“Please rest, pastor.” I remember hearing this in my first year as an ordained pastor. I am a passionate, driven, recovering people-pleaser. I was starting a new ministry and trying to make a good first impression as a hard worker, when our head elder took me out to lunch and spoke wisdom to me.
“Please rest, Pastor. When is your Sabbath? It seems like you’re working when you’re supposed to be resting. Please change this habit. Your family, and church, will thank you. You’re needed for decades, and unless you establish Sabbath rhythms, I don’t know if you’ll make it.” He was so wise and so right.
The rest of this article focuses on three possible Sabbath practices for pastors. Disclaimer: I’m a struggling sinner, and so are you. The practices I want are not the practices I always do. Thank God for the undeserved grace of the crucified and risen Jesus. Thank God for the Holy Spirit given to me in baptism. My identity in Christ is secure, and so is yours. Nonetheless, I’m striving to set healthy habits so I can serve as a leader in Christ’s church for years to come.
1. Find your “Sabbath” rest every morning.
Mark’s Gospel is often called the “action Gospel.” He uses the word “immediately” thirty-nine times to move the narrative along. Yet, Mark is only “hurried” about one thing – getting to the cross. Mark actually mentions Jesus finding prayer and solitude twenty-three times. Jesus was consistently being refreshed in the presence of His Father through prayer. He prayed consistently, but Jesus especially prioritized prayer in the morning. (Read this blog for more details: https://www.soulshepherding.org/jesus-solitude-and-silence/
How are your morning spiritual rhythms? I have found that the stronger habits I have in the morning the more present I can be for others throughout the day. Pastors’ days get hectic. Mornings are a wonderful time for daily rest in the Lord. Here is my morning rhythm.
Wake up and thank Jesus for another day to be alive. Every day is a gift. This
is my “feet hit the floor” prayer. Resist the urge to immediately look at your phone (texts, emails). This will lead you to “production” mode. Your morning is first for self-care.
Drink water. I drink 30 ounces every morning as the beginning of my goal to drink 90 ounces of water per day (it is recommended we drink half of our body weight in water per day). I use this time to thank Jesus for being my “water of life.”
I then pray as I start my daily physical care routine (push-ups, planks, stretching, etc.). It is amazing to start your day taking care of your “temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 6:19).
Finally, I ride my stationary bike as I read God’s Word and other devotional and leadership books.
This daily time of rest and rejuvenation in the Lord is a habit for me. Every person must find their own rhythm. I am sure your rhythm will be different than mine, but I pray you set a goal to establish and sustain a daily holistic (spirit, body, mind) personal care habit. Jesus has used this daily Sabbath rhythm to speak to me in powerful ways. I cannot imagine being a pastor apart from starting my mornings with self-care centered in the Word.
2. Take your day off…and shut it off. This is your weekly Sabbath.
If you’re a pastor like me you’re probably nice (hopefully); you love people (please say you do); and you don’t like letting people down (you’re not a jerk). I assume we’re pretty alike here.
If this is you, I assume you’re often checking your text and email on your day off. That’s what I’ve done, but I’m asking for help to stop doing this. I’ve realized the church will be sustained if I take 24 hours to not respond to the needs of others. It’s actually a good test for how well I’m empowering our leaders. Do I trust them to handle the needs and concerns within the body for 24 hours? I trust my paid and non-paid leaders immensely. They are more than competent to handle what comes their way.
If God needed a 24-hour period to rest (Genesis 2:2) after completing His creation, how much more do I, a broken sinner, need rest. Yeah. I need it big time…and so do you.
Finally, I need accountability here. I have given my wife, staff, elders, and board permission to lovingly hold me accountable to doing what I say I’m going to do. I love when they “call me out” for working on my day off. It shows they care about me.
3. Get enough sleep. (I’m a better husband, father and pastoral leader when I’m rested).
Jesus took ample time for rest, solitude and prayer. It only enhanced His effectiveness, as is evident through His discipleship of the 12, his teachings and healings, and the cross and empty tomb. Granted, Jesus is God. Yet, that is just the point. If Jesus needed it, how much more do I need rest?
Most people need about 6-9 hours of sleep per night in order to be well rested. Individual needs may vary, so determine for yourself what amount of sleep is necessary for you to feel well-rested. Then, make every effort to allow yourself this amount of time to sleep every night.
When I’m rested I’m more present for others, I’m less anxious, I have more energy for envisioning how to reach pre-Christians, and I can fully give myself to loving my family.
These practices have helped me greatly in practicing Sabbath rest. I encourage you to find what works for you and regularly implement those things.
Pastor, please rest. Your wife, children, grandchildren and church will thank you.