It’s so hard. Balancing the voices in our heads to run, do, accomplish, achieve, build, grow, keep up, advance; all these and more can lead to anxiety, discouragement and disillusionment. We hear it from friends, family, social media, our bosses, television, on and on. Sadly, many also hear it in church. Yes, we are to work while it is still “day,” for “night” is coming (Heb. 3:13), but are we ever challenged to rest and wait upon the Lord?
Many churches have built huge activity machines, which aren’t all that bad, but have some forsaken the need to build a sanctuary, a place of respite and rest? As we grow ourselves, our families, our ministries and our church let us not forget to establish a place of peace and calm, a safe harbor of connection more than a culturally relevant center of activity. People long for and need a place to be as much as a space to do. Here are 4 ways to intentionally pace ourselves to that end:
1. Model and teach rest as a value.
Model rest in your own life. Observe a weekly Sabbath. Keep your phone on silent and check it two to three times a day at the most. But for this to stick, it has to be a deep change, not just a quick fix. Take a more deliberate approach to Sunday morning, being present with people rather than settling into the role of the frenzied church worker on the run. Plan ahead and be disciplined in your preparation. That will give you the ability to slow down and see people as people.
Take a hiatus from your smart phone, media, computer, TV or anything that has you bound, and wound tightly. Schedule downtime and guard it like you would a doctor’s appointment. You may just avoid some of those with better health. Remember that stress promotes disease in the body, mind and soul.
The response may be immediate and overwhelming, how the new value of rest impacts your life and those around you. Are you tired, burned out, and filled with anxiety? Take the initiative to be the change you want to see, by slowing down and setting a new pace. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.
2. Clarify your personal and ministry vision.
Keep the important things like prayer, God’s Word, authenticity, reaching the lost and discipleship; perhaps adding fun, and play. Be careful to trim the dead work and fruitless areas, or other places that steal joy and rest for the sake of being/looking busy.
See if the changes promote a relaxed atmosphere and cause remembrance of why you were called to ministry and service in the first place. Perhaps you can experience growth and results far beyond goals you may have had the spiritual hubris to set. Intentionally living out primary values may allow us to exceed the limitations of setting and striving toward established goals.
Once you set the vision of purposeful rest, decide to remove anything within your schedule that gets in the way of that vision. Few things tarnish the sacred like noise and chaos, so cut anything that results in these aggravations. Determine if the physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of your activities are worth the reward.
3. Empower and equip people.
Let’s be clear: rest is not death. Rest means working wiser, not harder. We still believe that a small local church can change the world, and we aim to do so. To become a local church with global impact, we know we have to empower our people to become the mechanism of change. The church is a place to replenish us for our journey, rather than the destination.
Doing fewer organized events as a church frees us to focus on equipping people to do more in our own community. This encourages church leaders and volunteers to shift our focus and energy toward our personal living spaces. Rather than highlighting all the amazing things we were doing as a church, we turn the spotlight towards individuals doing simple yet profound work in their corners of the world.
4. Make church community simple.
Finally, as a church, we make the most crucial services as simple as possible for our congregation. We make our midweek worship/prayer gathering as a bridge between Sundays, as well as a sanctuary to recharge during the fray and business of the work week. Most importantly, we were striving to relieve the pressure from our people’s schedules rather than add to it.
Our hope is that we have a community running at a sustainable and life-giving speed. We have the margin and space to engage beyond the temporal, knowing that while speed might be exhilarating, it keeps us from seeing and experiencing the important things of life and ministry. We try not to move at a turtle’s pace, but we do trust that in slowing down, looking around, listening, and being steady in the work, we won’t end up like the jack rabbit, exhausted and sleeping, in a ditch on the side of the road.