Benefits of Taking a Break from Ministry
There I was getting out of my car – it was sometime this past week during my vacation on a blistering afternoon after having spent about two hours in the gym – heading into Albertson’s, a local grocery store, to pick up a few items for the house when this blog post idea hit me.
So I quickly grabbed my phone, entered my pass code, and selected the “Notes” app (I’ve learned to write things down when they come to me and not try to remember them until I get home to jot them down. A lot of ideas have been lost because of my failure to capture them in the moment. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t recall them later.).
By the time I finished running my quick errand and getting back into my car to head home, I noted five benefits for taking a break (i.e., a vacation) from local church ministry (this list is by no means exhaustive or even groundbreaking, but I pray it is helpful nonetheless).
Taking a break from ministry:
1. Recovers my physical and mental strength
Pretty obvious, I know. But you will be surprised – or maybe not – to know that many people come back to ministry work just as tired as they left because they didn’t truly use their vacation time to rest from the demands of ministry and to do things that would replenish their energy.
I must confess: this go around I slipped a bit and read and replied to emails. But I snapped out of it due in part to a loving reminder from one of my ministry leaders that I needed to stay away from email and enjoy my time off.
At about the midway point of my vacation, I started to get that “itch” of wanting to get back involved. Many of you know what I’m talking about because you too have felt it while on your break. But if we are to maximize our time away, we must prayerfully fight against that urge, and commit to doing things that will recharge our batteries, so that we can come back with full strength.
2. Reminds me that the church (and particularly my department: Christian Education) doesn’t revolve around me
As I was typing this point on my phone that day, it was as if the Holy Spirit just gently whispered to my soul: Remember it’s Jesus’ church, not yours or anybody else’s. He bought (with his own blood) and builds her (Acts 20:28; Matthew 16:18). He is the reason the church exists and continues to function.
This is such a life-giving, freeing, and loving truth! For our finite shoulders wouldn’t be able to bear the tremendous weight of responsibility to grow and sustain the church. We would be crushed to pieces!
What a wonderful, healthy dose of humility to our egos, which are predisposed to convincing us that the church (department, or ministry) wouldn’t make it or would be significantly hindered without us.
3. Reveals how well (or how poorly) I have equipped and empowered others for ministry
The effectiveness of the leadership development of our churches, departments, or ministries will likely be most clearly seen in our absence than in our presence. If the church, department, or ministry that we lead comes to a screeching halt when we are away, it is probably an indication that we haven’t done a good job of discipling others and deploying them in ministry.
If you come to discover that there are some gaping leadership holes in your church, department, or ministry, don’t see that as an utter failure. It is evidence of the grace of God in that He would allow you to see the holes, so that you can seek Him on how to fill them.
4. Recalibrates my soul towards Jesus as my life’s ultimate satisfaction, joy, and meaning
I’ve come to realize that over time I have a tendency to get off center of Jesus and begin to fundamentally derive my significance from ministry. Doing so is like becoming so fixated on the rays that we forget the Sun. The rays of ministry service and effectiveness are designed to direct our attention to the Son, The Lord Jesus, not away from Him. Simply put, Jesus is our life, not ministry.
Prayerfully stepping away momentarily from ministry made me even more keenly aware of my tendency to drift from Jesus and afforded me the space to sense the prompting of the Spirit to run back to him so that the idol of ministry that subtly tried to erect itself in my heart might once again be destroyed.
5. Reinvigorates my commitment to Jesus’ ministry
On one hand, taking a break from ministry reminds us that we are not indispensable. And yet on the other, it is a sweet joy to know that Jesus called us and the Holy Spirit has gifted us to serve His church. God doesn’t need us; He wants us! Our All-Sufficient, Sovereign God has determined that we would be valuable to Him and to His work in and through us, the church. What a staggering thought! May this revitalize our commitment to our Lord and His church.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service…” (1 Timothy 1:12; ESV)