Sabbath in the Summer? It's Possible I Swear! | UMC YoungPeople
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May 2018

Sabbath in the Summer? It's Possible I Swear!

By Jeremy Steele

Summer is approaching like a freight train, and if we aren’t careful it will pick us up and drag us for miles before we realize that we are on the edge of burnout. Don’t let that happen. I know that it seems impossible, but taking sabbath in the summer is beyond important. You need sabbath. You need 24-consecutive hours when you rest instead of work.

And remember, your job as a youth worker exists beyond the deposits, van mileage forms and packing list creation. Your job is to care for the souls of the youth in your group, and you cannot do that effectively when your running on empty either spiritually or physically.

That is at the heart of sabbath. It’s more than a day off, it’s more than a time out. Abraham Joshua Heschel in his brilliant book Sabbath explains the gift by saying ” “The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.” He says that in sabbath we attempt to “to collect rather than dissipate time.” Sabbath is about taking time away from the demands of this life and spending it resting in the grace of God.

Sabbath is about refusing to define yourself based on the amount of things you can accomplish today. It is rooted in the belief that your true value comes as a child of God.

But how do you do that? How do you collect time and rest when church camp looms large on your planner?

1. Define your day different

This one idea completely transformed my ability to take a sabbath. As I read some book somewhere I saw a fact that I had seen a million times: the Jewish people defined day as starting and ending at sunset. When I saw that idea in terms of sabbath, it was a game changer. I had forever been trying to sabbath from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, but in hectic times, that can be almost impossible. When we define the sabbath day as beginning and ending at sunset, it gives space on each side of the sabbath for us to get things done.

For me this means starting and ending sabbath at 5:00pm. Most people won’t fault you for not responding to something small after that time in a typical day. Then, if something comes up during your sabbath, you simply decide to address it after 5:00.

2. Prepare for the Sabbath

Throughout the Bible when you see the subject of sabbath being discussed, you read that the people were called to “prepare for the sabbath.” This is important! The only way you’ll be able to take the sabbath is if you prepare for it. Mark sabbath on your calendar. The day that sabbath will begin at 5:00pm, look at what might need to be done that day and the next. Then, commit to finishing those things by 5:00 or securing permission to do them after 5:00 the following day. In other words, prepare for the sabbath!

3. Rest, listen, and do what helps you recharge

What makes you relax? What helps you recharge? Is it cooking? Then cook with all your might. Is it gardening? Then, go dig and prune and pull weeds until the stress of your life is a distant memory. And whatever you do, find a time to do nothing. Find a time to sit and listen to the Holy Spirit, and take a holy nap (if you like that sort of thing).

Seriously, don’t let this summer consume all that you have and some that you don’t. Stop what you are doing now, look at the calendar and make sure sabbath happens!

When he's not playing with his four children with his wonderful wife, Jeremy is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, CA. Jeremy has spent over twenty years working in youth and children's ministry and continues to train children and youth workers as well as writing and speaking extensively in that field. His most recent book is the "All the Best Questions." You can find a list of all his books, articles, and resources for churches at