How to Honor Sabbath as a Pastor

sabbath as a pastor
It’s possible to “remember the Sabbath” while still working weekends.

This month’s Pastor Circle (our virtual small group for all ministry leaders) was all about establishing God-honoring rhythms of rest in our lives.

When Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to Israel, there were some obvious commandments. Don’t kill. Don’t lie. We can all get behind those, but there is an interesting command towards the beginning of Exodus 20. God instructs us to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”

Many pastors would reply, “I work all weekend, so am I stuck in disobedience?” Not at all. Sabbath is less about a specific day on the calendar and more about a core value. You should prioritize a day of rest every single week. The word “Sabbath” literally translates to “rest.”

As a minister, you probably do not rest too well on Sunday. That’s okay! You just get to be creative with your calendar. You can Sabbath on a Monday, Tuesday, or Saturday. It just requires effort. Intentionally commit to the rhythms of rest that work in your life. The important part of our practice is “intentionality.” A Sabbath without intentionality is just a lazy day. Don’t squeeze in work, sneak in a bunch of errands, or just mindlessly watch youtube videos. Put real effort into your rest. Worship, pray, read, do something that sparks joy, carve out time with your family and be intentional with every part of your day. That’s where the significance of the Sabbath shows up.

God can do more in 6 days than we can do in 7 on our own.

Cultural convinces you to brag about how busy you are. Whenever asked, “how are you doing?” “Busy” seems to be the default answer. It’s not surprising since we live in a culture that’s obsessed with hurry. We are expected to move through life at the speed of light and hustle every step of the way. While productivity is helpful, overworking ourselves is often harmful. Here’s the good news though, rest doesn’t limit your productivity. It’s designed to unleash your potential.

God doesn’t want you to be less productive. It’s quite the opposite. As your designer, God knows that you need consistent rest in order to reach your full potential. It seems ironic, but when you commit to consistent rhythms of rest, you will become less busy and more productive. It’s true. When you intentionally honor the Sabbath, you are setting yourself up to succeed with less stress. It’s a win-win.

OUR TEXT: Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Establish God-Honoring Rhythms of Rest in your Routine
Infographic: Keeping Sabbath as a Pastor

1. Daily: Rest for an hour.

If getting real rest is a struggle, then start small. Begin with one hour of rest every day. God didn’t say, “Remember a Sabbath hour and keep it holy,” but observing a Sabbath hour is in line with his intention for God-centered rest.

Whether it’s reading, self-care, time of silence, or a quiet hike in the woods, build out some space for a sabbath hour on most days. You will feel sharper, more fulfilled, and more productive when you do.

2. Weekly: Rest for a day.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Per God’s command, commit to a full day of rest once a week. No meetings, no exhausting tasks, and no “I’m going to check my email really quick.” Slow down once a week.

3. Annually: Retreat

Once you’ve established a regular Sabbath day every week, go even deeper by adding a short retreat once or twice a year. A restful retreat is not just taking a day off to sit at home on your sofa. It’s physically going somewhere else in order to unplug, relax, and reflect. Whether it’s the park across the street, the beach, the mountains, a cabin, or a tent, find a place that refreshes you and go there on a rejuvenating retreat.

Here are Four Tips for Protecting your Rest

  • Take a tech rest. You are not designed to be distracted by email, social media, and the news every waking hour. Actually turn off your phone for some (or all) of your rest rhythms. This will help clear your head and focus your attention.
  • Put sabbath on a schedule. Block off a whole day. Block off your Rest hour. If you’re on a team, make the event public so folks know not to bother you.
  • Find a hobby that stops your hurry. Biblical rest isn’t just sitting down in a dark room listening to worship music. Find something that fills and fuels your soul on your Sabbath. Take a hike. Swim in a lake. Learn to garden. Make a birdhouse. Paint on a canvas. Fly kites with your kids. Whatever it is, find a restful activity that rejuvenates you. It’ll help you anticipate your break.
  • Build better boundaries. Ministry is notorious for boundary issues. You can’t do everything for everyone. No one can. So this advice is simple, say no at least once a day. (Or at least more often.)  A polite “no” helps you build healthy boundaries — ultimately protecting you and your family.
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