When I ask leaders about taking a weekly day off, I’m often greeted with a blank stare followed by uncomfortable silence.
Some report they haven’t taken a day off in years. And even worse, a few of these leaders are proud of it. They wear busyness as a badge of honor.
Many contributors to leadership burnout, anxiety, and depression exist. Regularly skipping a day off is usually a major culprit.
The American pastor has been influenced by Western culture in the arena of pace. Lifeway Research conducted a survey in 2013 revealing that 50% of pastors work between 50-70 hours per week.
Now . . . 50-70-hour weeks happen in the ministry. Sometimes a pastor’s schedule simply blows up with unexpected issues. But if every week explodes into the 70-hour range, something is broken about the way you approach work. You’re shortening your leadership shelf-life. And I’m guessing your spouse and children aren’t too thrilled about your work pace either.
After completing the work of creation, God rested on the 7th day. He didn’t rest due to exhaustion. It’s my belief He rested to set an example. I suspect He knew how ambitious we humans would be, so He modeled a weekly reset button. A day off. He looked at everything He created and ceased His work, and perhaps He said: “Wow, that was good work!” A weekly day off gives us a chance to reflect on the work accomplished during the past week and say: “That was well-done.”
In fact, this weekly rhythm was so important, that it made it into the top ten: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Holy means different, separate. A day in our week that’s different than the other six.
For many people, Sunday is the day they downshift, relax, and rest. Not so for pastors. They need to find another day to hit the reset button. And find it they must. Here’s three reasons why:
Reason 1: Perspective
It’s a short leap from workaholism to arrogance. Pushing the reset button reminds us on every week that our work ultimately is God’s, not ours. It reminds us that success is a joint venture with Him, not solely of our own doing. When we consistently ignore His command to rest weekly, it’s easy to start taking credit for our results. To let success go to our head.
The apostle Paul offers a healthier perspective: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Following God’s command to participate in Sabbath rest each week helps us gain an accurate perspective of our work. It protects us from getting full of ourselves. It reminds us on a weekly basis that there is more to life than what we do for a living.
Reason 2: Permanence
We are seeing a wave of pastors leaving vocational ministry. Barna reported in March of 2022 that 42% of pastors are seriously considering quitting the ministry. That is up from 31% in 2021. A day off won’t cure all these ills, but it’s part of God’s program for our longevity.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the same leaders who teach their people to tithe, and rightly declare that God can make 90% of our income go farther than the 100%, struggle with taking a day off each week. In a sense, taking a day off weekly could be compared to tithing. God can get more done through us when we hit the reset button each week. We’ll be able to produce at a higher level for a longer time.
Face it my leader friend: God hasn’t called you to a sprint, He’s called you to a marathon. The weekly reset button of a day off can help you finish your marathon.
I can hear my co-vocational leader friends protesting, “John, I’m working two jobs, I’ve got kids at home, taking a day off is impossible!” I get it. I spent the first two years of pastoral ministry in a co-vocational reality. Finding a day off was difficult.
So . . . what can you do if you’re co-vocational? Get creative. Punch out at 5:00 two nights in a row. Or cease work at 5:00 on Friday and don’t pick up work until noon on Saturday. These efforts may not yield a full 24-hour respite, but they are better than not trying at all.
Reason 3: Priorities
The weekly reset button gets us back in touch with what truly matters. It reminds us that our spouse and children are more important than our work. The people who live under our roof are the most important disciples in our life. If things are good at work and bad at home, then things are not good. In fact, it’s hard to win at work over the long haul if we’re losing at home.
You can lose your ministry and still have a great life. But if you lose your marriage, it will be much harder to have a great life. And you’ll likely lose your ministry, at least for a season.
A weekly day off reacquaints us with life outside of our work, which is something every pastor and leader should experience. If your entire life is wrapped up in what you do for a living, you’re a runaway train that eventually will crash. And I don’t want you to crash. I want you to thrive. The healthy rhythm of a weekly day off will increase the chances of you flourishing long-term.
If you want to lead better . . . longer . . . and enjoy it more . . . hit the weekly reset button. If you feel like your schedule is out of control and you don’t know where to start, Converge Coaching is here to help. Our mentors serve as guides who come alongside you and help you run your race.
Here’s to a weekly day off!
I’m rooting and praying for you!