Over the past year I have found myself with slightly more free time than I have ever been used to. This has both been a blessing and a challenge. What to do with our free time can be a difficult question to answer, especially if you have lots of it.
Around this time of year the working population of the church struggle much with jealously. University students are finished until late September, and within the next few weeks GCSE and A Level students will be finished until the end of August. They have three or four months with almost nothing to do (from my experience anyway).
This begs the question ‘what to do with my free time?’ I wish to share four lessons I have learned over the past year.
This may seem like a silly lesson to learn (particularly for those people who only get a couple of weeks off every year). But, it is an important lesson.
Having a lot of free time can make it difficult to rest. You can very easily fall into this rut of feeling like you have lazed about, not done much and so don’t need to rest. On occasions this can be true, but if we are careful to implement a pattern of rest in our week we can be more productive on other days.
After a period of intense study, revision and examination it is important to rest our minds. Leave the books down for a while, and focus our minds on other less taxing things (like a novel, DVD box-set, movie, photography, etc). Likewise, it is important to let our bodies rest too. You may be young and have more energy than someone who works 8-6 five days a week – but you still need to let your body rest. Finally, it is important to let your soul rest too. Primarily this can be done through meditation on Scripture and Jesus and time spent with your church family in worship. This is all the more important if you study away from your home church.
We must take time to rest when we have time to spare.
This is incredibly important if we are going to make any use of our summers.
If we do not make plans then nothing will get done. To think that tomorrow I have loads of time to read my Bible, visit my friend, help my mum out in the house and then go to the church prayer meeting isn’t going to ensure that I get all of that done. However, if I plan these things – read my Bible in the morning when I get up (even if that is 10:30), lunch with my friend at 12, help my mum all afternoon and then I’ll be ready to go to the prayer meeting 8.
Even if it is a relaxing day where you don’t want to do much, plan it. It sounds a bit silly to plan to do nothing, but if you don’t the chances are you will end up doing something.
Planning is not something that students and young people are renowned for, but if we were to plan our days, weeks and summers even slightly better we could get so much more done.
You are very unlikely to enjoy this much free time again and so it is good to use it wisely as well as enjoy it. Therefore, it is good to serve.
There are many different ways we can serve. There are lots of charities that are happy to take volunteers, family members are always keen to make use of your spare time for you and lots of you have probably signed up to do a summer team or help out at your own church’s Holiday Bible Club.
However, there is another way to serve which gives a little back to your home church. Approach your pastor and offer your services, you’ll be surprised how much stuff goes on in church between the Sunday services.
You may be able to visit some of the older people in the church who aren’t very mobile and can’t get out much. This may seem daunting at first, but after a cup of tea and a bun you are more than comfortable enough to listen to a testimony of God’s love and grace over many years.
Perhaps you are more private or shy and would like to do something behind the scenes. There is no better way for you to serve your church than to pray. I once read a group of people who met every Tuesday just to pray for the elders of their church. You could do that, or pray for the sick, or the children, or those on summer teams, or for friends, or for family who aren’t saved, or whatever else you would like to pray for or your pastor suggests.
If you drive you could offer your services to the church. You could take people to hospital appointments, to visit family, drop people to airports who are going on short-term mission teams, take housebound people out for an ice-cream and so on and so forth. Offering to give lifts to people is a great way to serve, get to know people and to pray for them after you drop them home. This year I was able to take a fellow church member to a remembrance service, it was great to spend time in the car getting to them better and to be able to serve them by taking them somewhere they otherwise wouldn’t be able to go.
There may be other things you could do in your church – just ask…and then serve.
Finally, learn through your free time. Now this certainly depends on why you have free time – if it is through illness or unemployment lessons to learn may come thicker and faster. But even through summer breaks there is opportunity to learn.
There can be spiritual learning – about God, learning to love the church (even the old people who wear hats and suits), learning to serve and give yourself, learning about yourself (sinful tendencies, how selfish you are) etc.
There can also be practical learning – learning to be disciplined, learning to use time wisely, learning how to find things to do etc.
Ask God to teach you and you may be surprised at what you’ll learn.
These are lessons I have learned more acutely over the past year, but I also learned them during my summer breaks after exams and during university. The chances are you will not always enjoy this much free time, but when you do why shouldn’t you make the most of it?
What are you to do with your free time? I can’t tell you exactly what you should do. But I would encourage you to rest, plan, serve and learn in your free time.