SURF Your Schedule

Youth Specialties
April 22nd, 2016

In the lake, the motorboat surged forward, and the line stretched tight from the pressure. I leaned back and found myself standing up on water skis.

I was 19 years old. My college roommate had invited me to go with his family to a cabin in Wisconsin. Although I was born and raised in Minnesota (10,000 lakes!), I had never tried water skiing until that day. My friend told me upfront, “Don’t worry. No one gets up their first time.”

Maybe it’s my competitive nature, but I took this comment as a challenge. The good news was I did get up on my first try. But there was a consequence. I was so focused on getting up at the very start that I missed the directions on how things would end. After a long ride, the driver decided to dump me. He yanked me around one corner and down into the lake I went.

Small problem: I didn’t let go.

In my determination to get up on my first try, I had gripped the handle so tightly that my fingers wouldn’t release. I proceeded to do my best submarine imitation for a number of seconds. Finally, my body discerned that there was an alternative to painfully dragging the lake bottom. I released my hold and bobbed to the surface.

The laughter of those in the boat communicated that my success in getting up the first time was clearly overshadowed by my dismount.

Many of us approach our time management as I approached my first time waterskiing: if the crashing wake of thousands of pounds of pressure gets to me, then I guess I’ll finally let go of something.

This is not the best plan—in fact, it’s not a good plan at all.

How can you follow Jesus and productively handle your time? Here’s one tool I find very helpful. It’s time to SURF your schedule.


The Sabbath has been a refreshing rediscovery for me. Many have written on it, and there’s much out there worth reading. But before you look at someone else’s comments on the Sabbath, consider what God’s Word says about it: Exodus 20:8-11, Mark 2:27-28, and Colossians 2:16-17.

We know the Lord rested on the seventh day. He designed us in his image, and he knows what’s best for us. Jesus’ instruction about the Sabbath reminds us that the focus is on him and not on us. He’s the head and we’re the body. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. We receive the benefits of physical rest through quietness, and we receive the benefits of spiritual rest through abiding in Jesus.


I know it may seem as if Prince (“I Would Die 4 U”) wrote the title to this second part, but it’s a crucial reminder: your time with Jesus is paramount! In my role, I get to interact with many youth leaders, from the rookie to the veteran. Time after time, the practice of getting into God’s Word is abandoned because of the demands of everything else. Notice the sequence here: Sabbath and devotional time precede any other responsibilities.

Colossians 3:16 says the best approach is to let God’s Word permeate one’s activities. God’s Word can recalibrate our lives so we might focus on what’s important.


Here’s the one that many run to whether they’re volunteers or vocational leaders: responsibilities. When someone asks, “What’s going on today?” we often jump to here. But when you follow SURF, you see that responsibilities come third. The danger with responsibilities is that we can overemphasize them (no Sabbath or no time with Jesus) or underemphasize them (what responsibilities?).

Your family, your friends, and your personal activities live here as well. Life and ministry intersect as you see all the roles God has given you for this season of life.

Colossians 3:17 reminds us to have an “everything matters” perspective from the Lord. There’s a gratitude that comes with that proper view. It’s one that keeps our eyes on the cross of Christ. Our identity and significance come from him and not from our responsibilities. Our accomplishments are not our lives.


This last instruction seems counterintuitive. “If I want margin, shouldn’t I leave gaps in my schedule?” No!

Open space is easily stolen. Marked-off space is easily guarded.

This approach enables a sustainable pace in life. Insert blocks of time for margin. Leave space for walk-ins at the office or urgent texting time in the evenings. When that space ends up unused, it allows more time for family and friends.

Colossians 4:2-6 places an emphasis on prayer and people. I was encouraged early in my adult life to set aside extra time for my family. “No one else can be a husband to your wife and a father to your kids,” a wise pastor explained.

I wish I could write that I’ve always kept this perspective. The Lord’s grace and forgiveness is full! And yet, I’m reminded that his mercy isn’t an excuse for me to be sloppy with managing my life.

Time management is difficult, but God’s strength has no end.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Grab on! It’s time to ride.



Jason & Jennifer RGB 2016Jason Holt is the National Director of Youth Ministries for the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has served in this role since 2007 and has been in ministry with teenagers for over 25 years. Jason and his wife Jennifer have five children (two in middle school, two in high school, and one in college), which means that Jason lives and breathes youth ministry at work and at home. Jason is a member of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators (AYME) and the National Network of Youth Ministries (NNYM). He can be reached at www.aflc.org/youth and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jensjasonh.

Youth Specialties

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