Earlier this year, I had an epiphany: size matters. In response, I began working on making changes to our ministry processes and structures to bring them into alignment with the size of our congregation. Some changes have been relatively easy to implement and others are posing a bigger challenge. Take leadership for example. My leadership.
I’ve been pretty busy trying to manage ministry. There’s been a lot to do this fall–inviting new volunteer ministers onto teams, training, procuring supplies and equipment, coordinating schedules to avoid overloading families, breathing life back into an all-but-dead critical ministry area–all while trying to develop a strategic plan for developing team ministry in a manner consistent with our church size and growth. Remember the biblical story of Martha and Mary? That was me–Martha…on steroids! Then came the crushing blow: my senior pastor and partner in ministry pointed out that I was over-functioning.
OK, I suppose that’s a little dramatic. It wasn’t really a crushing blow, nor an epic fail. But it was the truth. I had embodied the antithesis of an equipping leader.
Time to take a step back, breathe deep, and re-evaluate. Rather than list all the “could haves” and “should haves,” I am focusing on two simple steps to finding my way back to equipping equilibrium:
Step 1: Practice Weekly Sabbath
For pastors, Sunday is a work day. Yes, it is ministry; but it’s work. It’s our responsibility to see that “church” happens. I am bi-vocational and work a part-time job during the week. I’m also a homemaker. Not surprisingly, I was working in one role or the other seven days a week. Not all day every day, but there wasn’t a day set aside to simply be with God. I would snatch an hour here, a half-day there. Nothing consistent. Nothing like sabbath rest in the company of Jesus.
Beginning this month, you won’t find me at the computer or in the office on Mondays. My senior pastor is holding me accountable to not even think about anything having to do with our parish on Mondays. (He absolutely wins the Pastor of the Year Award!) Monday is my sabbath. It’s not my “day off,” a day to catch up on housecleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, or anything else on my to-do list. It’s a day for life-giving rest and refreshment.
I spent the first couple of Mondays at my sewing machine doing what I love. (I needed to decompress.) Last week I resolved to practice Morning, Noon, and Evening Prayer of the Daily Office each Monday. (That will take a bit more discipline!) Today I scheduled a day away at my favorite retreat house for an upcoming Monday. (I’ll be Mary on steroids that day as I sit in the porch swing with my Bible and journal in hand, listening for the Voice I know and love!)
If you are a pastor or a ministry leader and you don’t have a sabbath day of rest, you need one. Make it happen. What’s more, as a leader, you have a responsibility to not only set the example for those you are leading, but to exhort them to make sabbath-keeping a priority for their life as well.