Do you take a day off? Before you answer, let me define the term. A day off is not arriving at the office late on Monday morning. Nor is it spending a half-day blogging every once in a while. Nor is a day off catching up on the reading you need to do for a class, sermon series, or committee. I mean taking a day to unplug, unwind, and just be.
Running on empty is a great song, but a terrible way to do ministry. You and I were called to ministry, and staff ministry specifically, because we are giving people. We want to serve the people around us and give what we have to others. So we might mistakenly think it selfish to take time for ourselves. As I have written previously, one the more important things we can do for the people we serve is to take care of ourselves. There is only so much to give, so we need time to recharge.
With that in mind, I’m trying to get better at my day off, Thursday. I used to spend a lot of the time writing this blog and other projects, watching TV, and reading work-related material. But now the days are getting warmer and I can spend time riding my motorcycle, one of my favorite things to do. Last week, I started south from my house with no destination in mind until I was about an hour from home. I wound up spending seven hours riding, stopping, having coffee, walking, enjoying creation, eating lunch, reading, communing with God, and enjoying roads I had not ridden before.
Some of you are thinking, “All that time alone sounds like torture.” You, my friend, are not an introvert. We introverts have what I call a “people meter.” When the people meter reads full we become drained and need time alone to “recharge.” A day on the motorcycle works for me. You need to find what works for you.
I can say it “worked” because Friday was an especially busy day at the office. In addition to our typical Friday tasks, we had a funeral at the church for one of our members. I was a little sunburned, but I was ready to go. I was also happy, rested, and my “people meter” was empty. I was able to get through the tasks I don’t find stimulating, and had the energy to be with people again.
My phone rang during my walk on Thursday. Caller ID said it was from a company I deal with for youth ministry. I let it go to voicemail and dealt with it the next day. When asked to meet with someone on my day off, I simply say I cannot, either confessing it is my day off or saying I have another commitment. I do, to myself, and to God. I have my day off in my calendar, and I continue to work at protecting it.
Taking a day of Sabbath is not a suggestion, it is part of the rhythm of creation, a command from God. We are called to work and to rest. Running on empty is not an effective way to do ministry. Give your all every day – except your day off. Use that so there is more to give again next week.
Don’t wait until you are running on empty to recharge. Schedule it. Protect it. Use it.