3 Reasons Why People in Ministry Struggle with Sabbath

Sabbath rest is commanded by God.

Alec Hill, InterVarsity's President, challenged us to develop a sabbath rhythm.  He gave a couple of theological reasons to keep a sabbath, then jokingly mentioned that, bytheway, it is the Fourth Commandment.  We all laughed.  And cringed.

Why do people in ministry struggle with to get Sabbath rest?  Here are three reasons:

1) Prioritization and the Myth of Availability

The work-life rhythms of the bulk* of people in our country have them only available on evenings and on weekends.  Now, evenings aren't a problem.  Sabbath rest doesn't mean that we can't work hard.

But our inability to engage in ministry during the week has as much to do with us as with the availability of the people we serve.

We secretly believe that work-life should take priority over our spiritual-life.  The value of balance escapes us.  And so, we don't push people when they say they're unavailable.  We don't look for gaps in schedules.  We don't ask people to wake up early or stay up late.

So, we work nights and weekends.  That's not too bad.

2) Our "Real Job" Complex

I feel guilty taking Monday off.  Even after I've worked a full weekend.  Even after I've been out of town, working 17 hour days 13 out of the last 15 days (which I have).

I worry that donors will think I'm wasting their money if they see me and my family walking in the park on a Monday afternoon.  I worry that students won't take me seriously if I'm playing xBox while they're in class.  I worry that God will think I'm lazy if I sleep until noon (which I did).

Ministry jobs are real jobs.

We need to get this into our bones if we're to engage in Sabbath rest.  People who work real jobs get real days off.  And they deserve the time off.  People who work and work and don't get time off are slaves.  And they deserve to be freed.

Some donors might not get it.  Some students might not get it.  But God gets it.  We need to realize that we work real jobs and not feel compelled to punch the M-F/9-5 clock in order to validate our work in ministry.

3) We love our jobs

If I wasn't working for InterVarsity, I would be doing this stuff for free during my free time.  So would most of us.

We could make more money and have more status elsewhere.  We could find easier work to do.  But we love this work.  And time flies when you're having fun.

And when work is fun, it's hard to stop and rest.

Work existed before the Fall.  So did Sabbath rest (God rested).  The Sabbath restriction isn't in place because work inherently tortures.  We need rest even from good work, from fun work.

What else?

Why do you think people in ministry struggle with Sabbath?


  1. Here's something I know of that's happened before. If you only have 1 day a week where you are resting and someone calls you needing help or something, and you end up taking the call and helping them with whatever they need, which in some cases takes more than just 5 minutes, then there goes the time you planned to rest. I can't count the times that I would plan on resting from classes and instantly get someone coming to me to tell me something or I end up going somewhere with them all day. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Great insight, Allison!

    Planning some margin into your schedule is vital if you're going to maintain a Sabbath rhythm.

    I needed to be reminded of that.