As a pastor, your job is more than a “job”—it’s a way of life. Even if you have set hours, you probably feel like you’re on call 24/7. With the majority of your time spent with staff, in meetings, researching, writing, and in services…do you ever feel like you don’t have any time to yourself?
You’re not alone.
A high percentage of pastors experience burnout—some early on (5-10 years) and some after 15-20 years. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While there are several factors that come into play regarding burnout and a general feeling of indifference, some of the biggest (and sadly most overlooked) reasons are a lack of personal time, lack of perceived personal growth, and lack of support from other staff regarding self-care.
Somewhere along the way we decided that there is no greater sacrifice and show of love than to put others first. Some churches even tell their staff that the church and church job should come before their family—with predictable long-term effects. And some churches even make a fuss about—or deny altogether—requests for sabbatical…even if it was part of the hiring process and package.
But that’s not how it should be. Not at all.
When Jesus said to love others as you love yourselves in Mark 12:29, He didn’t mean that you should love others first at the expense of your health, sanity, and family. He meant that in order to love others well, you have to love yourself first! So here are some quick tips to help you take your “off time” back.
- Change your perception first. Your personal time shouldn’t be seen as a selfish act. Your personal time is necessary to your health, your growth, and your ministry. Even Jesus went away to be with Himself.
- Pick a date and stick to it. At least once a quarter, take one or two days (preferably two) to get away and unwind. Once you put it on the calendar, do not change it unless there’s a (life or death) emergency. Want to make sure you keep it? Book a room in advance somewhere. Put your money where your mouth is.
- Hug a tree. Take a day a week (or a half-day to start) and go spend several hours in nature. Hikes through the woods or long walks by water are calming. Make sure you turn off your phone during this time so you can hear yourself think and experience the beauty around
- Take that sabbatical! Whether it is a few weeks, a few months, or an entire year, take the time and make the most of it. And don’t feel guilty! If your leadership resists your request for your hard-earned sabbatical, you can either help them see why time off is important—or you could consider looking for another position.
- Run your errands, not your mouth. You’ll bump into church members on your days off. Be as polite as you normally would be, but let them know you have a meeting you have to get to. That meeting is with yourself—for the entire day!
If you aren’t well rested, refueled, and inspired, you won’t be able to do your best in any of your roles—whether at church or at home. So reclaim your off time and enjoy the newfound peace of mind that comes with it.