If I had some magical creation powers, I don’t think I’d be asking for money. In truth, one of my top wishes would be, Let me secretly discover an 8th day in my week while the rest of the world still only has 7! We’re talking this week about biblical rest. And rest for most of us in youth ministry entails the ability to get the most things done in an efficient amount of time so I can take much-needed rest time without being harassed by lingering guilt, what if’s, or a frustrated senior pastor. After all, we all know that lives lived frantically are lives that are quickly forgotten.
But since I don’t see a secret 8th day happening for many of us, let’s dialogue about some simple ideas to help create margins for the balance and biblical rest we all need. In truth, they’re probably our quickest routes to creating our own magical 8th day.
1. Determine your priorities in youth ministry and in life by using the three “R’s.”
The three “R’s” that should determine your priorities are:
Required: What is required of me?
Return: What gives me the greatest return?
Reward: What gives me the greatest joy and fulfillment?
Let me put it another way. Let’s say you just had a serious heart attack. What goals would you set for yourself if you had that life-threatening condition hanging over your head? What are the things that would become your priorities? With that question in mind, why do we wait until we’re hurt or in trouble to make decisions with the same level of intentional thinking about our future? Apart from this kind of thinking, biblical rest will remain a nice concept but a distant reality. Van Goethe summed it up pretty profoundly: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”
2. Live and die by the Pareto Principle.
You remember it, don’t you? The Italian economist Pareto said that 20% of your efforts in any given area will usually produce nearly 80% of your results. So he would say that 20% of our time investment produces 80% of our most valuable results. (Examples might include, 20% of our leaders produce 80% of our results or 20% of our work gives us 80% of our satisfaction.)
Whatever your application, when looking for your 8th day, focus on your most valuable 20% and try to give those areas more of your time. The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re still the pilot!
3. Remember that what gets on your calendar gets done! So make sure your priorities get on your calendar. If you don’t fill your own calendar, someone else will.
The busier your life is, the more systematic you need to become in your scheduling. I often create a “SIP” for what goes on my calendar. (“SIP” stands for “system in place.”) And for me, windows of rest are a strategic part of my weekly calendar.
Let me illustrate. Maybe as you look at your career and family demands, you realize that about the only time you can reach out to connect with students over the phone is Tuesday and Thursday evenings for 30 minutes after you put your kids to bed at 8:30. Knowing that, you create a simple SIP where you plan to make student phone calls for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
That might not sound like much. But do you realize that by following through on this simple, reachable SIP, you will have done over 50 hours of relational phones calls or texts by the end of one year! That’s far more than many full time pastors.
4. Choose what you’re willing to fail at.
Maybe a better choice of words would be, choose what you’re willing to be less than your best at. I can guarantee that if you purposefully don’t decide what arenas you are not going to be “10 points” in, you will constantly struggle with guilt and indecision. Why? We don’t get any genuine rest if we don’t give ourselves permission to be less than great in a few arenas in our lives.
One acronym for “BUSY” is “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” I think that sums up our biblical mandate for genuine rest pretty well. Though I’m unlikely to create my mystical 8th day, I’m on a mission to make my days really matter. Rest is far more than lounging on a comfortable couch. I think it’s also the internal peace that comes from hours well invested, then crashing on the couch! After all, whatever buys your time, buys your life.