Many of the tasks pastors handle each week deal with emotionally intense situations. Any given week could include sickness, tragedies, counseling, death, and life-altering moments (whether joyous or painful). As they walk through these moments with people, pastors can quickly become drained emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, pastors tend to feel the need (and many congregations expect this) to be on-call 24/7. No Sabbath rest for pastors doesn’t leave them any time to recharge.
Instead of expecting our pastors to always be available, it’s in their (and our) best interest that they take a Sabbath rest each week. While this isn’t going to happen on Sunday, we should encourage pastors to heed the wisdom in Scripture and take time off to recharge. After all, how do you preach a message of rest, holiness, and family, when you can’t be an example because you are actually working that day? This is the dilemma anyone in ministry faces.
Sabbath Rest for Pastors – The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle
In my book, The Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle, there are 200 footnotes of studies and research from places like Stanford, Harvard, and the Centers for Disease Control proving how bad it is for people who overwork and never get to take full, regular breaks.
God knew what he was doing when he said we needed a hard break.
Sabbath practice literally saved my life–I was the worst of workaholics. Sabbath practice renewed me and allowed me to be more productive, healthier, happier, and more engaged in my work. I’m not alone. Consider the amazing success of Chick-fil-A which is closed every Sunday. Chick-fil-A attributes their success to the Sabbath. Not only did the company achieve $9 billion in revenue in 2017, but the average Chick-fil-A restaurant does four times the revenue of the average KFC, which is open every day. Chick-fil-A benefits financially from the Sabbath. They also have happier employees and the best customer service in the fast food industry.
Sabbath Rest for Pastors – Recovery, Not Overworking
Success is not contingent on working more and more hours. Success depends on regular rest, recovery, and sustained effort in the long run. The benefits of regular Sabbath are endless: creativity, engagement, health, healthy families, productivity, focus, and improved communication…the list goes on and on.
So what are people in ministry to do? One solution might be found in taking an intentional day away from ministry on a different day of the week.
Bob Fabey, Priest in Residence at Living Faith Anglican Church in Tempe, Arizona and author of NotMyJesus, shares:
Sabbath means rest, not distraction. It is easy for me to get home from worship and distract myself with football, housework, or even taking a walk.”
Fabey admits that being home is rarely restful, as he lives with his wife, kids, dog, parents, and a friend from Rwanda.
It definitely helps to draw away, into a quiet sanctuary or go on a retreat, but that isn’t always practical in my life right now. I have learned to be present to Him in parts, in the car or other places to receive the ‘rest’ he has for me.”
Fabey continues, “To enter into Sabbath rest means taking Matthew 11:28-30 seriously. ‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
Kevin Thomas, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Canton, Ohio, agrees that disconnecting is hard.
It’s a definite struggle. In an ideal situation, I would get to escape to a lake and be on my boat fishing. When I can do that, it’s an amazing, peaceful time, but in reality, it only happens four or five times a year. Some of my best worship moments have happened sitting on a boat, and it’s just God and me, watching the sun rise in his beautiful creation. I try to take a break from electronics at least every week, but that is also a challenge, as often my wife or kids are trying to reach me. I have been successful at taking annual retreats where I can full disconnect and just recharge and hear from God.”
Sabbath Rest for Pastors – Technology Suggestions
1) Turn off notifications
While it’s hard to fully disconnect, there are options such as turning off notifications your smartphone.
Have an assistant or co-worker answer calls and texts for you one day a week.
3) Switch phones
My wife and I often switch phones, so if there is an emergency, we can stay in touch. There is no work emails, texts, and calls on my wife’s phone, so I can mentally slow down.
The Sabbath is a gift that God gave all of us, not just people in our congregations. Everyone in ministry needs to commit to their own hard breaks, to create their own space to enjoy all of God’s benefits that flow from the Sabbath. It’s His gift to us.