Apparently bears don’t hibernate. Bears go into “torpor”. Their heart rates go down, they rest, they stop hunting, they sleep but they remain ready. As they have cubs, they need to be ready to protect them. While toads really do hibernate. Some can hibernate for three years. They allow their body temperature to drop so low that their blood can contain ice crystals.
You see the difference? While both need total rest to survive, the bear never forgets its responsibility. The toad is so rested, that to the untrained eye, it is dead! The toad can’t be relied upon to do anything, taking ages to become active.
On holiday, we need to be like bears. We need to rest, forgetting our work but remembering our task.
Forget your work.
During the summer holidays, most church children’s teams take time off. There are fewer children in church each Sunday. After-School clubs stop. Daytime parent and toddler groups often stop. Sunday School teachers take a break. The church’s Children’s Ministry Leader needs a holiday.
Make it real rest. Don’t read books to prepare for the next series. Don’t spend evenings planning the new year. Don’t offer to cover the gaps in the Summer Sunday plan. Do take time in your Bible and in prayer. Do remember why you trust and love Jesus Christ. Do take time to enjoy your friends, to sleep, to laugh and to really rest.
In Christopher Ash’s book, “Zeal without Burnout” he highlights the need for sleep and rest for any who want to continue serving Christ and his Church. He points to Psalm 127: 2:
“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat- for he grants sleep to those he loves”
He explains that taking rest and sleep is a way to show we trust God, particularly for the work of the Gospel. God will build his Church. We can sleep and rest because we know that God never sleeps or rests. Through our holidays we don’t need to wake up early or stay up late working on Gospel ministry. In fact, such an attitude is vanity; self-centred. Be Christ-centred, take a rest. Leave him to be the Messiah of your children’s ministry. He’s really good at it.
Remember our task.
Paul Tripp, in “Parenting”, says the best parenting passage in the entire Bible is … (wait for it)… the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20)
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Paul Tripp argues that the most important role of a parent is to raise children as disciples of Jesus. He quickly goes on to explain that this is possible because Jesus has been given all authority and he is with us always, so though the task is huge, the burden and responsibility is light.
As we partner with parents in Children’s Ministry, this passage could very well be our best passage to shape our ministry. As we enjoy the sun’s heat, we’re taking a break from making disciples. Don’t be confused about the task; it is not child care, it is not endless lesson preparation, nor is it impressing church families. It is making disciples. We are recharging our batteries so that we have the energy to carefully bring children to know Jesus Christ as their Lord.
So like a bear, while we can rest, while we can forget our work, we can’t forget our task. The children are too important. For their sake, we must remember our task. We remain ready. We’re taking a break to rest, we’re not forgetting responsibilities. We will return refreshed to make disciples
When you return after a break to your Children’s Ministry, return like a bear: Be wide awake, well rested, ready, and enthusiastic, pleased to disciple children. Don’t return like a toad: Half asleep, with ice in your veins, wishing you were still on holiday, longing to be left alone to sleep for another month.
Apparently bears eat extra before their torpor, because while resting they rely on their fat reserves. As a result, they don’t need to feed off their muscles, so when they wake up, they are ready for action. And in case I’m being unclear, that’s an invitation to be ready for action, with bulging muscles, not to over eat!
We will be discussing and reviewing “Zeal without Burnout” together at our next Big Day Out. If you lead the children’s ministry in your church, you are very welcome to join us. Sign up to our mailing list to find out more about Big Day Out.