1. Breaks tend to conjure up memories — both happy and heartbreaking. Family, home, and holidays all tend to stimulate memories that bring our past to the forefront. And memories are powerful things. There may be memories of sexual sin, wasted years, old romances, broken relationships, parental abuse, damaging choices, untimely deaths, and overwhelming regrets. Satan can use these memories to accuse us, weigh us down, and overwhelm us with guilt and sorrow. At the same time, we may go home and be reminded of faithful Christians, supportive family, long-standing friendships, old victories, divine provision, ministry opportunities, and many other blessings. Asking this question will help you learn how to minister to someone during a break: “What are you usually reminded of when you go home?”
2. Breaks present unique opportunities and challenges with little time to prepare for them. Like a child longing to grow up, we tend to long for breaks to finally arrive… and then they arrive quicker than we expected. One of the ways you can love others is by asking them about the upcoming break. It’s probably on their mind already, but in the midst of academic crunch time, physical weariness, personal decisions, and making travel plans, they may not have had a lot of time and energy to really think through things.
- Church: What church will you be involved with during the break?
- Relationships: What will community, encouragement, and accountability look like through the break?
- Opportunities: Any opportunities or responsibilities you want to take advantage of?
- Temptations: Any challenges or temptations you’re concerned about?
- Old Habits: Any previous patterns or common temptations that come up during break?
- Diligence: How can you make the most of your time?
- Scripture & Prayer: What do you hope Bible reading and prayer will look like over the break?
- Planning & Work: Any projects you want to work on during the break? What are your plans?
- Reflection & Decisions: Any focused thinking you’re hoping to do? (church decisions, ministry opportunities, summer plans, personal changes, financial planning, romantic relationship?)
3. Breaks don’t necessarily create challenges and opportunities but they turn up the volume. Sharing the gospel with that old friend is always possible, but being around them over Christmas Break heightens the opportunity and highlights the responsibility. You can chip away at rebuilding that relationship with a sibling via distance, but being home with them for two weeks will weigh much heavier on your heart and mind. The bitterness against or the pull toward that old boyfriend or girlfriend can arise at any time, but being in the same geographical area can turn up the heat. Often school breaks and holidays simply put backburner issues on the frontburner. They turn background music into the soundtrack. The harmony becomes the melody, and what was secondary becomes primary. Therefore, as you learn about people’s breaks (whether you’re ministering to them before, during, or after the break), you are also learning how you can serve, care for, and encourage them when the break is over.
4. Breaks give us the opportunity to learn things about each other that we might not know otherwise. Have you ever met someone’s parents or siblings and thought, “Oh, I get it now!” or “That explains a lot” or “I would’ve never known that about you!”? Those moments do happen in everyday conversation, but our understanding of someone is often heightened and deepened and broadened the more we know about their formative influences. No, their identity is not determined and bound and dictated by their families and pasts, but it is influenced and shaped and directed by those influences — whether familial, relational, economic, geographic, educational, or circumstantial. Take advantage of your conversations about the break to get to know people on a deeper level. (NOTE: This requires caring enough to ask good questions.)
5. Breaks drive us to pray for others and to see God work through diverse means. None of us is the be-all end-all minister in another’s life. Their spiritual growth is not under our control. Even when God uses us to powerfully influence another person, he is their spring of grace and their source of power. Being reminded of this reality encourages us to pray, which makes prayer a vital element of loving in season. We always can and always should pray for people, of course, but when we can’t be with them physically and when their lives involve dynamics that we’re not as familiar with, it forces us to turn to the Lord in a more direct way. Paul was away from many of the churches whom he loved, yet he was always remembering them in his prayers. “I do not cease to give thanks for you” (Eph 1:16). “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1:3-4). “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you” (Col 1:9). “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thess 1:2). “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim 1:3). “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you” (Rom 1:9-10).