When You Should Call for a Ministry Time-Out

There are times when you simply must call a time-out from your ministry.
There are times when you simply must call a time-out from your ministry. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images )

I just talked to a highly effective yet exhausted pastor, who was looking for some ministry coaching on keeping a sustainable schedule. Many of my blog posts are inspired by questions like this from pastors, most of which also apply to other busy leaders.

This particular conversation happened to be on the same day I read Mark 6, a passage which finds Jesus and his apostles depleted after the funeral of John the Baptist.

"His disciples ... came and took up his corpse and laid it in a tomb. The apostles met with Jesus and told him everything, both what they had done and what they had taught. Then He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while,' for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So they went into a remote place privately by boat" (Mark 6:29-32). 

Jesus and his dozen apostles were exhausted from a ministry sprint that included a resurrection (Jairus' daughter), followed immediately by the execution of John the Baptist. One thing ministry peaks and valleys have in common is that they both leave us exhausted and in need of a recharge.

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Perhaps I've caught you at the end of a ministry sprint, and you are in much need of a time-out. I found a few practical reasons in this passage to do just that.

1. Take a time-out to assess your ministry. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught.

I don't know how many times I have experienced the burn of burnout, only to look on my calendar and see how long it had been since I took a real break from my ministry routine. If you have gone more than three months without taking a break from preaching or teaching, you will experience this burn.

Remember that you are an equipper who has been called to prepare others for ministry. If you are not equipping people for ministry, you are robbing them of it, and perhaps robbing yourself of an opportunity to recharge.

Who speaks into your schedule consistently? Allow a handful of people from your family and ministry and friendship circles to call a time-out for you when you become blind to your own limitations.

2. Take a time-out where nobody needs you. Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while... "So they went into a remote place privately ..." (Mark 6:32b).

I realize that this is much easier to write about than to do. Ironically, it usually takes some effort to get rested.

Intentional time-outs are usually a result of advance planning. Finding a remote cabin or retreat center that is accessible and affordable is something you probably don't have spare time to look into. Why not ask for help? Most of us belong to an association of churches or a denominational organization that can help you find a remote place.

3. Take a time-out to care for yourself. For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

Jesus called for a ministry time-out for one simple reason—they were tired.

Loving yourself is part of the Great Commandment and includes your heart, soul, mind and body.

Sometimes stress drives us to work through breakfast or lunch. I got into this stupid cycle a few years back and dropped to 167 pounds (I'm 6'1"). My normal work cycle had become a work cyclone, and I neglected my body. At other times, ministry stress has driven me to overeating. Having experienced 20-pound swings both ways, I can tell you that there was nobody to blame but myself for this neglect.

I believe that God may have directed you to this post for a reason. Not every pastor will read this, but I'm praying the right pastors and leaders will. I'm curious to know how you take a time-out from your ministry.

Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.

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