New year, new you?
Most children’s and youth workers follow the academic year, rather than the calendar year, so the new year might not have the significance of change that September brings to our groups and ministries. However, after the busyness of Christmas, it can be a good point to take some time out, think about our ministries and focus on God.
If we’re not careful, we can get stuck on an exhausting treadmill of ministry, moving from one project to another (or trying to juggle several at once) that we don’t have time to evaluate what we’ve done and think through how we should best move forward. We can burn out and our ministries can turn into a process of shoring things up, rather than working for growth. So, what can you do to avoid this?
Chat with the person in charge
Do this first. If you’re a volunteer, this could be a paid children’s worker, coordinator of children’s and family ministry or your vicar. For paid workers, it’s likely to be the vicar. Talk through with them what you’re doing – if you’re doing too much, then you can discuss what can be stopped or handed on to someone else.
Take some time out
Work out with the person in charge how you can take some time out to pray and reflect on your ministry and practice. This could be removing you from the rota for a month or facilitating a couple of weekends off in a row. Whatever works in your situation, take advantage of it.
If you’re burning out, spend this time recovering. Sleep, read, binge-watch TV, go to the theatre or cinema, catch up with friends. Actually take a holiday and switch off from your day-to-day work.
If you thrive on being with others, the idea of retreating can seem terrifying. However, you might try urban retreating. In her book, Be Live Pray, Becca Dean describes urban retreating and how it can be a powerful spiritual act. One idea she recommends is to go to an art gallery or museum. Find a painting that particularly speaks you and then spend some time looking at it and working out what God might want to say to you through the image. Alternatively, set up in a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Listen to God as you take in the sights and sounds around you.
You might relish time away in solitude and quiet. Why not arrange to go somewhere (a friend’s house, a hotel or B&B) and spend some time on your own. Even a solo trip out to the countryside for a day would give you space to reflect and pray.
Read the Bible
OK, this might seem an obvious one, but how often do we read the Bible as part of our own spiritual development, as opposed to our work (in planning sessions, sermons or events)? You might find it helpful to find a Bible reading partner or small group. Who around you might join a Bible reading adventure?
Taking time out to rest and reflect on ministry and practice can only be a good thing. It can help us refocus on God, re-evaluate our work and remember why we do what we do.