5th Day Slump


By Paul Martin

sleeping catIt never fails. Every single weeklong trip I’ve taken with teenagers. Every one. I plan ahead, push for sign-ups, have information meetings, I even schedule the debriefing sessions for after the trip. I rally prayer support, start the trip with a group picture and get the team buzzing with excitement. But, by the afternoon of the fifth day, I’m done. My mind has changed. I no longer think this trip was a good idea. I’m not even sure trips in general are a good idea. Maybe I should just quit.

I don’t know if it can be completely laid at the feet of exhaustion. Certainly I haven’t slept as much as I could have. It also couldn’t be blamed solely on that one person on the trip who has a sixth sense for peace-breaking in my life. Certainly there is an element of spiritual fight going on. These are the thoughts crawling through my mind as I strive toward the goal of finishing strong on so many trips.

It wasn’t until I confessed these feelings to a fellow youth worker that I found release. It turns out, through many similar confessions, I’m not the only one to have the Thursday afternoon slump. After being encouraged from several conversations with youth workers, I’ve come to realize that most of the people I was leading on these trips also felt that despondent pull of doubt come Thursday. This understanding changed the way I lead mission trips forever.

I started small in my changes. The next trip I planned a Thursday lunch break. We loaded everyone into our vehicles and went for ice cream. It wasn’t a major event, but it sure felt like a big deal. It helped our team press through the afternoon sinkhole of energy. The next trip I took it farther. We had our ice cream and later in the day, a surprise visit from another team. Another trip we had a water balloon sneak attack on another group, which was very welcome in the heat of South Georgia pounding out everyone’s energy. Every trip after that, I always tried to have a special surprise sometime between Thursday lunch and later that night.

I also realize that my connection suffered during these trips. All of my support was miles away. To remedy that, I try to take at least ten minutes to call someone Wednesday night. It’s usually my wife or children who are always glad to hear from me. I’ve found that those few minutes help restore my connection for the rest of the trip.

Look, I know I may be pushing my introverted tendencies here. That’s not an excuse. You might be completely energized by trips and never want to leave. If so: good for you. Anyone who has been on one of these trips will know the value of them. We keep doing them because they are so enriching for our groups. Whether you feel the Thursday morning blues or not, talking to other people will only deepen our experiences from these trips. You can also help others on your trips by breaking up the monotony of the mid-outing stall out.