Best Practices for a Pastor’s Day Off

By Noah Oldham

Pastor, we know you need rest. Here are three simple ways to better care for yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually as you invest in what matters most.

Church planters have so much to plan. They plan worship services. They plan missional events. They make plans for groups, future ministries, and the process of finding and utilizing meeting spaces. Amidst all this planning, there’s often one important aspect of their lives that goes unplanned: a day off. And just like all the other aspects of our lives in church planting, we’re sure to find out very quickly that if something goes unplanned, it almost certainly won’t be all that we want or need it to be.

I planted a church 15 years ago. And over the past decade and a half, I have gotten a lot of things wrong. But by God’s grace, many of those missteps and mistakes turned into lessons learned for me and for others, too. Here are three categories that I’ve learned every planter needs to pursue on his day off.

1. Pay back where you’ve borrowed from

Time is a limited resource. We can’t add any more to our days, week, or even lives. So, in our busiest seasons of focusing more time and attention on ministry, we are truly “borrowing” time from something else. What are those areas, specifically? In my experience as a church planter and a leader of church planters, it’s most likely from your family. Family meals are rushed, time in the morning is scarce, and evenings and weekends are filled with meetings and hosting people at your house. You may be around your family or even with your family for all of this, but the time isn’t theirs. Days off are a great time to pay it back. Take your kids out for donuts. Spend time playing games. Watch movies and ask good questions about the plot and characters. Get individual time with each family member to do a heart check-in.

Another area we tend to borrow time from–whether we like to admit it or not–is time with the Lord. Maybe you’re bi-vocational or co-vocational. Even if you’re not, the best time to meet with people is before and after the workday. Yet, in doing so, your Bible reading gets cut short, and your prayer time is on the run. Sure, you get time in the Word, but it’s generally when you’re preparing for a sermon. You’ll listen to a worship song long enough to love it, and next thing you know, you’re texting your worship leader to check it out and add it to the set. Without trying to, we borrow time from our personal walks with the Lord and trade it for our busy lives. So, days off are a great time to pay it back. Get alone with Scriptures and read until you’re satisfied. Pray until your mind is finally empty. Worship. Don’t just sing or listen to music; really worship. Jesus modeled this for us. It seems that especially after His busiest days and seasons, He knew that what He needed was to get alone in a desolate place and spend time with His Father.

2. Fill up where you’re running empty

Not only is time a limited resource, but so is your energy. Church planting is high-octane. High levels of caffeine and adrenaline are two prerequisites to get you through the grind. But your body, like any machine–no matter how finely crafted– needs maintenance, or it will eventually come to a grinding halt. A day off is a great time to fill up in the areas where you’re beginning to run empty.

Here are three practices that I’d encourage every planter to add to their life, especially on their days off:

  • Sleep in. The average adult still needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night to perform at his best. Let’s be honest, you’re not getting that. And every time you come up short, you’re taking on the next day (or days) at a deficit. One day of sleeping in a couple of extra hours can help reset your body, including your central nervous system, which is connected to everything else. Without early meetings or somewhere to be, get to bed early and plan to wake up later than usual.
  • Eat full, home-cooked meals. Church planting calls for a lot of life “on the go.” You’re grabbing fast food, doing lunch and coffee meetings at restaurants, or grabbing “snacks” while in transit. Our bodies were meant to function with the right balance of micro and macro nutrients. We don’t get those from “bars” and “shakes,” no matter what the label says. And we surely don’t get that from food that comes in a paper bag. (No, Chick-fil-A doesn’t even get a pass!) So, on your days off, because you have extra time, eat meals that you prepare at home. Take your time. Use fresh ingredients that were alive in the past few days.
  • Our bodies weren’t meant to sit in meetings all day. They weren’t meant to hunch over a computer or our commentaries. They were meant to move. And when they don’t, the strangest thing happens. It gets harder and harder to get them moving. We find ourselves tired, sore, and achy when we haven’t even done much. The opposite is true as well. The more we move our bodies through healthy exercise, the more energy we have and the more freely our bodies move. Your day off is a great day to enjoy a great day of movement. Whether you’re a hiker, runner, or you like to hit the weights like me, use your day away from work as an opportunity to work your body in meaningful ways.

3. Maximize what ministry has minimized

You are more than what you do in your current ministry assignment. God has given you passions, giftings, hobbies and other responsibilities that offer you a large sense of rest, joy, and pride. Yet the demands of ministry mean that most, if not all these things, take a backseat to what is most urgent. Listen, there will always be another meeting you can have and another message to prepare for. And yes, as we all understand, Sunday is always coming. But, if ministry minimizes all the other good things of life, this calling that you cherish will be in danger of becoming something you resent as it drains and stands in the way of your joy.

Do you have a hobby? Give some time to it. Do you have a house project you’ve been wanting to tackle? Take the first step. Do you have a small side-hustle that gives you pride in using your hands or earning outside of ministry? Make room for it. Let me leave you with one more encouragement. Amidst all the areas of life that you’ve borrowed from, are probably running on empty in, and that ministry has probably minimized, the greatest (if this applies to you) is likely your marriage.

If you do nothing else (which I hope isn’t the case), use your day off to spend time with your wife. Sleep in, eat a healthy meal, spend some time playing with your kids (preferably in a way that fulfills your need for exercise), tackle a small yard project, and as the afternoon gives way to night, get dressed up and take your bride on a date. Or just sit together on the stoop or back porch. And in those moments together, thank God for all the ways He’s working in and through your ministry. But thank God for every other good gift. So, when another day off comes around, you’ll have those good gifts fresh on your mind.

Published February 14, 2024

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Church Planting voices.

Noah Oldham

Noah Oldham is Lead Pastor of August Gate Church, a church he planted in the St. Louis area in 2009. He currently serves as the Senior Director of Culture and Care for Send Network. Noah holds master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Leadership and is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. He writes, speaks, and trains in the areas of two of his greatest passions: preaching and physical fitness. Noah and Heather have been married since 2005 and have 5 children.