I was only a couple of years into ministry and already on the verge of burn out. As the director of a youth outreach organization, my job often involved early morning breakfast meetings with donors, followed by administrative duties throughout the morning and early afternoon. Most of my direct time with high school and middle school students started in the late afternoon, followed by a slew of evening events.
I worked around the clock, and no one—including myself—batted an eye. Ministry can, after all, be the job that seemingly never ends. However, it is also the job that combines head and heart—the job we can’t imagine not doing.
Then I had a conversation that changed me.
Lamenting the burdensome schedule of ministry to a friend who pastored a local church, he gave me the following advice—break your day into thirds. As Andrew had learned from a mentor, in order to run the marathon of ministry, you have to break your day into smaller segments. Otherwise, it’s too easy to work yourself into the ground, as I had already begun to do.
“Think of your day in terms of three parts—morning, afternoon, and evening,” he told me. “If you know you have a couple of morning meetings and a nighttime event, keep the afternoon sacred.” He encouraged me to think of each day’s segment in terms of four-hour periods of time. Although it wasn’t rocket science, this made sense to me because a normal workday is ideally made up of 8 hours—not 12—as had been the case with me.
His sage advice stayed with me throughout my time in ministry. On program nights, oftentimes I would still be “going” at ten o’clock at night, so I had to learn how to rest at other times throughout the day. I would schedule meetings and complete administrative tasks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and purposefully return home, go to the gym, or visit a friend in the afternoon hours. Then, I could easily return to work at 5 p.m., ready to go for another five hours. Likewise, if I had early morning prayer meetings or pancake breakfasts, I would try my hardest not to schedule evening meetings. I knew I wasn’t going to be at my best after 12 hours on the job, and owed it to everyone—myself included—to rest appropriately.
Staying Put Long Term
Wherever you find yourself in ministry, creating spaces of rest in your day, week, month, and year is imperative to long-term sustainability in the church.