Part Three: Rest is Required
In my last post, I listed one of the reasons we experience burn out in our service to the church - serving outside our gifts. In this post, I will highlight a second reason, and that is a lack of rest.
I think we all know the advantages of resting. If I’ve slept well, I wake up in the morning mentally and physically ready to tackle the day’s challenges. If I take my 45-minute prayer walk, my problems settle into proper perspective. If I go out with my husband, away from my kids, I return a happier and more patient mom.
Then why do we barrel through in our church ministries without rest? There are a variety of answers to this question, depending on personality and situation, but here are a few.
Some of us think we are being selfish if we take time away to recharge. We assume that being like Jesus means powering through, laying aside our own needs, and pouring ourselves out. Jesus did lead a selfless life, serving and ultimately dying for us needy souls. But yet, he understood the need to fill up so that he had more to give. He went often to the reservoir of communion with his Father in order to be able to offer Living Water to his followers. Resting from people is hard. I worry that I will hurt feelings, or that I will displease God. But, I have come to understand that taking regular time to “withdraw”, as Jesus did, is perhaps the most loving thing you can do for the people you serve.
Another reason we resist rest is that we don’t have a replacement, and we can’t imagine how that ministry will function without us. In some situations, this is a case of inflated ego, and if we would just step aside, we’d learn that we are not indispensable, and others will step in and serve even better than we did. In other situations, though, not having a replacement is a legitimate concern, and if we did just cut and run, we would be unkindly leaving people in the lurch. The solution to this is to replicate yourself. If you are leading a ministry, always be looking for someone to train up to do your job. Form a team so that you share the load, and teach others to do what you do so that if you need a break, you can take one without abandoning those who depend on you.
And lastly, we don’t take Sabbath rest because we feel like we are doing fine. This is a lesson I’m still learning. We need to be proactive in creating space for replenishment, not reactive. Don’t wait until you are desperate. Follow Jesus’ example and withdraw often. This will look different for me than it does for you, but it takes effort and planning and sometimes going against the flow to create a Sabbath rhythm. I heard of one pastor who plans a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and 7-year sabbatical. Daily might mean 20 minutes. Weekly might mean a few hours on Saturday or Sunday. Monthly might mean a whole day. Yearly might mean a week or two. And 7-year might mean 2-3 months. Sabbath isn’t just a concept those in “full-time Christian ministry” need to follow, but every Christian who serves the church family.
So, turn off your guilt-voice, train up replacements, and be proactive about withdrawing for a time in order to fill up your tanks for the next leg of the journey. I can tell you from experience, you’ll return to the road with increased fervor, love and JOY!