Every pastor I’ve known has been bad at resting at some point in their ministry. It’s understandable. Most people tend to pour everything they have into what they’re passionate about. Add to that passion the burden for souls to be saved and Christians to be discipled and you have a recipe for serious overwork.
You know that working too much is bad for you. It’s bad for you in every way…spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It leads to spiritual dryness. It can deteriorate your body leading to health problems. It can eat at your mental health through stress and anxiety. And spending all that time working in ministry can actually separate you from people, leading to emotional pain like chronic loneliness and depression.
What’s crazy is that pastors put themselves at incredible risk because they refuse to obey God through resting properly. Now, I don’t believe this disobedience comes from a rebellious heart. I believe it comes from a distracted heart. There are more insidious distractions for pastors than ever before.
The Pace of Modern Ministry
The pace of today’s ministry feels like it demands a pastor’s constant attention. The beckon of church members needing help never stops. The (unintentional) pressure from conference speakers and other pastors to “wring out your life in service to God” is deafening and burdensome. The constant comparison to other churches via social media is draining.
So pastors work and work some more, leaving their ministry stripped of joy, their family stripped of a husband and father, and their faith stripped of vitality.
What’s more, pastors know they should be resting. They know it’s what God wants for them. They know their work pace isn’t healthy. They may even sense that their overwork is holding their church back.
But instead of resting, they make excuses. They’re not good excuses, either. They’re steeped in pride and fear. Before you read this list, I want you to know that these are not condemnations or flaming darts. I want to call them out so you can potentially identify them in your own life. Here’s 8 poor excuses that pastors use to avoid rest. You may be using some of these excuses, too. Read on.
- I take a vacation every year.
An annual vacation alone isn’t proper rest. It’s a temporary pressure release valve. If this is your only real rest, then it’s not enough.
- I don’t have the time to rest.
Yes, you do. We all make time for what is important. You just haven’t placed the right amount of importance on rest in your life.
- I don’t have anyone I can delegate to.
That may be true, but it’s probably less risky to delegate to the wrong person in the short term than to not delegate at all. Plus, consider this excuse and alarm that you need to invest in leadership development.
- If I take time away, my ministry will suffer.
If you believe your ministry depends on your constant presence, then your faith is in the wrong thing.
- The church schedule has a mind of its own.
This can be true, but you’re also responsible for your own calendar. Block off the days and evenings you need to yourself. If the church schedule double books, then you have to choose rest over being present at every church function.
- The church board won’t allow more time off.
This is a real challenge. Pray and humbly talk to your board about getting more real time off. They may have been burned by a former pastor. Be patient, but firm in your request for more rest time.
- There’s always a crisis that pulls me away from rest.
This is so true in ministry, but again, you have to decide to stick with rest when you’re taking it. There are times that a true emergency pulls us all way from rest, but you can’t let every church call masquerade as an emergency.
- People already think pastors are lazy.
They do and they’ll continue thinking that nonsense whether you take your rest or not. So take your rest and let them think what they want.
The truth is that most of these excuses exist only to mask reality. And the truth is some mixture of pride and fear. You believe you’re the only person that can do your job and that if you don’t show up everything will fall apart.
If you find yourself making excuses like these, then you should repent. And then put that repentance to action by scheduling your rest and asking someone else to hold you accountable to taking that rest.
One more thing…when I recommend scheduling your rest, I mean you should block out times on your calendar for rest. That might mean blocking out a midday workout and adding it as a daily event on your calendar. Maybe it’s putting family dinner on your calendar or a weekly date with your spouse.
If it’s on your calendar and you *treat it like a nonnegotiable event*, then you’re less likely to let other ministry concerns take up those times. Of course, this still means you have to stay accountable to taking that rest, but it’s a step in the right direction.
I’m rooting for you and your ministry and have prayed that God would bring pastors to this blog post that need to be encouraged to take the rest God wants for them.
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