Pastor’s Ponderings

Sabbata-what?

But in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord.

Leviticus 25:4

If the sabbath principle allows for fields to recover every 7 years so they keep producing food, what about those who minister God’s Word? Without rest one year in every 7, the land would essentially wear out and become useless. So it is true of gospel ministers. Periodic times of extended rest are the secret to longevity in ministry and maintaining spiritual, mental, and physical health.

Many research studies have shown that pastoral ministry is acutely stressful, draining, and dangerous for pastors and their families. A lack of spiritual rest is especially hazardous to the effectiveness of pastoral ministry. Consider some statistics on pastor stress:

  • 90% work 55 to 75 hours per week
  • 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week
  • 91% have experienced some form of burnout

When pastors are over-stressed their marriages and families suffer, too:

  • 80% feel unappreciated and left out, and underappreciated by church members
  • Over 50% say that the most destructive event in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry
  • 80% wish their spouse would choose another profession

Pastors get so preoccupied caring for others their own souls suffer:

  • 70% do not have a close friend
  • 44% do not regularly take a day off
  • 85% have never taken a Sabbatical

I would be listed among the percentages of most of these factors. While I love pastoral ministry (I don’t know anything else), I do not like what it has done for my sleep habits (poor), stomach pain (which I suffered through most of this year), and my disposition (not as cheery, and sometimes pretty sour). As I said from the pulpit recently, I have developed a mean streak, which my family and closest friends can detect. For years, I’ve found it very difficult to slow down on Sunday nights after experiencing a spiritual high in worship. I pace around the house (or neighborhood on walks) trying to rest. Sunday is anything but a time of rest for me! Especially over the last 21 months, my already tired, dry soul has became even more tired and drier.

I need this Sabbatical. I’ve needed one for a couple of years, but COVID prevented that the last 21 months. The purpose of a Sabbatical is to find and enjoy extended Sabbath rest for the body, mind, and soul.

The psalmist David knew something about this. He writes of God in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Soul restoration comes by lying down and being still in God’s presence.

So, the elders have approved me to take a Sabbatical during the months of January and February. Beginning Sunday, January 9, I will not be preaching on Sundays until at least Sunday, February 20. I will not be leading worship, administering the sacraments, teaching Bible study and Bible Bunch, counseling, attending or conducting meetings, visiting in the hospitals or nursing homes, and participating in any church-related ministry while on sabbatical.

What will I do? Nothing much for a week or 10 days. Read, walk, think, pray, sing, drive, meditate on Scripture. Doesn’t seem to fit me very well, does it? I thrive on the adrenalin that comes with an emergency, a short deadline, chaos. I’m not sure what life is like without deadlines, so hopefully I’ll reacquire the ability to sleep and rest.

I’ll also reconnect with my siblings, and spend some time with our kids. Maybe take in a couple of movies, read a couple of books, or take a trip.

Whatever I end up doing, this Sabbatical will make me better able to serve as a shepherd of God’s people. You, as a congregation, will be better able to serve, realizing that I cannot do as much as I have been doing for my mental and spiritual health, and for your growth in grace as a Church.

While I’m out, if you have a pastoral need, please contact your shepherding elder. They would be glad to help you out. I’m not sick; I don’t have plans to leave; I look forward to being back with you soon.

God bless and keep you in Jesus, Pastor Daren