Ministry can be tiring, ministry can be draining. Ministry, at times, can wear you out. We have probably all experienced those times where we look back and we haven’t had a real day off in fourteen to twenty days. The week before summer camp is spent taking care of the final prep for camp and then that flows right into the week of camp then you return on Saturday from camp, work all day Sunday then spend the next Monday through Friday prepping for the mission trip that leaves on Saturday. It’s that easy to get wrapped up in our jobs and not take a break but we do it because ministry is our passion.
Ministry is the only job I have ever worked where when I punch out in the afternoon the job goes home with me. When I worked at a dairy farm and I would leave in the morning after taking care of the cows I didn’t think about them when I got home. When I worked campus police I didn’t think about the campus security as I sat in my living room at night. In ministry it’s not that easy to run off “the job”. Late night phone calls, texts from members, thinking about that family that is imploding due to marital problems, the person in the hospital at death’s door, the teen who just got put in jail, we can’t turn off our job when we pull away from the church office in the afternoon. Sometimes you need to take a break. Burning the candle at both ends, not taking days off, will impact your family in a negative way, will cause your mind to not be at its best. Ultimately you are working so much that it impacts the quality of what you do. I’m thankful for the way God has wired me, I have no propensity to be a work-a-holic. I have worked with and know people in ministry though who are work-a-holics or very close to becoming one. It’s not healthy for you or for the church. So take a break.
Here are a few ideas:
Go to the coffee shop. There are those days where you feel like you are getting squeezed and pressured. It’s good to walk away from ministry for an hour and unplug. Go to the coffee shop, meet a friend, read a book or just people watch.
Go out to lunch. If you are like me your lunch break is often taken in the office, sitting at your desk eating your sandwich. Go to lunch once a week with a friend, don’t talk ministry, just have some fellowship around your friendship.
Have breakfast out with your spouse. Friday mornings I eat breakfast out with my wife. I look forward to this. The kids are at school so it is like a date! You remember what dates were don’t you? We talk about our calendar and coming week and get synced up to face the hectic life of raising kids who are involved in extracurricular activities.
Take your day off. You get a day off so make sure to protect that day and take it off. Unplug, put the phone on “do not disturb”, go dark, go off grid. God worked 6 days then rested and we need to strive to be more like God. If you have been at camp for a week away from home and working long hours take an extra day or two off the next week.
Enjoy your hobby. What is your hobby? What do you like to do when you aren’t working and have time to relax. Don’t have a hobby? Find one. Take time to do what you enjoy. Use your vacation time. People who don’t use their vacation time drive me crazy! It’s part of your benefits. Vacation is there to give you a break, a chance to unplug and rest. You don’t have to have money to use your vacation. Have a staycation if you have to but use those days.
Take a day. One day a month set it aside as a “mini sabbatical”. Go off somewhere, turn off the cell phone, read the Bible, take notes, pray and listen for God. Read a book and take a nap. Get yourself out of the routine and it may spark your creativity at work.
Retreat. In ministry we think it’s good to take students, married couples, adults from our church on retreats because we know it removes them from their regular routine and puts them in a place where they can experience God in a fresh way. Did you know they make retreats for people in ministry? It’s true!
The two retreats that have been the most beneficial to me in ministry: Refuel Retreat by LeaderTreks. What a great time to unplug, be taught some great leadership and discipleship skills but my favorite part is sitting around a table with other ministers learning from and with each other. Refuel also schedules in some down time to rest, to refuel. The second retreat I really enjoyed was at The Cove, Billy Graham’s conference center in Black Mountain, NC. The Cove specializes in retreats, they know what they are doing. They know how to treat their guests. The guest services is like Chic fil a on steroids. Trails to hike, mountain views, incredible dining experience, big fireplaces, frozen yogurt 24/7, need I say more. They also scholarship church staff!
Sabbatical. I’m thankful to be part of a church that believes in and understands the benefits of a sabbatical. At our church pastors get a sabbatical every seven years. We take 90 days off to rest, re energize and refuel. I have had two in my sixteen years here. The last sabbatical I came back and felt that excitement you feel when you start a new job. It’s hugely beneficial to both the pastor and the church. Could be a factor as to why our lead pastor has been here for over 25 years and I have been here 16 years.
In order to take those needed breaks I suggest you sit down today and look at your calendar. Where do you see those busy times ahead in ministry? Strategically schedule in breaks throughout your coming ministry year. Have someone hold you accountable to taking needed breaks.