“The devil doesn’t take a day off and so neither should the pastor.” Have you ever heard that one? But then again, perhaps Satan is not the best model for healthy leadership.
At the same time, I want to affirm that pastors don’t need a day off. What pastors need is a Sabbath. What is the difference between a day off and a Sabbath?
A day off is simply a break from the usual duties of the week and is often filled up with all the things that didn’t get done on the other days. I knew a pastor who wrote her sermons on her day off because she felt sermon writing got in the way of “real ministry” and so should be on personal time. That is extreme but I will admit that my days off have usually not been all that refreshing.
Then I discovered the Sabbath.
The interesting thing about the Sabbath is that when presented with the Ten Commandments, many pastors would see the Sabbath commandment as the one we don’t need to keep. In fact, working long hours every day is seen as a badge of honour.
Overworking is not a sign of freedom, it is a sign of bondage to a culture of doing rather than being. My intention is not to just have the most productive year ever but to set myself up to end well in the long run. That includes keeping a Sabbath.
What does this look for me?
Obviously I can’t take Sundays as a day of rest. My congregation likes it when I show for church. I don’t take Saturdays, because my mind is on the next day’s service. I take my Sabbath from Sunday noon to Monday noon.
But how is that different from a day off?
A day off is simply about not showing up to work that day. A Sabbath is about building in rest and designing the day as something completely different. So I generally stay off social media (with one important exception). I also don’t do chores around the house. I spend a lot of the day reading, napping, watching movies with the kids and so on. I’m not legalistic about it and there are times that there is something that must be done. But I do attempt to keep a Sabbath.
So pastors shouldn’t take a day off. But they should keep the Sabbath.