This past Friday I told myself, “Today, I am not a pastor.” Silly thing for a pastor to say right? Sounds unspiritual, doesn’t it? Pastors are expected to always be on the job. For the average pastor, there is rarely a day off. For bi-vocational pastors there is almost never a day off. Taking a day off isn’t easy. But even when I have a day off, many times I am not off the job in my mind. I can be at home, sitting on the couch or playing on the floor with my kids and I am still worrying about church stuff, church people and ministry in general (or what my next blog will be). I think about who I need to call or what plans need to be made for Sunday. Just because I am not at the church doesn’t mean I am having a day off.
I think I am finally learning how to truly be “off” on my day off. I have had to learn how to obey perhaps the hardest commandment to obey; six days you shall work, on the seventh you rest from your work. That is hard to do when your work is not with your hands. A pastor’s work is in the mind and in the heart. The principle of Sabbath is one of God’s greatest gifts to people, including pastors. We MUST sabbath. Here are a few things I have learned to do to help me truly sabbath from my work as an average pastor:
1. Today I am Not a Pastor – I started telling myself at the beginning of my sabbath, “today I am not a pastor.” It is a reminder that for this day, I am just a regular guy, a husband, and a dad that needs to rest and have fun with his family. When I say that, it helps me turn off my brain and lift off the burdens I carry on a daily basis. Of course I am there for people in a crisis, but on my sabbath I get to unplug like everyone else. Today, I get to be a regular man.
2. Pick a day off – For the first 12 years of ministry, I took Mondays off. Now I take Friday for my sabbath. I will write a separate blog about that decision later. But because my day off is at the end of the week, I am generally certain I have all my ducks in a row and it helps me unplug more effectively. When I took Monday off, all I could think about is everything I had to do when I got to the office on Tuesday.
3. Do something special – Sabbath gives you an opportunity to rest. That doesn’t mean you have to do nothing or nap all day. For me, if our family can do something special it helps me take the day off. When I can do something out of the ordinary, it helps break the regular cycle of my habits of being at home yet still thinking about things for the church. We like to take trips to new playgrounds, work on special projects or repairs or run errands together. It can be anything that is different than any other day to make that day feel special. If it feels different, then I can convince my brain it is different and I can truly rest from my work.
If we as average pastors are going to make it long term in ministry, we have to learn to sabbath. We have to learn to be there emotionally and mentally with our family when its our day to be at home. They deserve one day a week of you not being a pastor. We need one day a week to be normal. And God said it was ok. So what day this week will you decide to not be a pastor?