I recently had an eye-opening discussion with two faith leaders on the importance of rest and sabbatical for pastors.
We discussed church and leader burnout, the financial struggles of taking time off, and the stress of carrying the ministry load of pastoring without a break.
One of my guests, Rev. Yvette R. Blair, coined the term “the inverse of pastoral care.”
We’re all familiar with pastoral care. This is when a church pastor or ministry leader provides spiritual support and care for members of the congregation.
Pastoral care means a lot of things to different people. It can run the gamut of visiting members in their homes, hospitals, or nursing homes, to offering counseling and assistance during crisis or other difficulties, and much more.
But what does it look like for the congregation to care for the pastor? How can you perform pastoral care for your pastor instead of just the pastor consistently providing care for the congregation?
Why rest is important in ministry
To put it bluntly, pastors need rest. A recent Lifeway Research study on the Greatest Needs of Pastors considered some of the mental challenges pastors face in ministry.
While nearly half of pastors say discouragement (48%) and distractions (48%) are challenges they face, stress (63%) emerges as the number one challenge for pastors.
Are you wondering how you can help your pastor rest? Here are three ways.
Look for rest
As a congregation, you should look for others in the ministry or community – and whom the pastor trusts – who can preach and teach during certain seasons.
You should plan for moments throughout the year that we can set aside for the pastor to rest. And these seasons of rest for the pastor should not only occur during the summer months.
You can also look for conferences or groups that work to empower and encourage pastors as a way to provide them with rest.
The point here would be to have a group of leaders who consistently focus on looking for patterns and areas where the Pastor can rest.
Plan for rest
Years ago at a leaders’ conference I attended, one pastor shared that before the church calendar for the year was final, they would submit dates to the pastor’s spouse to make sure there weren’t any conflicts with the family calendar.
This is such a great idea! It allows the church house and the pastor’s house to coordinate with one calendar that plans for the pastor’s rest throughout the year.
Of course, even when the pastor intends to be out, the church must still move forward. This can happen easily with a solid ministerial staff and lay leaders who can bear the load of work while the pastor is away.
When you look for rest for your pastor and plan for their rest, the next step is to make sure that you allow them to rest. This might seem simple. Yet, it is crucial.
While your pastor is away on rest, things will happen and emergencies might occur.
However, please don’t let everything urgent be an emergency or a reason to contact your Pastor – even for a quick question.
Every time you contact them during rest, their focus shifts back to ministry. They then must restart their “rest clock.”
Even when you hang up, most pastors will still continue thinking about that issue, or another matter related to what you contacted them about.
Help your pastor rest
It’s essential to care for our pastors as they care for us throughout the year. How are you practicing the inverse of pastoral care for your pastor?
Check out my conversation “What is a Sabbatical” with Rev. Yvette Blair-Lavallais and Rev. Heber Brown III on Ministry Pivot.
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