man, they need a vacation.” But we rarely will say that about ourselves, and even when we do, we aren’t taking steps to rest.
Why aren’t leaders taking adequate periods of refreshment? There are more reasons than you can count, and most of them are rooted in pride, distrust in the ability of your associates, or the inability to train and delegate properly; and last but not least, we’re not being trained to take breaks.
When I was in my formative years as a minister, I wasn’t trained to take breaks. I wasn’t shown the warning signs of burnout, and I wasn’t encouraged to take small periods of refreshment where I could center myself on my calling. There was always work to do, and even if I had a few days off, work beckoned and was heeded.
I don’t want any student who sits under my teaching to be like that. I want them to have drive, and passion, but I want them to know how to unwind and rest as well. I want them to know when to work hard and when to rest.
We who work with young leaders are in a unique position to influence the working and resting habits of the young people around us, and we should use that influence. Here are a few ways that we can teach our students to establish rhythms of work and rest:
Keep a Sabbath. Show your students that you take a Sabbath day and it’s intention seriously by keeping it. Nothing shows your belief like your practice.
Take vacations. Schedule extended periods of time (not just a weekend) where you get away from everything. Discuss your vacations with your students. Let them know why you are taking vacation and how you plan to rest.
Create an Environment of Honesty. Make sure your students know the signs of burnout. Create an environment of openness where your students can tell one another and you someone is showing signs of not getting enough rest. If one of your students isn’t getting enough rest, talk with them and their parents about it and come up with a plan for rest. Adults aren’t the only ones that get burnt out.
Plan Periods of Inactivity for Your Leadership Team. Because student’s lives are insanely busy these days make sure that you plan rest into the leadership team schedule. Plan rest right after big events, or long periods of activity.
Teach the Sabbath. Yes, I know it’s Old Testament Law, and no, I’m not saying that we’re bound to the Law, but I think we can all agree that God had more in mind than a day of rest when He instituted the day of Sabbath. Teaching about the Sabbath helps students balance being and doing, and helps them remember that it’s not work that brings salvation, it is the grace of God.
Teaching and practicing rest will help students form lifelong habits of rest and work that will keep them rested, refreshed, and Christ-Centered.