If you are a pastor, you have a unique role at your church. Not a harder role, just a unique one. It is often hard for someone who isn’t a pastor to understand, but when you work at a church, going to church (whether you preach, lead, lead worship or coordinate things), you are working. Even if you don’t do all of those things (say you don’t preach on a Sunday but still go to your church), you are working. You are talking with people, counseling, shepherding, intervening. You are expending energy, leadership and care. This is good. This is what you are called to do.
However the reality is, in order to have longevity in ministry and at a church, you need to have Sundays when you are off, when you are away, so that you can catch your breath to be the best leader or pastor you can be.
But how do you do that?
Here are four ways to use a Sunday off strategically:
1. Take a Sunday off. I wish I could just assume that you will take a Sunday off as a pastor, but I can’t. I know too many people on church staffs that are workaholics. Some because they choose to be, some because their elders expect them to be and some because that is the culture of their church (I worked at a church like this before). You have to decide that you will take a Sunday off. It is good for you, your family and your church.
The reality for some leaders is they will have to do some leading up to make this happen. This culture of seeing a Sunday off as a benefit to a pastor and a church is not seen by everyone. Every job has vacation days, and if you are in ministry, you should take every vacation day your church gives you.
2. Go to a different church. One of the best things a pastor can do is go to a different church and experience their service. This not only can be refreshing as you “feel like a normal person”, but you can learn and gain some great insights on how to improve your church. Seeing what others do, how they do elements in a service, can breathe new life into your church and leadership. If I’m not at Revolution, I always try to go to some other church. This also gives a pastor a great opportunity to sit with his wife for a whole service and not lead anything, which is a rare treat for a pastor and his wife as she normally sits alone while he preaches.
3. Stay home. This may sound sacrilegious, but hear me out. One of the healthiest things you can do on a Sunday off is stay home. Have a lazy morning. Take a hike. Make breakfast for your wife in bed. Play with your kids. Sleep in if you don’t have kids. Stay home. Should you do this every time you have a Sunday off from preaching? No, but once won’t kill you.
4. Worship at your church and be as normal as possible. One thing that can be eye opening for a pastor is going to his church and trying to be as normal as possible. What I mean is, if you have one service that starts at 10am, show up at 9:59 with your kids like everyone else does and see what traffic in the parking lot is like, what check in is like for the kids’ ministry. Pastors are often oblivious to this because they get to church hours before everyone else does. We’ve made changes to our church that have been incredibly helpful because I or one of our staff didn’t come early but came when everyone else does.
Now this idea sometimes rubs people in a church the wrong way. This is when a pastor will have to learn how to lead up to his elders and lead out in his church. The benefits to a church from a pastor using a Sunday off strategically are enormous. They get a pastor who is refreshed and a wife who doesn’t despise the fact that her husband never sits with her in church because he’s preaching (you’d be surprised at how many wives hold onto bitterness in their hearts over this). It allows a pastor to be a dad to his kids on a Sunday and a husband to his wife (as most pastor’s wives are single parents on a Sunday). It helps others get a chance to use and hone their preaching gifts, and a pastor can gain some incredible insights from how other churches do things so they can improve the ministry of their church.
If you haven’t had a Sunday off recently, do it. Put it on the calendar. Make a plan for how you will use it strategically.