Creating space in our lives for rhythms of work and rest isn’t meant to restrict us, but to set us free.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to get lunch with a well known Christian author and speaker. And while I love his books, he said something during the lunch that I think pushed me farther down the path of burnout in my ministry at the time.
He said, “I want to die exhausted. We have eternity to rest.”
At the time, that sounded great to my 19 year old ears. It reinforced the messages I was hearing from other places. “Hustle” was the buzzword. It was at the height of the social media activism era when everyone was changing the world and posting beautiful photos of it.
I, too, was going to change the world.
And then I burned out. I became angry towards the people I worked with and the people I cared most about. I became cynical about church and the mission of our ministry. It wasn’t that anything had particularly changed except that I was doing more and more for God but never stopping to enjoy God. I felt as Ruth Haley Barton said, “I’m tired of helping others enjoy God.” It wasn’t long before I had to leave that ministry in order to begin to get healthy again.
So when it comes to the topic of sabbath, I understand when pastors cringe or believe that they are too busy to take a sabbath. But the truth is: We are not machines. We are human beings with limits. Jesus said that the sabbath was made for us. It’s built into the rhythm of creation. God didn’t rest on the seventh day because he was tired. He rested to enjoy his good work.
Our churches will always be reflections of our pastors. In order for a church to be healthy, the pastor must also be healthy. And there is no health without rest.
Pete Scazzero, pastor and author of Emotionally Healthy Leader, said “I’ve yet to meet a pastor whose life is balanced, rhythmic, whole, centered, [and] anchored who is not practicing Sabbath.”
So if it’s this important, how do you do it? Your busy schedule isn’t going to magically clear up for you to take a sabbath.
First, a quick word.
No one will prioritize your health for you. If you do not prioritize your health, people will continue to ask for your time and attention and expect it because you have never drawn healthy boundaries. There’s no use in waiting for someone to give you permission. As Dallas Willard said, “We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.”
Second, in Tony Morgan’s book, The Unstuck Church, he outlines four helpful practices to integrate in your life for finding rest and sabbath.
1. One Day Off Each Week
Obviously, Sunday is not an option for you to take off. You will need to find another day to take a 24 hour period away from work and devoted to God, your family, and closest friends. Consider all day Friday or sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as your sabbath. Not only is this healthy for you and your family, but it will set a good example for your congregation.
2. Vacation Time
You as well as your whole staff should be required to take a few week-long vacations throughout the year. Not only does this allow everyone to rest and be with their families, but it also allows others to fill leadership roles and begin to grow.
3. Weekends Off
It can be easy to forget that you are a member of the church you pastor. Tony likes to encourage the church’s leadership to attend some Sundays, but without a leadership role in that weekend’s service. This will allow you to relax, worship and get a fresh perspective on your services that you maybe wouldn’t otherwise have. I believe that is great advice.
4. Establish Boundaries for Protecting Evenings
Limiting how many nights a week that staff can spend at the church will prevent leaders from being overworked and overburdened. With this rule in place, you will be given more opportunities for rest and for focusing on aspects of their lives which are outside of their jobs.
Creating space in our lives for these rhythms isn’t meant to restrict us, but to set us free. It’s only when we live in line with how God created us to be can we be free to lead in our fullest capacity.Creating space in our lives for these rhythms isn’t meant to restrict us, but to set us free. It’s only when we live in line with how God created us to be can we be free to lead in our fullest capacity. Click To Tweet
While it may be difficult to set these boundaries, this will create a strong culture that breeds leaders and a growing church. A healthy leadership team will allow space for healthy growth within your church. And a healthy church is a church that allows God to move.
Our health must be our highest priority. It isn’t selfish, it’s wise and it’s how God designed us. By creating margin in your life, you are actually creating more room for God to move.