Do you feel burned out?
Do you feel like you’re scraping by?
If so, this the perfect episode for you as you begin the new year. As we talk about rest, we’re really talking about being intentional about replenishing your mind and heart.
Our to-do lists and the demands of life constantly pull at us and keep us away from having a bigger impact. If you aren’t intentional about your time and focus, the demands of life will make you less effective in your ministry. We love how John Maxwell puts it: “Intentional living embraces only the things that add to the mission of significance.”
You, as a pastor, are on a mission of significance, both personally and with your church.
So for you, personally, what things add to your mission of significance? What things can you embrace that add to the mission of your church? That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
If you want to achieve something significant- like lifting a lot of weight- it takes time and planning. The same is true with rest. If you want to be well-rested, it’s not going to happen on its own. You need to plan for it. Here’s how to do that.
Coming off of the crazy year we’ve had, you’re going to need to plan a longer period of rest. If you think you could never manage to take a Sabbatical, plan ahead. Having something booked in advance that’s a change of pace will help you truly unplug- but you’ll also want to spend some time at home, resting, as well.
Talking about periods and rhythms of rest, what’s the one commandment we talk about the least? It’s the Sabbath. We have been given this cycle every single week, where God commands us to find a way to rest. And when we rest, a lot of great things happen. We rest our bodies, we rest our minds. Also, we remind ourselves that the world keeps moving without us. That God is still God, even if we’re not working 24/7. That’s powerful.
In Scripture, we also see seasons of rest, when the Israelites rest the land and slaves/servants will be freed. And so it’s important to see and understand weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms of rest, as well as the rhythms over many years, like seven and ten years. Be intentional about incorporating those rhythms into your own life.
If taking a sabbatical sounds impossible, well, here’s a tip that will help put it within your reach: start planning to take days off without warning.
If you privately plan to take a day off without warning, here’s what happens: you build your team to where things don’t rise or fall on you every single day. Not giving too much advance warning means that you will be unable to control what happens on your day off. Eventually, you’ll get to a place where you can say, “Okay, I’m going to take a day off, and things will not burn down.”
To do this successfully, you must be intentional about building your team. Empower them to lead and grow without you. At the same time, you’ll give yourself time to realize what tasks you need to do, and what ones can be handed off to another staff person or volunteer.
This is why it’s so important to have planning tools like a sermon calendar, that will allow you to know when you need guest speakers and what their topics will be. Having other people preaching in a regular rhythm (maybe once every two months) gives you time to rest and catch up on other things.
Every once in a while, take a day when you have a guest speaker, call your staff the day before, and say, “Actually, I won’t be in church this Sunday.” and go to church somewhere else that week. It will give you a chance to worship without any responsibilities, and it might inspire you to see how other churches are doing things.
Building a team that can work independently of you is a great first step toward getting more rest. Then, work from there on getting an actual Sabbatical scheduled.
We know this isn’t a popular sentiment, but if you’re preaching more than forty times a year, you’re preaching way too much. Have other pastors, staff people, elders, or deacons, help you. Your rest periods will make you sharper spiritually and give your messages greater clarity and depth because you’ve taken the time to reflect and let the Holy Spirit lead you. Again, rest is about embracing only the things that add to the mission of significance.
Here’s the key, though: you’re only going to be able to preach fewer, better sermons if you’re intentional about planning your rest.
This is a great opportunity to bring in people from your church who are passionate about certain topics and to underscore the idea that you’re not the only person who can talk/teach on Scripture. There are other individuals who can do that, too. You’re still the primary communicator, of course, but you’re giving your church the gift of different perspectives and better communication from you when you intentionally step away to rest.
At the end of the day, you can’t make your best decisions or do your best reflection if you never slow down enough to get into deep thought. We have an action bias in our society and in leadership culture- we don’t appreciate thoughtfulness as much as we should. So, be intentional about your weekly rest periods, but also be intentional about creating a period of rest for yourself that’s longer. When you do, it will be a win for everyone.
We want to hear from you! Have you taken a Sabbatical? How did it work? How has including more guest speakers in your sermon calendar prepared you to rest this past year?
Tell us how you’ve learned to rest or how you plan to rest by using the hashtag #HelloChurchPod on Twitter or leaving a comment on our Youtube channel. If you want to ask Justin questions about how he structures his sabbaticals, reach out to him on Twitter (@justintrapp). He recommends 4 weeks as a starting point but says 6 weeks is better.
Check out this Sermonary Podcast for more practical tips on how pastors can take a sabbatical this year!