6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships when the Relationship has been Injured

family prayer

Do you have any injured relationships in your life?

Broken hearts, hurt feelings, or grudges from the past are common among relationships. At some point we all have relationships, which have gone from bad to worst.

In fact, sometimes the people we have to be around, by default – blood relatives, in-laws, or co-workers – are people we wouldn’t choose to be around unless we had to be.

It’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.)

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most – or who always seems to say the wrong thing – or who is, honestly, even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

You can’t control other people’s response – only yours, but how should you act in those injured relationships?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are 6 tips for healthier, happier relationships:

Bite your tongue

When you are tempted to snap back – don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26) Memorize and learn to pray Psalm 141:3. (Look it up. It’s the first step towards learning it.)

Extend grace

Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes

Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too – by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience

Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t this what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility

When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break through in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them

The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer the One whose yoke is easy the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships. Trust me.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

5 Joys of Being an Empty-Nester

Handsome mature man with his arms around his beautiful wife

I have to be honest. I was a reluctant empty-nester. Cheryl and I love our boys and them being at home was one of our greatest joys in life. Walking in the door and being handed a football to throw or a soccer ball to kick was often the best part of my day.

Thankfully, we were intentional as parents and in our marriage. Now, we are reaping the reward of that intentionality. We raised our boys to be independent and they are doing it well. They still “need” us, but they aren’t dependent on us.

At the same time, we protected our relationship, so we truly enjoy our time together – always have – still do.

As hard as it was for me to see our boys leave home, I’m now learning to adjust to and actually enjoy being an empty-nester.

This is written with those who still have children at home and may be dreading the day they leave. I’d encourage you to build your family with this day in mind. One day they will and it will be okay. 

In fact – it’s kind of fun.

Here are 5 joys of being an empty-nester:

Spontaneous living – Cheryl and I can now change plans on a dime. Someone asks us to dinner, but they are leaving “now” – no problem. Suddenly deciding to go out of town for a few days – why not? Late night walk around the block – yea!

More time for ministry – We are busier in ministry than ever before. Cheryl ministers to multiple women in the church, leads bible studies and assists me on my ministry. And, my ministry in and outside my home church has never been busier. We love serving others and now we have more time to do it.

Planned chaos – Cheryl and I live a crazy life. When the boys were home we tried to do dinner every night. Now there may be weeks we aren’t home and nights, but we have the freedom within craziness to adjust our schedule as we see fit. When children are in the house, much of your schedule is dictated by their activities. Now, we decide what is going to control our time. We can never anticipate what’s going to happen, but we have the freedom to adjust to it as we choose.

Rekindled relationship – Cheryl and I have always loved our life together. As I said, we continued to date throughout our parenting days, so our relationship remained strong. Now, we are in a new season in our relationship. It’s a good season. We love our time together. And, dating isn’t limited to one night a week.

Unbridled future – We keep saying to each other we can do anything we want. We are free to walk by faith as God leads. It’s a very good feeling. Let’s do it God! What’s next?

Let me be clear, if you have children at home, enjoy them now. It will pass fast. You’ll miss them, but if you continue to work on your relationship – and you prepare your children to stand on their own – you’ll one day get to enjoy the blessings of being a joyful empty-nester.

Any empty-nesters out there? What do you like about this season of life?

7 Ways to Protect Your PK – Pastor’s Kid – in Ministry

happy family

I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. My wife has occasionally guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife on this blog. Some of the comments I receive are well taken. I am basically asked “What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I hear you. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t written extensively about protecting children in ministry.

I am aware, however, the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One works for a private company, but mostly in the Christian sector, and the other is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, this is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church – actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church – and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry – if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm for the pastor’s children to not be active in church. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children who have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics – please share them in the comments if you do – but, if we could avoid damaging any child growing up in the ministry world I think we should.

That’s the purpose of this post. And, it’s addressed to the pastor and the church.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But, don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are – or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are – SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent – on certain days. And, then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you, the pastor, as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week. And, the more they respect you – the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home – be home. This is HUGE! Let voicemail and email inbox do their thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But, I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor – not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully this is understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course. Consider it understood this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively. Your children will likely never grow stronger in their faith than you are modeling for them.

Pastors – or even better – PK’s – anything else you’d recommend?

7 Damaging Sins Which Can Cripple Every Marriage

couple in distress

Did you know there are sins which can cripple every marriage?

Yes. There are.

You realize there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Right?

Let me repeat that.

There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.

Every marriage will have seasons which are more difficult than others. I often encounter couples in our church who think they are unique. Because we tend to put on our happy faces at church, they believe theirs is the only marriage in a bad season.

In fact, I’m convinced not understanding how many couples have weathered through these rocky places in marriage may be a reason many couples give up on their marriage. If they understood how normal they are they might be more willing to raise the white flag – ask for help – and work to restore the marriage.

I have observed over the years there are some issues in marriages which, if not addressed, can be crippling to the marriage. These are the “biggies”. They may manifest themselves in other ways, but if you could trace back to the origin you would find these to be at fault.

And, let’s not sugarcoat. They are sins. And, we have all sinned. And, we all sin. Every marriage is comprised of two sinners.

And, this is the real reason there are no perfect marriages.

Left to fester on their own, these sins will eventually be the destroyer of the marriage or certainly keep it from achieving the oneness God commanded.

So, what are these damaging sins? I’m glad you asked.

Here are 7 damaging sins which can cripple every marriage:

Selfishness – Marriage won’t work without mutual submission. Read Ephesians 5:21. Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement. Ideally it’s to be a 100/100 bond – where both spouses willingly yield their all. (And, I used the word ideal, because your marriage is not there and neither is mine.) When one spouse demands their way or will never work towards a compromise the relationship can never be all it should be. One person is happy – the one who got their way – the other is miserable.

Discontentment – I’ve said before – boredom is perhaps the number one destroyer of marriage. There will be seasons in every relationship which aren’t as “exciting” as others. Some days you will “feel” more in love than other days. But, the key to a long-term relationship is a commitment beyond emotion.

Pride – When one spouse can never admit they are wrong or see their own flaws it opens the door for a wedge of bitterness in the other spouse. Pride is also destructive when the couple is too proud to admit their struggles or get the help they need.

Unforgiveness – Holding on to past hurts not only damages the marriage bond it destroys the person who refuses to forgive. Trust can’t be developed until forgiveness is granted. And, isn’t grace received expected to be extended?

Anger – The Scripture is clear – we should not go to bed in anger. And, there is a reason. Anger is a wedge – one which only grows wider when not dealt with over time.

Complacency – As soon as you think you’re marriage is above the problems of other relationships you’re in trouble. The enemy loves to attack the unaware.

Coveting – Couples who compare themselves to other couples will almost always be disappointed. There will always be people with more – and it likely isn’t making them as happy as you think it does. And, keep in mind, many times people disguise their struggles well. The couple you think has it all may wish they had what you have. Every couple is unique. Comparison only leads to frustration.

Ask yourself this question: Which of these is most prevalent in my marriage today? Which is causing the greatest harm? Which of these, while it may not be an issue today, could be if we don’t get serious about it soon?

Be honest with yourself — and ultimately — with your spouse.

10 Thank You’s to My Pastor’s Wife

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This post is written to my wife.

It could be to anyone married to a pastor. It’s hard work.

In fact, I’ve said this before, but the spouse of the pastor may be the most difficult job in the church at times.

But, this one is to my wife. (You’re welcome to read along.)

I’ve also said this before — I have the perfect pastor’s wife. Younger pastor’s wives, if you want to learn how to do it, I’d submit my wife as an example.

Three years ago we ventured out –  again – this time into church revitalization. Church planting was hard – God allowed us to be part of 2 plants – and this would prove to be our toughest assignment. And, there have been many in our years together. Some days, especially early when change seemed rapid, Cheryl came home in tears many Sundays because people took the emotions of change out on her instead of me. (I’ve never understood that cowardly move, but it happens.) 

Yet, God’s been faithful and Cheryl has been faithful. And, for the overwhelming portion of people the church has been faithful. I couldn’t have done what I’ve been called to do without all of them. 

But, second only to God, Cheryl deserves my applauds. Not that she’d ever expect it. That’s one of the reasons she’s so great – she just faithfully loves and serves others – but because it’s right for me to honor her. And, I have this public opportunity, so here goes. 

Cheryl, here are 10 “Thank you’s” to the pastor’s wife:

Thank you for following me where God leads me — without complaining, or resisting, or refusing to move even though life was very comfortable where we were and the future looked very uncertain where we were going. Truth is, you are usually ready to walk by faith before I am. What a blessing!

Thank you keeping confidences. Thank you for biting your tongue when someone complains or criticizes unjustly. Thank you for knowing more “junk” than most people should, and never sharing it with anyone, yet being my closest confidant.

Thank you for being my biggest encouragement and never making the church wonder where your support is. Even when the message stinks, you pretend it is wonderful! Even if you think I’m doing wrong your message to others is one of support.

Thank you being a safe place to share — even letting me blow off steam at times. Ministry is hard. I’m glad my wife has big shoulders upon which to cry at times and an incredible faith to point me back where I belong. And, guts to tell me when I’m wrong.

Thank you for believing in me — even when no one else does. You were with God and had me in ministry long before I could see what God was doing. You still believe I can do things of which I’m not so confident.

Thank you for knowing me best yet loving me most. Okay, contrary to public opinion – you know I’m not perfect. Far from it. Yet, your love is always undeniable. I’m always amazed how you’d rather spend time with me than anyone. I know people in your life far more “fun” than me.

Thank you for putting our marriage before any human relationship. At times, that has meant you had to say no to others so you could say yes to me. Thank you for the sacrifice. Thanks for helping build a marriage and family life the church can easily follow.

Thank you for loving people and Jesus so passionately. The church knows it. Everyone knows it. You fully reflect that in all that you do!

Thank you for being a protection for me. You sense things in people and ministry, which I can’t sense. This is why I have you help me interview people. It’s why you have protected me from people who don’t have my best interest at heart. I feel safer with you around.

Thank you for respecting me unconditionally. You understand the frailty of a man’s ego and know it’s my greatest need. And, you fill it completely and consistently.

Thank you for being my pastor’s wife.

Give a shout out to your pastor or minister’s wife/spouse here!

Better yet, also send her/him a card!

10 Great Prayers for Every Marriage

Bride and groom holding his hands

Dear Lord, grow our love for You daily.

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally.

Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way.

Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design.

Dear Lord, rid our hearts from grudges or bitterness towards one another, teaching us to forgive readily and extend grace continually.

Dear Lord, let us encourage each other to achieve the dreams you give us individually and jointly.

Dear Lord, keep us humble, placing each other’s needs ahead of our own.

Dear Lord, guard our hearts from selfishness and self-centered desires.

Dear Lord, protect our marriage from the destruction of outside influences.

Dear Lord, make our commitment deeper than our emotions, stronger than the seasons of change and the trials which will come our way.

7 Suggestions after You Learn of an Affair in Your Marriage

counseling distressed couple

I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week. It’s a word we are afraid of, one which can destroy, and certainly a word which breaks many hearts — and sadly — many marriages never recover when it occurs.

Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they try to deny it. Yet, the impact on the marriage is certain every time.

The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought this word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together by the grace of God — actually strengthened following an affair — I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, I want to share some tips from my observations.

Here are 7 suggestions after you lean of an affair in your marriage:

Expect numbness

For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. Don’t be surprised. There will be a range of emotions to come in the days ahead, but right now you may not know what to feel. This is perfectly normal. Your emotions have been shattered. Trust has been violated. There is a huge hole in your heart. Don’t make major decisions during these initial days. They will be purely emotionally based and you may regret them later.

Get counseling soon

I didn’t say immediately. In my experience, when couples call the day or two after they learn of an affair the counseling starts off in an unhealthy way and is difficult to find successful traction long-term. There are too many emotions in the way. But, you will need someone to walk through this with you. This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. Saving the marriage will take two committed people, but counseling can help you either way. Certainly, if you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.

Decide where you want to go with the marriage

This is again, not a decision to make in the first few days, but eventually you’ll have to make some hard decisions. Do you want to make it work or not? You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do. This may take a season — and counseling — to discern. Please understand, I know the Biblical commands for marriage — and I believe them. I think the best thing to do is to work to save the marriage. I also believe every marriage can be saved and work if two people are willing to make it work, but without your personal commitment to doing so, it is unlikely you will be successful in saving the marriage — or, at least, in making it strong again. Think about the vows you made to each other. Obviously, they have been broken. But, are you willing, at least in your part, to making them work again?

Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan

Working with a counselor and together you must work on practical steps to grow the marriage again back to complete trust. This will be a difficult, long process — the biggest concern I hear from the offending spouse is how long it does take — but the results are worth it.

Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you

Yes, I just said that. And, yes, that is a hard word. It will be a work of grace. Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a difficult process. Sometimes God grants you this ability quickly and sometimes it takes time. Trust is always rebuilt over time. But you can not have a successful marriage where one spouse is holding a grudge against the other. Forgiveness is a necessary step to restore the marriage.

Build safeguards into your life

For long-term success in marriage, to rebuild trust and to help ensure this doesn’t happen again you need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. Try to find things such as what went wrong? Where were the holes in the marriage? How did it get to this point? A counselor can help sort through these, but it will be up to you to implement safeguards against them moving forward. In our marriage we have certain “ground rules” and practices which we believe help protect our marriage. You may need similar processes.

Invest in other marriages

Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way. Helping others will actually serve to further strengthen your own marriage.

This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage. I’m praying for those who read this and are directly impacted by an affair. I’m praying for your marriage to be saved. God bless you.

Anything you would add to my list?

Top 5 Obstacles to Having a Great Christian Marriage

happy couple 2

I love marriage. I love the idea of marriage and the process of marriage.

But, marriage isn’t easy. It’s actually hard to have a good marriage.

One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

One flesh.

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages.

In my work with marriages, I’ve identified 5 of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes simply understanding what obstacles exist and knowing they are common to most marriages — you are not alone — can help us learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger “one flesh”.

The 5 major obstacles I have seen are:

Lack of Biblical knowledge about marriage

There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver’s license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don’t really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

Differences in Men and Women

Men and women are designed differently by God — not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

Communication styles 

Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it’s received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

Outside influences

Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:

  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Devil

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

Differing Goals/Objectives 

Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that’s part of God’s overall design to make two people one.

Some of the major differences include:

  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler; Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It’s to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God’s plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also God didn’t promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, “This is a profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Happy Family Portrait at Park

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. 

How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church which stole their family time. 

There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.

Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:

Down time.

Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work 6 long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath”, according to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work 6 days — just saying :) ) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two — take two!

Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar.

I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me — extremely!

Scheduled time with my family.

If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seemed cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.

I don’t work many nights.

Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions — I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night — and life has seasons which alter this somewhat — but in a normal week I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.

I’m not everyone’s pastor.

This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes but, I pastor a large church, so if someone is already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is to reach unchurched people.

I delegate well.

We have a great staff. If something is better for them to do, I let them do it. Every event doesn’t require me to be there, nor my wife. I try to support the activities of the church as much as possible, but not at the detriment of my family. I realize smaller church pastors struggle here, but part of your leading may be to raise up volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities and leadership. It also may be to lead people to understand your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and part of having a healthy church is having a healthy pastor and family.

I try to stay spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

It’s hard to lead my family well and engage them when I’m always stressed by ministry. This is a constant battle, and requires great cooperation and understanding by my family, but I recognize it as a value worth striving to attain.

Pastors, I hear from you — and sometimes your spouse. Some of you are drowning in your ministry and your family is suffering. Many are going to say they have no staff or a small staff, but I encourage this same approach to ministry for every person on our staff. I would expect no less of a commitment to their family than I have to mine. Ask yourself this question: How healthy is your family? What are you doing to protect them?

Help me help other pastors. Share how you protect your family.

You might also read 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair

7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath – A Challenge For My Pastor Friends

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a hard word for some pastors, but after a recent post I was asked about how I protect my Sabbath. That’s a great question, because many pastors struggle in this area. In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry.

I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’s my day with Cheryl. It’s not a day where I do nothing. That’s not how I rest. It’s a day where I do what I want to do. On my Sabbath, I don’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are 7 ways I protect my Sabbath:

Recognize the value – I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’s almost like God knew what He was doing. :) If I value it enough, I’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’s design for mankind. “On the 7th day He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

Make it a priority – Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week. A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’s worth prioritizing.

Place it on the calendar – The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’ll never take a Sabbath. Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine, but you choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

Trust others – One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently. Ultimately, however, when I honor my Sabbath I’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

Discipline myself – I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!) Now, here’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen. You’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that. Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves), but they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

Prepare for it – I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance. Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work 6) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath. Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

Learn to enjoy -Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’s always plenty to do. I’ve learned, however, that I function better the other 6 days if I have one day that I’m not working. It’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time. There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan, and when it is interrupted, especially if it happens several weeks in a row, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’s that important to me now.

Pastor, are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest.

The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastor, what tips do you have for helping some of my burned out pastor friends maintain a weekly Sabbath?

Bonus question: Pastor, do you have a plan for extended time a way…a Sabbatical of some form? Could you share what you do in this area to help the rest of us?