May 14, 2018
Summer Is A Bad Time to Decide to Quit
Erica Young Reitz gives gracious encouragement and reminders about why you shouldn’t quit your college ministry during the summer.
Editor’s note: This is a re-post of an article that appeared earlier on Collective, but was too good not to share again this summer!
“I’m not sure I’m cut out for another year of this,” a college minister friend of mine shared with me in early May. Just following an exhausting sprint to the semester’s finish, Kate was seriously contemplating quitting. Kate’s questions were not unlike those of my friend Amy who supervises college ministry field staff. Amy told me recently that she tends to seriously question her calling every summer. Students are gone (many of them, anyway). Daily rhythms get disrupted. Relationships and work shift. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Kate confessed her thoughts about throwing in the towel just days after the student took off for the summer, or that Amy’s job angst presents in the months of May, June and July.
In the rhythm of the college ministry calendar, summer can feel like an outlier. You’re likely working “on” your ministry more than in it. Perhaps you’re getting to that support raising push you’ve ignored for too long. Maybe you’re finally taking your vacation time or digging into some professional development resources. Regardless, summer brings a ministry shift. As with all transitional times, the change can confuse us, even cause us to question our calling. Am I really cut out for this? Before you decide to quit, consider these key factors about transitions:
1. Our minds aren’t always clear.
During “in-between” times, we can look back at a previous stretch (such as the past semester) with a skewed perspective. When we’re not grounded in the reality of our work (the way it looks during the academic year), we can create a false picture of what we think it’s like. For example, if we’re used to meeting regularly with students and that changes suddenly, we may question, “Do I enjoy meeting with students? Maybe it drains me? Maybe I don’t like my work…” We can start looking at student interaction (or any other part of our job) through the lens of our exhaustion, creating a false abstract. In reality – when our week is actually filled with student meetings – we’re energized by it (with some exceptions, of course).
3. Our rhythms are “off.”
Change in one area of our lives can cause us to question other areas. If we’re used to running from one thing (launch week, fall retreat, winter conference, spring break, and so on) to the next, a change in pace can not only disrupt our rhythm but it can throw off our long game. It may cause us to wonder if we have what it takes stay in college ministry. Just because something feels different or disorienting, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, wrong, or that we need to go somewhere else. Often, our knee-jerk reaction to disruptions is fright or flight. Instead of seeing a rhythm change as a negative indicator, we can embrace the disruption as just that: a positive opportunity to catch our breath and consider what’s really going on. We can let deeper emotions rise to the surface, wrestle with doubts, and we can rest. We can respond to the lull rather than react.
3. Often, our bodies are tired.
When was the last time you made your best decision or brightest discovery when physically exhausted, sleep deprived or emotionally tired? I often advise students and recent alumni that one of the best ways they can love God and neighbor is to get a good night’s sleep – to restore rest in their physical bodies so they can love better in mind and heart. The same is true for all of us at the end of the semester. Until we restore our physically bodies and our emotional tanks, it can be unwise to make significant life decisions, like choosing to quit our job.
If the thought of leaving has crossed your mind recent weeks, here are some questions to consider:
- Is this the first time I’ve felt this way?
- Can I identify a trigger or catalyst? (e.g. the students leaving, another co-working quitting, a significant life event happening simultaneously)
- What’s really going on? Is this about quitting my job or are there deeper issues that need to rise to the surface?
- Am I reacting after an exhausting semester or responding to nudge from God?
- What do others say? Have I shared my thoughts with my community or other college ministers?
A Way Forward
While summer is not a good time to decide to quit your job as a reaction to being in transition, it can be ideal for reflecting, praying, and engaging in a discernment process for any big decision you may be facing. As you answer the questions above, you may find that your job doubts subside; they are normal for this time of year! Instead, you may discover that your calling confusion goes much deeper. In which case, it’s wise to take advantage of the summer to seek God’s direction for your next step. The good news: He always provides a way forward. Whether that path is simply a personal growth plan and goals for the summer (to keep you grounded and focused) or a total career change, God goes before you, smoothing the way and gently leading you step by step.