This is the first of two articles on the importance of “re-creation” in the life of those in dedicated Christian ministry. The first article will cover the importance of rest; the second, recess and renewal. Excerpts are taken from Preventing Ministry Failure by Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffmann. Copyright (c) 2007 by Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com
To be at our best physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, we must engage in re-creation—a necessary and God-intended part of the human experience that “re-creates” the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources we’ve expended in the pursuit of our calling. Without replenishing internal resources, we can’t hope to carry out God’s purpose in our lives long-term. Instead, we will prematurely flame out.
To think of re-creation in more practical terms, consider its three significant facets: rest, recess and renewal.
Rest refers to the physical repair and rebuilding of the body and mind. When we exert ourselves physically or mentally, we ache for the restoration of our energies. Even the emotional stress of sedentary work requires subsequent rest for the body and mind to recuperate.
Our first inclination for understanding rest might be to identify it with either physical inactivity or the ceasing of physical exertion. But the concept of rest is much more than merely not working. Remember Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31)? The disciples were so excited by all their ministry activity and the throngs of people seeking their attention that they hadn’t even taken the time to eat. Jesus led them to a place of quietness because he saw their fatigue and knew they needed downtime. Jesus knows our need for rest. He sees behind our masks and into the depths of our weariness. We can ask him to help us recognize the value of rest in our regular routine.
Ministry can be a demanding and draining business. We won’t survive long by spending twenty-four hours a day with people who are always taking from us. Those who subconsciously believe they are called into 24/7 ministry are often the ones who become disillusioned and angry when their expectations are shattered. Then they wonder why God doesn’t give them the ability to continue ministering. The reason is simple: they’re not withdrawing into restorative activities and relationships that fill them up. Periodically, we must be willing to take time for rest away from people who need us. God didn’t design us as maintenance-free beings. Like the Garden of Eden and everything else in the created order, we must be properly maintained.
What are some practical ways of resting? For starters, we can take an afternoon nap. It’s amazing how much clearer our mind can think with as little as ten to fifteen minutes of nap time. Even if we’re unable to fall asleep completely, stopping what we’re doing to close our eyes for even a few minutes can alter our state of consciousness, causing us to relax and restoring a bit of physical energy. As prime minister of England, Winston Churchill took daily naps.
Take a day off and don’t fill it with work around the house: sleep an extra hour on a day off; go to a local coffee shop and read the paper; take a walk with a friend or loved one around the neighborhood and talk about anything but work or family obligations; read a good book for pleasure (rather than in preparation for a sermon or other ministry); sit in a favorite chair and listen to favorite music; go to dinner with intimate friends or family; write in a journal—there are as many ideas for rest as there are unique people in the world. The only way for us to find out what’s restful to us is by trying something we think could be restful.
The actual implementation of rest into a busy schedule requires planning and perseverance. Most ministers’ schedules aren’t a nine-to-five operation. We don’t have to feel guilty about scheduling additional rest time on a weekday morning when we will be working that evening. It’s just wise planning and healthy self-care, taking the downtime necessary to be at our best. If unhealthy expectations exist concerning our “on call” or “office” hours, we might discuss them openly with our leadership team to help them understand our actions as making our ministry more effective over the long-term.