June 21, 2024

What does Sabbath mean to me? How do I practice it? How do I feel about taking time off?

The failure to honestly, sincerely and practically answer this question may be the single factor leading the burnout, moral failure and career changes for ministers and ministry leaders. The sabbath is not a suggestion. It made the top ten list. It was something that God himself did, taking the seventh day to rest. Who am I or who are we to assume that it is optional for us? Are we better than God? Are we more needed than God? Does the culture (church or secular) determine our values or does the scripture? Does our need to be needed supersede our health and our relationship with God and our own families?

These are difficult questions that must be asked. If we do not think about sabbath and develop a way to honor it weekly and with other time off, then we put ourselves at great risk. Failing to honor and practice sabbath and time off is far more hurtful to the people we lead in the long run then not being available one day a week and 2-4 weeks a year. 

This is one area where growth has been important to me. My own personal practice of sabbath is simple, serious, yet has flexibility. On my day off (Friday) I shut down. I do not put anything on my schedule or to do list that is ministry related. I do not put anything on my schedule or to do list that is not life-giving. I turn off my work email and put my phone on do not disturb when I get home for the night on Thursday night and do not turn it back on until I get out of bed on Saturday morning. Anyone who knows me, knows this about me. Sure, if someone where dying or to die, I can be reached and I would respond (has never happened). Sure, my family can reach me during the day for any emergencies. Yes, sometimes I do things like clean the car, but only if I am going to enjoy getting it done. Some weeks its clear that Friday will not work so I switch my day (I never just scrap it). I have even had to move it a couple days to the next week (though I try to avoid that). I make sure things are done and covered while I am on vacation so I can take the same posture. Not everyone likes it, but everyone respects it and the vast majority understanding. More importantly, I am modeling obedience and health to those I lead and serve. I am still learning and working on it, but our failure to really think about sabbath and time off is literally killing ministry leaders and could do the same for the ministries they lead. If we love God, our families, ourselves and our ministries, we will sabbath and we will take time off.

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