A Teenager's Sabbath

I asked my youth group what they do for a personal Sabbath each week. Here’s what they said:

  • How long does a Sabbath last?
  • Isn’t that a Jewish tradition?
  • What is that?
  • My neighbor does that
  • I am a couch potato sometimes. Does that count as a Sabbath?

They may also think Sabbath is sleep! 

It’s very clear our kids don't know how or when to slow down and listen to God or themselves – nor do many of the adults in their life. They have school, sports, music, clubs, theater, volunteering, college applications, chores, work, homework (a lot), family gigs, showers, time with friends, social media, and (if I am lucky) youth group and/or church. But quiet time, recharge time, is never on their list.

I wanted to find out why most of my kids do not have youth group at the front of their list. As I began to see the list of requirements in their lives, I realized I was pressuring them just as much as those other meetings and events and other groups and activities.

A kid said as she read the list we had made, "See that list, it’s so true. All of it makes my head spin. But I HAVE to do all of it or I won’t make it into college. It sucks."

One kid said, "I don’t come to church in the morning because I don’t want to tell you I can’t come to youth group that night. I want to, but fill in the blank with any of the above.”

Here’s what else I heard:

"I am so stressed. There is never a day I don’t have a conflict of things to do.”


“Wait…isn't Sunday set as the Christian Sabbath? If that is true, why does the church make us come to so much stuff here?"

Good question.

We talked about the image of folks in former days who were on the farms working hard all week. They didn’t get to see their friends and neighbors till Sunday. It was a real change and an important part of their spiritual growth and community growth.

“But times have changed I am with people all the time!!!" they point out.

And they’re right. Everyone has a different take on what makes a Sabbath a Sabbath.

I have come to realize that, as their spiritual leader and as a youth group leader, my goal is to help them to define what their Sabbath can look like. Through brainstorming, prayer, and process, each youth can develop this understanding and practice. Then I need to help them practice the discipline of adding their Sabbath to their week.

A few kids are open to this, crave it and are working through it. Yet one parent said this is “such a great idea but really it is now just one more thing we have to add to her to-do list!"

But as I shared with the parent and youth, Sabbath time is to replenish, talk to God, quiet time, journaling. It can be 20 minutes or 12 hours...but it is worth it. The youth will be (hopefully) be able to complete other items without anger and stress

I am also kicking around the idea of holding youth group on a week night so Sunday can become the Sabbath time they need. Hopefully!

Pray for our youth to find the time to let God in to their lives. I would love to hear your ideas on how to do that and how to make Youth Group not another stress on the kids.