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The Importance of Prioritizing Rest as a Leader

John Gilman June 27, 2017

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There are times we begin to feel depleted, empty, running out of steam. If we are even a little self-aware we can see the signs within ourselves. We become easily irritated, quick to become critical, find ourselves complaining, feeling extremely pessimistic, unusually tired. Our body has unique ways of sending out signals warning us that something needs to be addressed.

As pastors and leaders we can spot this weariness in the people we shepherd and counsel. It is easy to recognize burnout in the overworked businessman, overachieving teacher, physically spent caregiver, stressed out parent. We are quick to recommend action steps to these souls eager for relief. Take care of yourself, practice Sabbath, say no as often as you say yes, step away from work, give yourself permission to recharge.

Yet often as pastors and church leaders, we struggle putting the same advice into practice in our own lives. Pastors are in a caregiving role as the shepherd of their congregation. The stress of the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional demands on them are great. Summer is the time when many in our congregations will take time off for vacation. Attendance drops because so many people go out on vacation.

Many pastors use this time during summer to scramble to catch up on work or plan events and programs designed to encourage attendance during this summer slump. The reality is that church staff may need to embrace this time of low attendance as a season of respite for themselves as well. The summer months can easily become a time of discouragement for a pastor since members often choose other activities on a Sunday morning rather than show up for church.

Most pastors would not truly begrudge families time together on vacation, even though that means low attendance during June, July and August. The truth is that pastors and church staff need a time for vacation too. Instead of struggling to “keep your head in the game” and not get discouraged during this season, what if our staff members and their families made it a priority to also schedule their own family vacations and not feel any guilt over it?

We all need time away to recharge, regroup and gain new perspective. We can serve more effectively and fervently when we are not depleted. Often a change in position can lead to a much needed change in perspective. When we grow weary, some time away from work and home and stepping outside of our regular surroundings can lead to a refreshed perspective in our ministry.

Just as Jesus took time to step away and spend time in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56), time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13) and just time away from crowds (Luke 5:16), as pastors and leaders we need to do the same. Time spent in creation, designed for rest and reflection, can lead to a deeper connection with the Creator. However, we need to decide that this is a priority for us as a leader and for our families.

Modeling this for the families we are shepherding is incredibly important. Allowing yourself to take a vacation models the priority of Sabbath rest, intentional time with our families and not allowing our ministry to become an idol. Give yourself permission to prioritize rest. Step away from the normal routine to allow the Lord to reveal something new and set you up with renewed energy for a productive fall.

Will you allow yourself the grace you need to make rest a priority? When can you calendar in time away for you and your family this summer?

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