Tag Archives: Sabbath

Pastor, Should You Take A Sabbatical?

I am fortunate to have a church and denomination that understands the importance of taking a sabbatical. They granted me a three-month sabbatical. I took half of it this summer. I’d like to take a few posts to help pastors think about their possible need for a sabbatical and then how to go about it.closed

First question: why do you deserve a sabbatical? Few other professions offer them. What makes a pastor so special (or is it lazy) that they should get one when 95% of other professions don’t?

My first answer is that more people should take sabbaticals…in all professions. So maybe the question is framed wrong. Maybe we should be asking why more professions don’t allow for a sabbatical every seven years.

I’m not going to go into a deep Bible study on this. You can do that on your own. But I will say that God established the importance of sabbath in creation itself.  Sabbath doesn’t mean “rest.” It means to cease, to stop. God worked the idea of sabbath into his creation for two reasons: one, we need to stop for our emotional and physical health. We weren’t designed to go 24/7. Two, we need to stop for our spiritual health. When we stop, we are saying that we not only trust God to work through our effort, we trust him to work in our ceasing.

Okay, so a sabbath is biblical but why for weeks or months?  Isn’t a weekly sabbath good enough? It has to do with the nature of the job. Sabbaths are especially important for people who are ultra responsible, like a business owner. Any profession that requires you to carry an emotional load 24/7, even while you are away from the office, should get a sabbatical.  You need weeks or months to help you to fully cease, disconnect,  and get the rest you need. Taking a week or two off may get you away from your job physically but not emotionally. You need a sustained break to recharge your batteries.

Sadly, many pastors take a sabbatical AFTER they melt down. That’s not a sabbatical. That’s called recovery. I have a friend who collapsed in the middle of a sermon. His “sabbatical” came after his collapse and was more for healing than refreshing. He’s trying to play catch up now and he can’t seem to quite get there. I have another friend who owns his own business. He almost died of a heart attack this year due to stress.

Personally, I could feel the need for a sabbatical for at least a year. I planted a church eleven years ago, went through two capital campaigns, had a building built, and managed a few key staff transitions. It all took its toll. Pre-sabbatical I had unexplained fatigue and depression. Every time I even thought about getting away I’d tear up. I knew something was wrong. But now, post-sabbatical, I can tell the difference. Something inside of me changed. I got the break and refreshing I needed. I’m ready to go again.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to do on a sabbatical. But today I just want you to consider taking one. Talk to your church board about the possibility.  Some churches offer their pastor a sabbatical every seven years. That’s nice but I think that should be a guideline. Rather than put a timeline on it, I’d go more by stress level. If you have gone through a two-year push to plant a church, do a capital campaign, or manage a church crisis, a sabbatical might be in order, whether you’ve been there seven years or not.

If you are not a pastor, maybe you could suggest a sabbatical for your pastor. It’s very hard to promote it for yourself. It feels selfish. So you will do him/her a favor by bringing it up. My administrator pushed the idea at my church and I was very grateful to her for it.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on a sabbatical? Do you wonder if you might need one? Have you suggested it but got shot down? What questions do you have about sabbaticals? I’d love to hear from you.

The Sabbath, Abundance Mentality and God

abundance mentality

The abundance mentality flows from Sabbath

This is a followup to my post yesterday about a scarcity mentality vs. an abundance mentality.  I left off saying that the Bible is full of examples of an abundance mentality.

One story is central to both a Jewish and Christian mindset. It has  to do with observing Sabbath. Sabbath means to “cease”…to stop what you are doing to focus on rest, relationships and worshipping God.  But to do that you need an abundance mentality.

The Bible tells the story of “manna” from heaven (See Exodus 16). In order to set aside one day a week God provided his people with food in a miraculous way. Every morning they woke up to find the ground covered with “manna” a grain-like substance that was good for a day.  On the sixth day the manna lasted two days allowing them to rest on the seventh day.     

Slaves and The Scarcity Mentality

But some people went out on the seventh day to collect manna anyways even though God told them they wouldn’t find any.  Why? Because these people were former slaves from Egypt and they still thought like slaves. They were used to being mistreated. They couldn’t imagine having a day of rest. They couldn’t imagine a God that would provide for them double on day six so they could rest on day seven.  They were used to being fed scraps and going hungry.

They fended for themselves. They cheated, they stole, they hoarded…they did whatever they needed to survive because they didn’t think anyone was looking out for them.  They were convinced that they had to provide for themselves. They had  a scarcity mentality. They believed that there was only one “pie” and so they needed to work extra hard to make sure they g0t their piece of the pie to survive.

My dad grew up in the depression and it was very much the same kind of mentality.  The Depression trained him to believe that if you were going to survive you needed to worry and work all the time. You couldn’t rest or you might not survive.  With all due respect to my dad, he thought like a slave. Slaves live in fear and wear themselves out making sure they survive.

Sabbath and The Abundance Mentality

In our culture that never ceases; Sabbath is a crazy idea.  But Sabbath can only be celebrated by those who have an abundance mentality. They believe that they can afford to rest, rejuvenate and worship one day a week without losing ground. In their thinking, ceasing one day a week actually ADDS to their life. They don’t worry about getting their piece of the pie because they know that God is making new pies all the time!

What about you? Do you focus on what you have or what you don’t have?

Developing An Abundance Mentality

Someone asked me recently how to develop an abundance mentality. Here are three suggestions;

  1. Focus on what you have and be thankful rather than on what you don’t have and complain.
  2. Reflect on all the things that God has made an abundance of; stars, planets, fish, lakes, seeds, etc.
  3. Read and meditate on Bible stories that give examples of God’s abundance. Reflect on how your story might turn from scarcity to abundance if you simple changed your perspective.

Question: What else can you do to develop an abundance mentality? Leave your comment below.

  • The Difference Between a Scarcity and Abundance Mentality (readingremy.com)
  • Two Tribes: Scarcity & Abundance (sanderssays.typepad.com)
  • Shame and Sabbath (readingremy.com)

Sabbath and Shame in Conflict

Shame and Sabbath

Overcoming Shame and Finding Sabbath Rest

I’m doing some study on the Sabbath. God created the Sabbath to help us to stop and reflect…to enjoy all that God has given us and not continually striving for more.

It occurred to me that there is a connection between shame and not taking a Sabbath rest. Hurt/shamed people are often driven people. They seek to prove their worth,  make up for past regrets, and show that they aren’t as hopeless as they feel.

Sabbath is God’s Offer to Cease Striving

In contrast to the driven life, God calls us to cease. To rest and hear his voice. Rather than chase the approval of the world he wants us to hear him speak about his unconditional love for us.  You see, you aren’t approved for what you’ve done through your striving. You are approved for who you arehis child.

God speaks in the Bible and says “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.  Maybe you are afraid to cease. Maybe you are afraid to stop, rest and listen for fear of what you will hear. You are afraid you will hear a voice of judgment and condemnation. But if that’s what you hear, it’s not God.  The voice you hear might be your own voice or the voice of your parents or other people telling you to do more, work harder, make something of yourself. But it’s not God.

Sabbath Overcomes Shame

Listen harder. Listen closer. Beneath all the busyness is a voice calling you to Himself, calling you to wholeness simply by finding your identity in Him. But if you want to hear that voice then stop and listen. That’s what Sabbath is about.

Shame can undermine Sabbath. Or Sabbath can overcome shame. Which will you choose?

Question: Are you able to stop and rest in God’s presence or are you driven to prove yourself to God and others? Leave your comment below.