It’s so vital that we as leaders remember the importance of having a personal Sabbath day of rest. In ministry it can get very easy to get caught up in the hectic schedule and forget about taking a Sabbath to get our minds back in the right place. How have you been doing with your Sabbath? I know it’s not always the first thing on my mind.
Ministry brings a very hectic schedule. It is not always 9 – 5 and sometimes it’s a struggle to even keep it just 9 – 9. It seems that there is a constant voice in the back of our heads telling us to keep running on all cylinders. Are you the type of person that thinks that things will fall apart the moment you slow down? Is it difficult for you to unplug and unwind? It’s pretty common, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It really isn’t at all. Think about the people you know with high blood pressure, short fuses, grey hair and panic attacks. Is there a chance that the stress of never taking a day off is putting them in an early grave?
The Sabbath is about rest. In ministry, it is extremely hard to have Sunday as your day of rest. You may get part of Sunday to rest, but that’s not a day. Typically my ministry obligations run until about 1:00 or 2:00 PM on a Sunday, but a lot of people have their entire day taken up by the work of ministry.
Take your Sabbath when it works for you, whether that’s Monday, Saturday, or whenever. Just take it weekly. Here are some things I try to do so I stick to my Sabbath. What steps are you taking?
1) Avoid Email
Contrary to popular belief we can go an entire day without viewing email. I’m not perfect in this area, but 90% of the time if it’s my day off I won’t be looking at email. My work emails and personal emails both show up in my Gmail inbox so I don’t even look at personal stuff on my day off because I am liable to stumble across a ministry related email.
2) Tell People You Need Space
It’s easy to answer a text or phone call from your boss at 11:00 AM when you’re lying on your couch with potato chips, but don’t. Placing boundaries on your work relationships allows you to focus on your family and friends. (Wow. My boss JUST texted me as I wrote that! Thankfully it’s not my Sabbath.)
If you and your boss or other people that you are in ministry with hang out on your Sabbath as friends, suggest that you don’t fill your time with ministry talk. Also, set boundaries with your church or youth group. Let them know that there is a day they can’t reach you. You may be thinking, “Did he just say that?” Yes I did. I know that there are (rarely) occasions when an emergency comes up. Sometimes a house burns down, a parent dies, or a doctor announces tragic test results. Use your judgment, but honestly there are so many times that those we minister to call our phones off the hook with minor things that can wait a day and we let ourselves and our families suffer because we don’t understand it’s okay to say “Wait.”
3) Get a Hobby
Is your ministry your only hobby? Maybe you should build a model airplane or something. Honestly, find something to relax doing. Get a new book and some coffee, go fishing, do a craft. Take your kids and your spouse for some ice cream. Spend time with God. Let me rephrase that. Spend time with God while NOT preparing a sermon. The whole point of your Sabbath is to relax, get close to Him and your family, and recharge.
In closing I want to ask forgiveness for not keeping the Sabbath. I’ve messed up on that one a couple times. I’ve checked emails and accepted calls when I shouldn’t have and my wife, family, and friends have suffered because of it. It may sound funny asking God to forgive us for not relaxing but as Brady Boyd put it in a recent article on keeping the Sabbath, “The Sabbath was not a suggestion. Moses included it in his top 10, and Jesus completely redefined this ancient practice to the Jewish culture that had made it a chore instead of a blessing.”
If you’re looking for a fantastic book on boundaries in ministry check out Andy Stanley’s book Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide. Also, take a minute and leave a response to this blog if you have some thoughts to share.