How to Sabbath When You Work on Sundays

As ministry leaders, we rarely get the opportunity to Sabbath on Sundays, and without intentionality we can neglect the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest altogether. For many of us, our day of Sabbath rest has turned into a time of running errands or simply recovering from the weekend of ministry – this is not what God intended of this day for us. Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, so if this day was made for us, we should take full advantage of its benefits.

So how can we Sabbath when we work on Sundays? Here are some ways that I’ve been using lately to help me protect my Sabbath and keep it holy:

1. I got serious about protecting my Sabbath day.
Your Sabbath day is your responsibility, and if you don’t place value on your Sabbath day, no one else will. I love the descriptive story of Nehemiah and how he rebuked the people of Jerusalem for not observing the Sabbath:

Nehemiah 13:19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.

No one will take your Sabbath day of rest more seriously than you.

2. I shut off my distractions.
Turning off your email on the Sabbath may not be enough, because text messaging has created a culture of instant communication – we’re now expected to be available to everyone at all times. If we’re truly going to observe a Sabbath day of rest, we might have to turn our phones off altogether or at least all of our notifications. I’m not suggesting you go dark on your spouse or children, but I am recommending you discover better ways to communicate with them while you replenish on your Sabbath day. I turn off all my notifications, never check my email, and only read text messages or receive calls from family. While I’m readily accessible as a pastor, I’m only strategically available. And for the health of my spiritual life, marriage, and ministry, I’m strategically unavailable on my day off. Except, (yes – there are always exceptions) when death or crisis impacts someone God has entrusted to my care. Ministry is not a job; it’s a way of life, so when tragedy strikes someone I shepherd and care for, my team knows how to get a hold of my wife or me. What I’ve found is that the better I protect my Sabbath the easier it is for me to step into crisis moments with grace and empathy.

3. I have a plan.
Approaching the Sabbath day without a plan is like going on a family vacation without a destination – you’ll get nowhere fast. Sabbath rest is not sleeping in or crossing things off your to-do list. I love what Pastor Chris Hodges says about the Sabbath, “You don’t rest because your tired, you rest so that you don’t grow tired.”  The whole point of the Sabbath day is replenishment, not just rest. Everyone replenishes in different ways: outside, reading, sleeping, walking, singing, meditating, exercising, and the list goes on. No matter how you replenish, make a plan to replenish intentionally, and not just physically, think emotionally and spiritually too. The more focused you approach your Sabbath day, the more beneficial it will become.

Get serious, turn off your distractions, and execute your plan.

The health of your soul matters, and it has to matter most to you.

How are you protecting your Sabbath day? I’d love to hear the intentional steps you’re taking to maintain spiritual health in your marriage, family, and ministry.

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The Greatest Gift Leaders Bring To Their Team

As campus pastors, we have many responsibilities: leading teams, recruiting high-capacity volunteers, embodying the vision of our senior leaders, and protecting the culture of our church to name a few. I’ve heard it said that the greatest gift a leader can bring to their team is their personal energy but I must be honest, I don’t agree with that statement. Energy, while important, doesn’t always win and with the help of a Redbull, it can be easily manufactured. The greatest gift you can give to your team is not your energy, it’s the health of your soul.

Talking about soul health is not always popular these days. Campus pastors want to talk about the size of their campus or discuss ways to get people to fall in love with the “preacher on the screen”. Rarely do I hear campus pastors discuss topics beyond the metrics of multisite like spiritual, emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for the voices in my life that dig deeper into the condition of my soul. Recently I was encouraged to read Peter Scazzero’s “The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” I’ll be honest; the book was a difficult read. Not because I could understand the content I was reading, but the content of the book was reading me. If you’re leading in any capacity, church life or not, I encourage you to pick up Peter’s book and start reading it today.

The health of your soul is your responsibility. No one else can make your soul healthier, and to be honest, most of the time we don’t slow down enough to examine our soul health. We have to take matters into our own hands and lead ourselves first. Self-leadership always precedes team leadership.

After reading his book, I’m focusing on the following three areas of soul health in my life:

Spiritual Health
As a leader within the church, our passion for the Lord must always trump our passion for greater leadership and influence. In ministry, it’s easy to work so hard for Christ that we forget to walk with him. Our desire to lead ends up choking our desire to be simply with Christ. In his book, Scazzero talks about slowing down for loving union and how we must practice the spiritual disciplines of silence, Sabbath and scripture meditation. Do you have a regular rhythm of slowing down and communing with Christ? The health of your soul depends on it.

“You can’t live at warp speed without warping your soul.” Peter Scazzero

Emotional Health
Our emotional health is directly connected to the health of our souls. Emotionally healthy pastors manage their emotions in meetings and settings where unhealthy pastors don’t. Irritability in ministry or any walk of life is a sign that your soul lacks health and vibrancy. You cannot separate the health of your soul from the health of your attitude. When your soul is healthy, your response is healthy. How are you in meetings? How is your response? Spending time developing your emotional health will radically change the way you respond to whatever life or ministry throws at you.

“Spiritual deficits typically reveal themselves in too much activity.” Peter Scazzero

Physical Health
Scazzero doesn’t talk much about physical health in his book, but I believe this topic is also directly connected to the condition of our souls. We cannot effectively lead within our organization if we are continually sluggish and exhausted. I meet a lot of leaders who look and sound tired all the time. Who is responsible? I don’t think it is the church fault; we can only blame the individual. Just as no one else can make us spiritually healthy, no one else can make us physically healthy either. Make better food choices, get to bed early on Saturday nights, add regular exercise to your schedule, and drink more water. Sounds simple, I know, but few leaders do it.

The condition of your soul is your responsibility. It is also the greatest gift you can bring to your teams. As you intentionally care for your spiritual, emotional, and physical health, you model soul care for your team and everyone wins.

In what ways do you measure soul health? Who can hold you accountable for these things?