Sabbath Days Are a Joke!

“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

The passage goes on to prescribe rest, cessation from work, and family dynamics as key components to keeping this commandment.

So why is it most youth workers start their Sunday breaking this commandment before they even get out of bed?!

What most consider a Sabbath is, for obvious reasons, a work day for every pastor on the planet.  And even when another day is identified as a potential day off, the Sabbath portion of that moment is often derailed by responsibilities that have been necessarily avoided throughout the week.  Lawns still have to get mowed.  Groceries still need to be purchased.  Houses must still be cleaned.

Over time, I’ve recognized that a full day of Sabbath simply doesn’t exist in my life.  The best way I can honor the commandment while still keeping my head above water with all the other responsibilities I shoulder is by finding Sabbath moments and fighting for them with all my might.  Here are a few I have identified in my life.  What might yours be?

Our family attends worship together.  No matter what.  Katie and the boys don’t schedule volunteer opportunities during that time.  I make every attempt to keep my ‘official’ responsibilities to a minimum during that time.  (Sometimes that means joining my family late or leaving service early, but I’m still there!)  Before our church had multiple services, it meant having someone else kick things off in the youth room while I spent a song or two in the worship service with my wife and kids.  It’s a Sabbath moment.

I guard potty time.  No lie.  It’s not typically that difficult since my family doesn’t want to participate in that activity with me, usually.  It’s a guaranteed moment of privacy that virtually insures some uninterrupted time with Jesus (because he doesn’t mind sharing that time with me!)  It’s a Sabbath moment.

I lose myself in car worship.  My typical commute to work is less than 20 minutes.  I try not to engage in calendar assessment, practice runs at phone calls, or writing virtual e-mails in my head.  I’ll have to do all that soon enough – and trying to complete it in my car is futile since I’ll have to repeat most of it ‘in real life’ when I get to the office anyway.  So I’m the guy belting it out at the red light that you and your family are probably making fun of on any given day.  It’s a Sabbath moment.

I sit someplace weird.  By that, I mean I don’t stay chained to my desk the entire week. I’ll hang out in the student center.  I’ll office from a local coffee shop for a few hours one morning.  No lie – once it was in the coat closet in the lobby of the worship center.  I sit somewhere that forces my brain and heart to disengage from ‘tasks’ for a few minutes. It’s a Sabbath moment.

There’s an attitude of Sabbath that supersedes the hands of the clock.  So whether you can find 24 hours or just 24 minutes – find them.  Sabbath matters.  It was important enough to make it to the tablets.  Make it important enough to land on your calendar somewhere.


For more tips on how to manage a hectic life, check out the all-new this week!



Stuff I Learned When the Electricity Went Out

breaker boxCity workers have been doing work in our area the past few weeks.  They keep knocking out our electricity for periods of time during the day.  Until today, I’ve known this because of the blinking tattle-tale of the alarm clocks in the house.  But today, I was at home when everything went dark….and I learned a few things in the hour our house was silent.

1.  Never put all your underwear in the same load of laundry….because sometimes a dirty pair is better than no pair at all.

2.  Don’t count on the local coffee shop for electricity to keep your computer going because a) their electricity is probably out, as well, and b) you didn’t learn lesson number 1 so you cannot leave the house.

3.  Silence is golden.  I was able to read a magazine cover to cover while I waited for everything to reboot.

4. Even on busy days, it’s OK to take a Sabbath moment.  Yes, I’m behind.  Yes, my unrealistic list of ‘must do’s’ may not get completed today (will not get completed today).  And yes, my soul found rest….and that’s never a bad thing.

Maybe I need to find the breaker box….I could get used to an occasional silence around here.  I should probably wait for the wash cycle to complete…..

5 Critical Questions for Youth Pastors

Vibrating-steering-wheelSo I’ve realized in the past few years just how lackadaisical I’ve been in my student ministry.  It’s not that I lost my creative drive or passion for families…I just got comfortable ‘coasting’, so to speak.  I’d still invest in some ‘youth ministry awesomeness’ — but I wasn’t looking at my ministry or myself with a critical eye.

You may need to make a hard left to course correct…asking these questions could help yank the wheel.

1.  Why am I doing this?  Not this specific event, but church ministry in general!  If the answer is less than ‘Jesus called me to do it and because of that, I can do nothing else,’ consider a course correction.  It’s easy to get mired down in thoughts of family provision, lack of experience or training in another field, or just plain old ‘I don’t know what else I would do.’  None of those are reasons to stay in ministry…and they aren’t strong enough reasons to keep us there, either.

2.  Why am I doing this?  And by ‘this’, I mean, yes, that specific event – ministry – trip – etc.   If the answer is anywhere in the wheelhouse of “because we always do this”, “because I already have the route programmed on my gps”, “because we’d have revolt if we got rid of this”….it’s time to yank the wheel!  We MUST assess the reasons why we do what we do…otherwise this youth ministry becomes the newest generation of ‘we’ve never done it that way before.’

3.  Can I do this without Jesus?  If the answer is yes, then it’s not ministry…it’s programming.  I would jokingly tell my wife “I’ve been doing student ministry so long, I don’t even need Jesus anymore…I got this.”  Then one day, I realized it wasn’t as much of a joke as I thought it was.  I had mostly cut Jesus out of the process.  That’s not ministry.  If it’s not something ‘bigger than me’ to accomplish, then it’s not worth doing.

4.  Who is my Provider?  If our answer is the church, then we’re already in the weeds.  Make a hard U-turn!  We are not at our church for money, insurance, vacation time, or whatever other benefit we get that the guy down the street doesn’t get.  We’re at-will employees of Almighty God – and HE alone is our Jehovah Jireh…not the personnel committee, the church treasurer, the less-than-tithers or the lucrative givers.  Don’t make me rant about youth pastors who go or stay based primarily on money.  I was caught in that trap once upon a time…and it’s a miserable existence.

5.  Who is my First Love?  It really is the most important question of all.  Sometimes church work can suck the Jesus right out of us.  Be sure to intentionally invest in your personal walk with Jesus – independent of Bible study prep, sermon notes, or whatever other work-related reason drives you to Scripture.  Have you been embraced by Holiness today – have you sensed His presence – do you know His laughter – has He whispered anything to you recently?

Jesus is at the beginning and end of all we do as youth workers.  As you travel this road, make sure He’s also in the middle.

Get ‘Off the Grid’ This Summer

my-feet-on-dockIn case you missed it, youth workers, summer has begun.

And even without your Instagram proof, I can already tell what your desk, office and car floor boards look like.

Even with all your careful preparation and planning….and seemingly feeling like in May you were so ahead of the curve, you have run full-splat into June…like a mosquito on the windshield.

That’s why what I am about to say to you sounds insane.  TAKE A DAY OFF!

Yes, I know the camp forms need to be itemized and filed.  Yes, I know the cooler has mold growing inside it.  Yes, I know you have to teach the next three weeks in a row because everyone is on vacation.


Get off the grid.  Summer’s still gonna be here tomorrow – and that whole long list of things to do will be, as well.  You’ll probably do a better job of tackling it with a little soul refreshment.

So head to the beach, pool, mountains, movies, DQ, Outback, Starbucks, Apple Store, or wherever you ‘go dark’ the best and just enjoy a day off. 

Turn off your phone and act like the battery died.  Don’t look at your computer and act like you forgot it at work.

Unplug and recharge everything — and enjoy the summer….even if for only 24 hours.

Real Stories from SYMC #2


Surely you knew the Sunday school story was coming?!  Seriously – from The Shelter to the speakers, the peer panels to the prayer room, the sack chairs to the sound stage – Jesus is present.  He awaits your arrival with baited breath.  He prays for you – comforts you – holds you up.  He brings times of refreshing in the desert and rejoices over you with singing (and possibly turntables).  He’s the burning bush – the thundering bass – the still, small voice.  He is in your hotel room, the ball room, and the rooms you think no one knows about.  Thankfully, He is omni-present – so even if you don’t make it to SYMC this year…Jesus knows where you are and meets you there.

We’d love for you to meet Him here!  You still have a day to drive.  Go get in the car.  Jesus is standing at the window watching for you.  You don’t need Facebook, Twitter, or even a conference to connect with Christ…simply a heart willing will do.

*Artwork by Art Vader at – This guy has Darren’s favorite depictions of Jesus ever!!

What Makes You Slow Down?

I did not have time for this today.  Yet, here I sit at Discount Tire….waiting in line with a bunch of other people who also probably didn’t have time for this today, either.

I plan my day before I ever leave the house.  It has to be that way or I drive around this beautiful city by the sea all day long.  So imagine my chagrin as I left that house at 9:10 AM for a 9:00 AM meeting…only to find The Big Green Machine walking with a limp.  She had a gimp leg – a tire that was almost too flat to drive, but not quite.

So the phone calling begins – pushing back all my appointments for the day and hoping I can still squeeze it all in before the boys hail from school – for if not, this stupid flat will seep into my day tomorrow, as well.

Do you ever have days like that.  Days like this.  It was not in my plan…but it was exactly what I needed.

It’s been a really hectic month.  My wife and I were out of town for a week.  We’re in the middle of moving – which also means we’re in the middle of cleaning.  Our church has moved to a new location.  Our eldest starts driver’s ed this month – and all three of our boys have an abundance of after-school spontaneity.  I truly don’t remember the last time I just had to sit and do nothing.

So even though it’s in the midst of rivets and car horns…and although it’s costing money we don’t have budgeted right now….and since it looks like I’m gonna be here a while – I’m gonna slow down for the next hour.   I’m gonna bask in this internet-less office and read my Bible, catch up on my Group magazine, and enjoy watching these guys change 462 tires that I don’t have to change.

What makes you slow down?