The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.
The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.
This summer, the series will offer reflections from five ordained Disciples pastors on how it is that they stay alive in ministry. These pastors have been at it a while, and they serve varying ministry contexts.
Clergy Health and Well-being: Designate a Day
–by Carolyn Reed, Associate Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indiana
Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, M.Div., 1984
It seems so simple that it is silly to suggest. And yet, I know many ministers who do not regularly claim a “day off.”
I designated Fridays as my day off very early in my ministry. I don’t really recall why it was Friday. It just seemed like a good day for me. Mondays were spent catching up from Sundays and days in the middle of the week just didn’t feel “off” to me. So, I settled on Fridays. I have done this for the last thirty years in each of my ministry settings.
When serving as a congregational pastor, I knew I needed a day designated for time away from the work of ministry. Ministry is tiring—emotionally and spiritually. It is also demanding—of time and energy. As an introvert, I also need “down time” to just be by myself and refresh.
To be truthful, in some ways, I found this easier to do when I was serving a congregation and was also a mom of two young boys. Before they were in school, it meant a day spent just with them and when they didn’t have to go to daycare. It was easy to justify the time. Hey, I was a mom spending time with my sons.
As the boys got older, I used Fridays as a time to catch up on grocery shopping and other errands that were more easily accomplished alone. And, I enjoyed the time doing something that felt normal—just like other people!
Since my sons have become young adults and on their own, and I have moved into denominational work, I still have chosen Friday as my day to just have for myself. Being married to an educator has meant that I would have Fridays (except during the summers!) to myself. Husband at work and children not at home. Hours of quiet. Or doing things I just like doing by myself (still my preferred mode of grocery shopping!).
Here is what I have discovered: Having Fridays as my day away from ministry (at least most of the time) has given my life rhythm. Thursday nights are more relaxing for me because I know I will have the next day as my own. This rhythm has likely kept me sane in the midst of overwhelming demands on my time, emotions and energy. Ministry is challenging. We listen to and often take on the burdens and pain of others. We need space to refuel ourselves so we can get back at it.
The break, the pause, the recess is what keeps me going and keeps me able to function in as healthy ways as possible. It provides perspective.
And perhaps, a day off is a reminder that we are not superheroes after all, that we need and deserve a space that is our own, where we are not addressing the needs and desires of others. That fast-food chain’s slogan used to be “You deserve a break today.” You do. Give yourself the gift of day off. I do.