How does a leader take a great day off?

I think leaders are wondering about this question more and more, and today’s post is my attempt to answer it.

Chuck Swindoll has some pretty sage advice on the subject of a weekly day off:
“Tell me, why do we have such a hard time with this? I’d like to suggest that several things contribute to our lack of inner rest: Failure to give play, fun, rest, and leisure a proper place of dignity. Our strong tendency to compete and compare, leading to a wholesale dissatisfaction with things as they are. Our preoccupation with always wanting more and self-imposed guilt . . . unrealistic expectations.”

We Christians often use the term Sabbath to describe our day off. The Bible makes it clear that the Sabbath is a day that’s different than the other six days in our week. Genesis 2:3 tells us, “And God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy.”

In other words, He made it separate. Different than the other six days of the week.

When I ask pastors about their day off, I’m often greeted with a blank stare followed by uncomfortable mumbling. Pastors often struggle to find a consistent day off due to the unpredictable nature of their role, or workaholism, or false guilt, or adrenaline addiction, etc.

It’s ironic when you realize some of these same leaders who teach their people to tithe, and rightly declare God can make 90% of income go farther than 100%, struggle with taking a day off each week. In a sense, taking a day off weekly is similar to tithing. Not only can God get more done through us when we hit the reset button each week, it’s part of His plan for our longevity.

The Sabbath is a weekly reset button that gets us back in touch with what truly matters. It reminds us every week that our spouse and children are the most important disciples in our lives. A weekly day off reinforces the truth that unless God builds the house, we labor in vain. The Sabbath reset button reacquaints us with life outside of our ministry, which every pastor should experience on a regular basis.

If your entire life is wrapped up in ministry, you’re a runaway train heading for a crash.

So . . . with the above in mind, let’s get practical. What are some elements of a great day off? Please note the trying to cram all of the ideas below into one Sabbath day would likely negate its benefits . . . so maybe choose just a few!

  1. Sleep in – Not sure I need to explain this one much. If you’re able, add an extra hour or two to your sleep schedule.
  2. Slow down – A great goal on your Sabbath is to not hurry at any point  during the day. Take extended time with Jesus. I pray, read and study God’s word daily. On my day off, there’s more time for extended moments with Him—journaling; listening; meditating on his word; sitting quietly with Him. Do some extra reading, but I encourage fun reading on your day off. Put the leadership books aside for a day.
  3. Refuel– What fills your emotional bucket? And the answer can’t be “work!” One tank-filling activity for me is taking in God’s creation. Watching waves on the Great Lakes or the ocean; walking through the woods; driving in Northern Michigan to take in the beautiful fall colors; all these pursuits fill my mental and emotional tank. A couple of hours of doing these things makes me feel like a new man!
  4. Get outside and get your body moving – Fresh air and exercise is a wonderful addition to your Sabbath day.
  5. Take a nap.
  6. Spend time with your spouse and replenishing friends.
  7. Leave house projects for another day.
  8. Treat yourself – Eat one of your favorite meals and/or desserts on your day off.

Now . . . if your bi-vocational, you’ll need to get creative with Sabbath. You may not be able to find a full 24-hour stretch each week. But try to string together several nights in a row where you’re pivoting from work to your private life by 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. Maybe attempt to establish a 12-16 hour stretch where you’re not working. Experiment and find something that fits you.

Why does discovering the secret to a great day off matter?

Longevity. Fruitfulness. Fun. You’ll lead better, longer, and enjoy it more when you hit the weekly reset button. And you increase the chances of finishing your God-given race well.

Cheering for you,