Step 5: The Step Away, The Step of Refreshment
Step 5: The Step Away, The Step of Refreshment
He said to them, Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest awhile.
The step away is the discipline of regularly walking away from ministry for renewal, refreshment, relaxation, rest, and recreation.
Yes, there's some discussion about the demographics of people called to ministry. Studies continue to reveal that most pastors and church staff leaders are tired, many of them frustrated, and for the most part weary as a result of the 24/7 nature of ministry. No, they don't all hate their jobs and the greatest majority of them won't abandon their calling for another career. It's really not a career anyway. It's a calling. But, research does indicate a high-pressure world of long hours, family time being squeezed into brief encounters, and a declining health profile of ministry personnel.
Want to know the truth about the mental and physical health of ministers and the impact their condition has on their churches? Sure, who doesn't. Once again, a disclaimer of sorts is in order. Google "statistics about pastors" and you'll access 754,000 site possibilities in just .34 seconds. There's page after page of reference material to guide your study. Ask for wisdom as you study the data and make some objectivity a prayer request during the process. Most make conclusions of one sort or another and usually will reflect ends that are close to substantiating their institutional goals. So, do some review, make some observations, and step aside to get some counsel from heaven as you make your own conclusions.
The details of such substantive research are mind-boggling. But, there are a few broad brush truths that are hard to miss---
1. Ministry is a demanding life calling, both physically and emotionally.
2. Pastors and church staff leaders shoulder 24/7 hour duties.
3. Ministry families are usually negatively influenced by church responsibilities.
4. Generally, churches don't require accountability of pastors and staff in the
areas of their mental and physical health.
5. Many ministers are financially unable to support regular times for recreation,
rest, relaxation, or even vacations.
Thirty-five years of pastoral ministry confirms most of these wide ranging conclusions. There certainly are many more and particulars that define the variety of churches across our denomination. Broad strokes are broad. So, there may be others that factor into your ministry situation. On the whole, they reflect the busy pace of ministry life, the consuming nature of mission in the lives of those pursuing it, and the tension that is always in front of those leading. It may even be a reflection of the nature of mission from the very first, when Jesus invited his disciples to step away.
Evidently Jesus saw weariness in his disciples. They were worn by the rigorous demands of travel, the press of the crowds, the presence of so many needy people, and the limitation of finding places of solitude in the population centers of Galilee and Judea. Mark's observation of their moment is annotated further by what he appended to Jesus' words. Mark wrote---
For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they
went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
You know the rest of this episode. A multitude followed the disciples to their place of refreshment. Jesus eventually fed 5,000 men from the loaves and fish the disciples had secreted away for their refreshment. When the substantial leftovers were gathered, he sent them away for their promised refreshment while he stepped aside to pray.
For me there were always five places I could escape to when ministry crowded my life or squeezed my emotions. Then there were Fridays, the days I took off from ministry and nights when our family did a meal out and went to the bookstore. Yes, there were weddings, funerals, emergencies, and other times when the days had to be shifted or the book night exchanged. But, in thirty-five years, there was always some time away. Maybe that's one of the reasons we're so comfortable with our retirement: we always planned a next chapter because we always stepped away. An interesting concept!
There are five steps that will influence ministry longevity: the step down, humility; the step up, leadership; the step back, perspective; the step aside, discernment, and the step away, refreshment. They are the steps Jesus modeled in his own personal ministry. Maybe walking in his steps will guide us to the finish line too.
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