Balancing productivity and non-productivity time in pastoral ministry is a great challenge. Unlike many other professionals pastors do not “punch” a time clock or bill for their time. A pastor is expected to be reasonably available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A phone call can alter plans which a pastoral family may have had scheduled for days, weeks, or even months. What margins or boundaries are non-negotiable? And how does a pastor maintain those boundaries? My experience has demonstrated that many well-meaning church folk will take advantage of the pastor’s time if boundaries are not announced and maintained. As a general rule Fridays and Saturdays are my two days off during the week. However, there is flexibility to my schedule. Some Fridays and/or Saturdays are my busiest times during the week. However, the church members understand generally I am unavailable on those days unless it is an emergency. It amazes me at what some folks call emergencies! I do try to compensate any time lost by taking additional time off. Saturdays are generally the day I observe as the Sabbath. On that day I try to rest, replenish, reflect, rejoice, and refocus. The key word is “try.” Over the years it has been a real struggle but I can report progress. Most of my days off are spent with my wife and children as family days. This is important time for me as I cherish the moments we share. It is nourishing to my soul and it provides time when we can minister to each other just by being together.
My wife and I like to go on dates! One of the things we try to do is not spend our time talking about church. Sometimes we are not successful. For me, it is a very difficult challenge to devote time for self-renewal because as pastor I am constantly thinking about the church. Through experience and through study I understand it is not healthy. As I stated earlier, it is a great challenge. Though I have been on several retreats or advances, I have never taken a Sabbatical. Perhaps, part of the reason is because there is a large part of me which struggles with being gone for extended periods of time. What I have experienced is if I am away from the church two Sundays the attendance seems to decline. It is certainly not me which keeps them coming. If it were then I would consider it prideful on my part to think I could have that type of influence. However, in smaller churches I do think people expect to see their pastor. I believe this is draining and unhealthy for a congregation. However, it is a reality of small church mentality and in order to overcome this, the church must grow. With numerical growth change is inevitable and with spiritual growth change will take place.