It's summer! You made it! It's time to exhale, take stock, and take a break.

If you've not done so already, take a little chunk of time to reflect on the year you just completed. What makes you thankful? What makes you cringe? What makes you hopeful? What or who surprised you? What's still unfinished? Where was progress made? What needs to change for next year?

Taking time to reflect is worthwhile because it allows you to do (at least) two important things:

Tie up loose ends.

Collect all those notes you made to yourself throughout this year. “Remember to book that retreat earlier next year.” “Watch out for scheduling conflicts with those end-of-term school events.” “Check how much of my annual budget is used up before September.” “Make sure that new girl is added to the communication list.”

Thank your colleagues and volunteers for their partnership this year -- Sunday school teachers, parents, youth leaders, snack providers, your priest or pastor, your spouse, that old guy from your parish who would do literally anything you need -- it’ll do you good to say it, and it’ll do them good to hear it. And… you’ll likely need their partnership next year again, so touching base is always a good idea.

Take a moment to thank God for all these specific things, experiences, and people. With plates so constantly full, it’s easy to forget to do the most essential thing. Whether this year was a smashing success or a 10-month struggle, remember that it is God who has placed you here, and he’s actually not interested in your success or numbers or efficiency. At the end of the year, he wants the same thing from you that you hammered each night at youth group: hear me, love me, follow me. So, no matter how this year went, follow the advice my college roommate’s mom gave me once: “Surrender it.” God is the one who is at work in your ministry; you’re just the human. Whatever happened this year, thank God for it and leave it there.

Put it out of your mind!

It’s summer! Time to take a real and significant break. You won’t be any good to anyone if the fall arrives and you’re still panting. Leave. Go live in the woods for a week. Read your favourite books. Dig into a good show. Fall asleep in your yard. Go visit your grandmother. Let your ‘rest time’ motto be, “I couldn’t be bothered.”

Whatever you do, give yourself permission to take your mind off of youth ministry entirely for a few weeks. If your ministry is like mine, the drum starts beating again in August, and you will need to be up to the challenge to make this next year another impacting one for your young people.

And when youth ministry planning starts again, drop me a line. I know a guy who likes creating youth group resources :)