Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

Do You Take Sabbath Time?

from November 5, 2008
Do you take Sabbath time?

This is an interesting question – we recently did a survey of our pastors to see how many days off a week they took, how much of their vacation and continuing education time they used, and how many hours a week they typically worked. The results were somewhat surprising, specifically the number of pastors who did not even take one full day off a week, many of whom also did not regularly use all of their vacation time. (I could also talk about the extraordinary number of hours some of the pastors worked, but that’s just too depressing!)

On one hand, this is a concern because as pastors, we are supposed to be spiritual leaders (followers? 🙂 ). When we get so busy working, one thing that many pastors says quickly gets left behind, is time to nurture their own spiritual life. It’s hard to do that when you’re working 60-70 hours a week and not taking regular time off. But it’s also a concern because, like many in our congregations, we are tired. We have so many demands on our time – work, family, the chores that don’t seem to get done by themselves, and should we actually want a social life – well, good luck on finding time for that!

What is even more important to realize,though, is that this problem is not limited to pastors. Many of our working church members face the same problem – they too are overworked, over-scheduled, and facing too many demands on their time. Many may have two days off a week, but other demands fill that time – family, some have second jobs to make ends meet, other commitments.

As an executive presbyter, my concern is the pastors – how can I encourage them to adopt more healthy work habits and lifestyles, so that they can stay refreshed and thrive in their ministry and be effective pastors of churches? But as leaders of churches, you would do well to ask that same question about the people in the pew – what can the church do to help them stay refreshed and thrive in their work, which is their ministry? Most people can’t take a three month sabbatical. Even taking a full day to rest, relax, and nurture their relationship with God is a challenge. So how else can the church provide moments or spaces for Sabbath that will work for people? Keeping in mind, of course, that those who need it most probably won’t be the first to respond to an invitation!

Some churches provide prayer booklets, some churches have a prayer room that is always open. Some add time for silence in worship – significant times of silence. Others have an annual retreat of a day or two for spiritual renewal. I’m sure there are many other ideas out there too.

As we approach Advent, a time of holy waiting, this might be a good time for us to find ways to provide that space and time for people to “wait upon the Lord” and rediscover the center out of which we find our life.

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