“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NRSV)
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (Mark 1:36, 37 NRSV)
Traditionally summer has been the minister’s ‘down time’. Meetings stop, people are away, and things are quieter all around. For many years, ministers typically took all of their holidays in one large chunk. This meant that real rest could happen.
Then things changed:
- Cell phones meant ministers (and almost everyone else) could be accessed 24/7
- Email meant that you were never truly away
- People came to expect that their concerns would be addressed immediately
- Even if we could get away from work physically, emotional distance was much harder to achieve
And then came Covid.
Over the past month or so I have had repeated conversations with church leaders who have not had time off since the pandemic began. They are literally at the end of their ropes.
Tori and I are similarly exhausted. While we have tried to be good stewards of our time and energy, we are aware of just how tired we really are. In June we took a week’s holidays and it actually took us two weeks to fit it in around emergent phone calls and meetings.
For many, physical tiredness is just the tip of the iceberg. Many are feeling burnt out with no place to turn to deal with it. This has affected relationships, ministry effectiveness and satisfaction, as well as general health and wellbeing.
I cannot say when this will all end, nor can I resolve all of the issues this article raises. However, I would like to address just one, the need for physical rest.
As I read the above passages of scripture, three things pop out at me:
- Jesus needed to get away. He needed to get away to pray and he needed to get away to rest. The words of Peter, ‘everyone is looking for you’ speaks to our condition as well as his.
- Jesus promises rest. We are weary and heavy laden. Jesus promises rest.
- You can’t have spiritual rest without physical rest.
I remember talking with a friend who was connected to a retreat centre. For years this establishment had offered week long retreats for clergy. More recently they have discovered that these same clergy needed to sleep for the first five days in order to even be able to consider any spiritual work.
This is all a way of recognizing that we are tired – very tired – and that the summer should hopefully be a chance to recharge our batteries.
I am aware that the summer is half way over but, I pray that you might recognize your own need for physical rest and might assert yourself to take it. No one knows what the fall will bring but, if there is a time to re-charge your batteries, now is it.
Tori and I will be taking the next three weeks off. During that time, we will only be available for emergencies. We will be doing our very best to also take an email sabbatical for this time.
Your ministry is a blessing. Please make sure that you are well rested and able to lead your flock. Please remember the adage; “put on your oxygen mask first.”
May God bless you in this season of rest.
John-Peter & Tori.
PS – Elders, please consider giving your minister some additional time off this year. They need it!