What a great study the discipline of Sabbath would be for young people. Few would argue with the fact that our teenagers today are over-scheduled and over-planned. Our youth have bought into the cultural value that success and worth is determined by our productivity, achievement and level of activity. Many of my youth show up to Sunday night activities and just plop down on a couch, exhausted. More than once I've been asked, "Can we just do nothing tonight? I'm tired." Is it any wonder then that sometimes church and youth group become just one more source of stress in their busy schedules?
I suspect many of our teens would really benefit from some guidance in developing Sabbath as a spiritual practice. In her text, Dorothy Bass suggests several concrete ways to practice Sabbath, each of which would make a great study with youth. They are:
- A rest from commerce. What might be the benefit or encouraging our youth to take time off from buying, consuming, or even window-shopping?
- A rest from worry. Imagine inviting our youth to take a 24-hour period in which they give themselves permission to set aside their worries about grades, dating, work, and the future. Such a sabbath rest might allow space for youth to focus outwardly on the needs of the world around them.
- A rest for creation. Instead of always expecting creation to produce things for our use, youth could take time out to allow the earth to rest. Further, they could be encouraged to participate in activities that foster appreciation of God's creation: a walk in the park, planting flowers or a tree, picking up trash.
- A rest from work. How I would love to encourage this sort of sabbath with my teens that skip worship in order to get in an extra shift at work or who leave youth group early to go do homework!
- Worship. Dorothy Bass writes "Joyful worship that restores us to communion with the risen Christ and our fellow members of the body, the church, is an essential part of a Christian sabbath." (p.70).
One more practice I would add: A rest from the Internet. Blogger Rachel talks about her experience with taking a sabbath from the internet here. She offers some great insights into the benefits of this practice for anyone - youth or adults.
If you're hungry for other good resources on integrating spiritual practices into youth ministry, I highly recommend these texts:
Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens (written by teens and adults.)
Soul-Tending: Life-forming Practices for Older Youth and Young Adults
Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (by Marc Yaconelli)
And these websites: