Four types of breaks you need to take

There are many reasons to take a break from ministry to recharge the batteries and clear your head.  If you know the purpose of your break before you depart then you will enjoy your time off and come back feeling refreshed.  If you are unclear about the purpose of your break then you feel frustrated and you will return feeling as tired as you were when you left.

Whilst you may not have time to take weeks off, you can take a short break over a weekend or take a few days off mid-week.  Here are four types of short breaks that you may take from ministry over a few days or even a week:

  1. Clean up – whilst this may not be everyone’s favourite break sometimes you need to take a break from ministry to clean up and take stock.  If this is the type of break you are seeking then you will be most happy tucked away in your workspace with no distractions.  Some people like to go through their work space or files to clean up months worth of clutter.  A short clean up break will help you clear your mind at the end of busy time or to prepare for a new season in the ministry.  People often take this type of break in late December or early January, but perhaps there is a better time of the year for you to take this break.
  2. Rest – perhaps you are running on empty and you could do with 15 hours of sleep.  This won’t be a very productive break so you need to prepare to get nothing done.  Some people take time off to rest then fill their days with cleaning or visiting friends then wonder why they still feel tired at the end of the break.  If you are run down and tired then sleep in each day and take an afternoon nap.  It can also be helpful to do some exercise in the afternoon to help get the blood flowing and oddly this will help you sleep better at night.  It is important to watch what you eat when you are resting and stay away from heavy foods and caffeine.
  3. Visiting – sometimes you go through seasons when you don’t see anyone outside your ministry, then you are in need of a visiting break. Take a break to catch up with friends and family.  Unlike the resting break, if you are visiting friends then you will fill your day with appointments to see people.  Unlike the person who has shut themselves away to declutter, you want to get out and see people.  You will get energy from other people but avoid people who connected with the ministry.  Perhaps you need to turn off your ministry mobile and focus on the conversations of the people in front of you.
  4. Get away – every once in a while we need to escape by going away.  Some people have found that they never fully switch off if they are in the same city as their ministry, others the same state as their ministry.  Some leaders need to get away to a different culture so that it highlights the environment that they minister in.  If this is your need then it is a little more expensive so save those penny’s.  Perhaps there may even be someone in your ministry that owns a holiday home, caravan or tent.

Whilst you might tend to spend your holidays doing one of these types of break, we actually need all four types of breaks within our annual calendar.  If you balance your time throughout the year across all four types of breaks then you will feel refreshed and prevent burn out.

Michael Hyatt has a podcast and article where he talks in more depth about knowing the purpose of your vacation, which would also be helpful to check  out.  Michael outlines a few important steps before you leave on a break which I encourage you to look at.

If you have any tips on taking a break please share your ideas with other by leaving a comment in the area below.

markoffaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, MarkofFaith

Sabbatical – Part 2 – Rest

When I moved cities from Sydney to Melbourne late in 2011, I planned to have at least four months off full time work. There was so much that I wanted to accomplish in my time off, but as I wrote in a previous post I wanted to see it as a Sabbatical as well. There were so many things that I wanted to do and see. I planned to go to coffee shops everyday and write, read and plan for the next phase of my life. I wanted to explore this new city, meet lots of people and build connections. Yet in just the second week into the move I got sick and had to sleep most of the week. My third week was not that productive either and I told myself it was just the colder melbourne weather. In the following weeks I got frustrated with myself for not doing enough, I thought that I was “wasting time”. This sense of wanting to “do” so much now that I wasn’t working full time would have continued had it not been for one passage of scripture:

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11

It seems that God not only rested from His good work but granted rest to those who were faithful to Him. In my plans for the four months off full-time work I had forgotten to allow for God to grant me rest. My plans were so much about continuing the work that I had done over the past 20 years of ministry. It seems that the adrenaline of doing ministry was preventing me from resting in God, which means a rest from doing the work of ministry. In order to really understand my sabbatical I had to understand rest and enter a time of sabbath rest.

There are a few things that I learnt about rest since being on sabbatical over the past four months:

  1. If we trust in God we take a break – looking back on the last few years of ministry I failed to take a break because I thought I needed to keep the momentum going. In reality I was keeping the ministry in my hands rather than handing it over to God. If we really believe that our ministry will fall apart if we take a break then we are showing no trust in God. The quickest way to burn out is believing this “season” is too busy to take a break.
  2. We need to detox from the urgent – looking back on my ministry I realised that the urgent drew me in as it is exciting. It is exciting to get into things than need to be done “right now”. Sometimes we need to see the eternity of God and detox from the adrenaline buzz of the urgent parts of ministry.
  3. We are more than what we produce – sometimes in ministry I felt that I wasn’t accomplishing anything, that the ministry wasn’t working. Yet when I look at it through Gods eyes, God was growing me as a person. God was achieving more in me than through me. Since looking back I now realise that I am more loved by God for who I am than what I achieve for His Kingdom.
  4. If God wants to achieve something, it will get done – who am I to think that God needs me or the church will fall over? There is an arrogance in the thinking that I have to achieve everything right now, perhaps I need to be more in tune with God’s timing than the desires of my own heart. Looking back over the past few months I have discovered that God’s timing is perfect, I was just too busy doing ministry to see that.

So that is just a little bit of what I have learnt since being on Sabbatical. In the past four months I haven’t been to as many coffee shops or done as much writing or built as many projects as I thought I might, but God has strengthened me through the sabbath rest that He has granted me. Looking back I see this past four months as a great blessing.

Whilst I have learnt these few things I am still not out of the woods. The challenge is to implement what I have learnt when I get back to work and back to ministry. In the coming months I will begin the real difficult time of trying to regularly enter sabbath rest when ever ministry gets “busy”. My one encouragement for you and for me as life gets busy is to take a weekly sabbath rest. Perhaps it can’t be Sunday as you are working, but find some time in your week to stop doing and listen to who God is helping you to be.

Please leave a comment on how you have rested during the busy times in ministry. What do you do to relax and enter into God’s rest?

Sabbatical – Part 1

Being a Somebody

As a leader have you ever been in the situation where a person knows your name and this is the first time you have met them face to face?  Have you every introduced yourself and when you said where you worked the other person nodded like they knew the church or ministry?  Have you ever been in a situation where you are presenting to a room full of people and as they all leave they tell you they enjoyed your talk but you have no idea who any of them are?  Have you ever been in a meeting and the person running the meeting turns to you specifically to ask you your opinion?  If you have been in any of these situations then it seems you might be a “somebody”.

It seems that as leaders, especially in ministry, we can be known by more people than we know. 

I always thought that I lead with humility but since being on sabbatical for the past four months it seems that I had come to expect that people knew who I was.  There is a little bit of pride in me every time somebody knows who I am, it tells me that I am important.  I like being in a room full of leaders and the facilitator turning to me to ask for my opinion.  Whilst I thought that I handled it well, be in a new city where nobody knew me, it taught me there is a little bit of pride and arrogance in me.

Being a “Nobody”

Over the past four months nobody has known who I was.  I haven’t run into a single person who knew my name before I had met them.  The closest that I had come was when I have been called “Jesse’s Dad” or “Aidan’s Dad” at the boys school.  Since coming to Melbourne I have deliberately introduced myself as a stay-at-home-dad so that I learn the humility of being a person, not a position.

It has been hard being in situations where I would love to share my opinion and nobody calls on me.  Or meeting people at church and when they find I am new to the parish they treat me like I am new to Christianity.  It came be refreshing to not know anything about anything.

The Blessing of being “Nobody” on Sabbatical

There are three things that I have learnt from being a “nobody” here in Melbourne:

  1. I am a person not a position – it seems that I had pride in being a position.  Perhaps I was hiding behind the position so that others knew me first; letting me of the hook of having to make the first move to get to know someone.
  2. Everyone has something to share – now that I have been the person in the room with something to share but no position to share it, I have learnt how valuable the opinions and experience of the group are, not just the positional leaders.
  3. Listen more than you talk – I have sat back and done a lot of listening over the past four months.  I have learnt more than I did in the previous 12 months where I talked more than I listened.

Perhaps you won’t get a chance to have your own sabbatical anytime soon.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting more of my learning’s from my sabbatical.  Whilst my sabbatical has not been as structured as an academic sabbatical, it has been four months where I have been intentional about listening to God (read more here in Sabbatical – Introduction).  Perhaps you might learn something for your leadership position or your ministry.

Please leave a comment, especially if you would like to know specific about my sabbatical that I write in a future post.

Sabbatical – An Introduction

In September of 2011 I finished up working in the Diocese of Broken Bay as a Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator, basically a Ministry Consultant to 30 churches.  Whilst I loved the job, my family and I were moving from Sydney to Melbourne so that my wife could take a promotion.  After almost 16 years in full time ministry it was time for me to take a break.  In fact it was the first time in almost 22 years that I wasn’t doing any ministry outside my family, not even a small volunteer role in a ministry.

It was important for me to take the opportunity to “revive my dropping spirit”.  It was also important for me to spend some time as a dad helping my boys settle into their new schools and anew city.  So I didn’t want to do the usual academic sabbatical where there is a structured program but I also didn’t want to do nothing either.  It was important for me to call this time a “sabbatical” so that I would give these four months the importance they deserved.

Over the past four months I have needed to waste some time, I needed to have the afternoon siesta or watch too much TV.  But I have also been listening very carefully to God.  During the last project I was doing inSydneyI heard God say “don’t worry about what is next because I will tell you in Melbourne.”  Now that I was in Melbourne I wanted to explore everything that God had in store for me.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting more of my learning’s from my sabbatical, you can read Part One here.  Whilst my sabbatical has not been as structured as an academic sabbatical, it has been four months where I have been intentional about listening to God.  Perhaps you won’t get a chance to have your own sabbatical anytime soon so you might pick up something for your leadership position or your ministry from my experience.

Please leave a comment, especially if you would like to know specific about my sabbatical that I could write in a future post.

  1. Sabbatical – Part One
  2. Sabbatical – Part Two