Some of the most valuable time in your church is your time. What you do with it matters, and there’s no shortage of things to do. But what if I told you that you could do more with less?
Almost two years ago, God began expanding the mission and ministry of our church plant into a one-church-in-multiple-locations format. This meant taking on another location with more staff members, more people and more ministry. This also meant more issues to resolve, more coffees to have, more people to manage and more vision to cast for what God was calling us to do.
The “more” aspect was a little overwhelming for me because I already felt like I didn’t have enough time in the day, week, month and year to accomplish all I felt God calling me to do. I had a 2-year-old church plant, a wife who works full-time as a public school teacher and four very active kids, each of whom was pulling for time as well. I was already busy, exhausted and burning the candle at both ends, leaving no time for rest.
Having been in ministry for 10 years at that point, I realized no one had taught me a simple, practical command that we see in Scripture countless times: doing more with less. We know this principle as “Sabbath.” My guess is that no one has really taught you how to sabbath either.
Let us not be mistaken: Even though we have not been practically taught how to sabbath, we still know the truth behind it. We have to remember that the command for us to sabbath lies in God’s Top 10, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11). The very nature of this command comes from God’s creation of the universe and the example He set. The principle of resting once every seven days is woven into the fabric of the universe – and should be woven into our lives as well.
No matter how busy, no matter how much you have on your plate, no matter the responsibility God’s given you, the truth is that if God needed a Sabbath and Jesus took the Sabbath, then so should we.
If you’re like me though, your mind immediately begins to list all the stuff you must accomplish. You begin to process how you can possibly complete what you’re trying to do. I also think about that all the time but, if I’m being honest, those thoughts are placed there by my own doing. The pressure I feel is self-inflicted. The reality is that God does not need me to do anything for Him. God certainly can accomplish what He desires without me working on it seven days a week. If I think I can’t accomplish what God desires me to accomplish in six days, then I’m essentially placing myself as more important or busier than God.
I would say it this way, if you think you can’t afford to sabbath because of your schedule, I don’t think you can afford not to sabbath. We teach our people this about tithing, right? When someone says “I can’t afford to tithe,” we quickly tell them that because it’s a command by God, they can’t afford not to. The same is true with Sabbath. I heard one pastor say it this way recently: “The sabbath is to your schedule what the tithe is to your budget.”
So as our family and team entered our new multisite venture, I made the decision to stop putting off God’s command about the Sabbath and make it a regular practice and metric in my personal dashboard to gauge my overall health. In the past two years, I can honestly say that I’ve done more with less time than I had before taking on new responsibilities!
So, practically speaking, let me give you three principles you can put in place so you also can do more with less.
1. Schedule your Sabbath
We know the old adage, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” If you don’t schedule your Sabbath, I promise you that your time will schedule it away from you. We schedule doctors’ appointments, dentist appointments, car repairs and important meetings with elders, deacons, congregants and more. We also should schedule our Sabbath. I know what you might be thinking: “A whole day!?” Yes, that’s right. I think you should schedule a whole day, but don’t hear what I’m not saying. I think you also can schedule blocks of time if you don’t have the availability to schedule an entire day.
If you cannot schedule a full day, then schedule two half-days. If two half-days can’t be set, then mark three or four blocks of time throughout the week. I think the intention of the heart is what’s important here. Find time throughout the week when you can simply stop, rest and reflect on all God has done for you and is doing through you. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, CSB). If you are finding that you don’t have the time for even scheduling blocks of time, then my charge to you would be that you need to evaluate all you are doing and see where you can develop others to help you and hand away ministry, so you’re able to follow the command of God. Simply stated, even if you don’t have the time, you still need to push other things aside to find ways to rest in the Lord throughout your week. God can still accomplish what he needs to without you exhausting yourself.
2. Stick to it
People will always vie for your time. They’ll ask you for coffee, they’ll ask you for a meal or they’ll ask you to do something for them. Pastor/leaders, when someone asks you to “violate” your Sabbath to the Lord, take it as seriously as someone asking you to take the Lord’s name in vain (Ex. 20:3), have idols before the Lord (Ex. 20:4), commit murder (Ex. 20:13) or adultery (Ex. 20:14) or steal (Ex. 20:15). According to the “Top 10,” these are all serious in God’s eyes and we should take them all just as seriously. We should stick to our Sabbath in the same way we stick to being committed to our spouses and valuing life.
You must guard your schedule and stick to what God has laid out for you. Emergencies will come and you’ll have to pull your ox out of the well (Luke 14:5), but when you set your schedule and attempt to stick to it as best you can, you’ll succeed more times than you fail. The question you have to ask yourself is, “If emergencies happen regularly, how good am I at managing my schedule?” If, week after week, another emergency arises or something very important is taking my time, am I a good steward of the time God is giving me? Another question to ask is whether it actually is an emergency – or do I just like to be needed? Pastor/leader, guard your Sabbath as much as you guard family time, God time or preparation time, because if God set the example for a needed rest, you need one as well.
3. Set the example
When we scour through social media, look at trending research on church attendance and have conversations in “pastor circles,” it doesn’t take long for conversations to surface about those not regularly attending church. We make note of our people not in our services due to ball games, trips to the mountains and lakes and other avenues that are important to them. I often wonder what example they have for keeping a Sabbath. If pastors are not having the example set for them – and thus are not setting the example for others – what do we expect from the people we’re shepherding?
We, as pastors and leaders, must set the example for our people to keep the Sabbath holy and to do more with less. We must live the example Paul sets to “imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” Christ sets the example. Christ needed rest. Christ regularly got away to be alone with the Father. So should we.
The Sabbath is a gift to you. The Sabbath is a gift for spiritual and physical refreshment. As you lead, as you guide, as you direct, as you cast vision, as you discern, as you teach, as you do so much more, not only do you need the gift of the Sabbath, but your people need you to have and use this gift.
Published March 1, 2023