Youth Ministry Getaway? To Vacation or Not to Vacation?

To Vacation or Not to Vacation…

For months I had turned to my husband and whispered,  “When will you take me away?” The children would stay home while we went.  All I could dream of was sitting on a beach with a whole lot of nothing “to do.”

Now that we were “there,” everything seemed to be going wrong.   Our 11 year old was having a panic attack about us being away for a whole week.  He had called 10 times in the middle of the night.  Why was this the time they had to talk about “the rapture” at church?  There were hundreds of calls from the ministry.   Two kids had gotten into a fist-fight and just as an FYI both sets of parents want to meet with us when we get back.  This was not the “vacation” I had been romanticizing for months.  As my mind raced, my soul kept chanting,  “Hurry up and relax,  soon you go home.”

My thoughts drifted back to a talk I had heard from Bill Hybels last year.  He was talking about our need to be “filled,” when our bucket of life is “empty.”    The problem he said was that we believe that there are simply holes in the sides.  If we plug these up,  then the bucket can once again start to swell to the top.  The issue he pointed out is that most of us are actually missing the bottom of the bucket completely.  We are focusing on plugging the gaps in the side when there is a piece totally missing.   No matter how you try to pour into it, it is falling through.  Hybels charged us to go to the Lord and ask him to fix the bucket.

I often find myself existing from one time away to the next.  I think this will be what repairs the foundation.  I can run and run and go and go until the time I get to crash and relax.  Vacation will be the salvation to my overwhelming life.  The problem is  nine times out of ten,  it doesn’t solve anything.   It ends up being a nice time away,  or  even fun.  Still I can’t shut off the valve of life so the flow through continues.

As I finally sat on that beach with my husband I had to admit that I am dealing with a severed bucket.   This time wasn’t going to “solve” all of the stress of kids and bills and ministry and well everything.  I started to wonder if vacations are even “worth it.”    The conclusion I cam to is that YES we NEED to break from the everyday cycle and be forced to shut  down for a few days.

So as you may think about a time away here are my thoughts on “vacations” :

They DON’T resolve burn out.

I have to stop the insanity thinking this is what will super glue my bucket back together.  He is what puts me back together.  They give a rest,  but not a solution.

They DO give fresh perspective.

John and I have been in ministry together for almost 17 years.  Let me rephrase, we have been running ministries together for almost 17 years. This means that we get entrenched in the reality of  “putting out fires.”  What can we do better?  How do we deal with the fist-fight?  When we get away we actually regain vision.  We dream about ways to see a generation changed for Christ.   We put a moratorium on “talking ministry.”  That means we aren’t allowed to talk daily “issues.”   What always happens (every time) is we end up talking dreams.  The Lord reminds us of our call and we get excited to chat about the bigger picture.

They DO remind you of who you are,  and who and what you enjoy,

If nothing else whether your vacation is alone, with a spouse or with a family you get to take a deep breath and simply focus on the moment at hand.  There was nothing we could do about ministry when we weren’t there.  Someone else had to take it over until we got back.  It took me a couple of days to let down,  but we got to laughing while we were away.  We spent loads of time out in nature, just taking it in.  I looked at my husband and remembered he is my best friend.  I was able to see again that life isn’t about a set of accomplishments.  It’s about being in love with a Savior.

They DO show you, you’re not all that.

Guess what the world went on without us.  It will next time as well.  The two parental sets were told if they wanted to deal with us it would need to be in a week.  Students came to know Jesus without us.  As I sat on that beach my bucket did get one major repair.   I recalled once again that what I do is not as important as who I belong to.  He chooses to use me,  much more than he could ever need me.

I confess our first day away we seriously thought about getting in the car and going home.  When we were able to think of it as a break and not a resolution we could just have fun.  That bucket thing is a daily task.  I hope to break the cycle of falling into vacation.  We’ll see.  I think that means I need to stop waiting for an “event” to help relieve the pressures of life.   Instead, I need to remember that it’s my Lord who wants to carry that weight.



  • Morgan Paddock

    We are about to go on our first “Vacation” since serving together in inner city ministry and I find all of these things to be true..Thanks for the new perspective before going.