Here’s a question from a youth pastor I answered on my weekly, live show Office Hours,
Does your church allow for you to have time off after big events? My church believes that youth ministry, and ministry in general, goes all the time so there is really no time off to be had because you have to stay busy all the time.
This is my definition of a meat grinder church, a church that believes the church, that being the church staff, must always stay busy because…reasons?
You might think the meat grinder title belongs to mega churches or churches over 1,000 people but it also belongs to the church plant, the rural church and the suburban church who are trying to become the mega church.
I can only speak from my church, but to answer the question, yes, I’m allowed time off after big events because I ask for time off or I request time off but I’m also part-time so being part-time affords me that.
I would not, especially at my age, sign up for a church where rest is not a value.
I think churches who operate under the 24/7 ministry principle, see their staff as cogs in a machine. If they burn out, they’ll replace them so the machine can go on.
Burnout for pastors and staff are at an all time high, for various reasons, but churches who do not let their staff rest, take sabbath or given days just to collect themselves will not have spiritually full, soul complete staff members.
Churches who run their staff ragged are unsustainable and are creating footholds for the devil to climb on. Burned out pastors and staff are more likely to fall into moral or ethical failure. These outward failures get our attention but what about the inward cancers that tear the soul apart, cancers like
You, or your pastor, may use the excuses like , “Well this is for the Lord so I don’t need any down time.”
This was me. I was this guy, heaven bent on working as much as possible with little margin for down time. Young, full time, youth pastor Paul looked down on volunteers who didn’t give all they had “to the Lord”. In reality, I was losing. I was losing time with my family, my wife and with God. Business was my ‘god’ and I made many offerings.
The greatest thing to suffer was my relationship with God. My spiritual life was in the toilet. I equated my work with holiness and busyness with sanctification and I could not have been more wrong. it wasn’t until I matured that I understood working for the Lord and working with the Lord.
Working for the Lord is about my righteousness, “Look what I am achieving. Look Daddy, aren’t I a good boy because I work so hard?”
Working with the Lord is about God’s grace. I cannot work for God’s love or approval. I could never work enough. I couldn’t win enough souls, have enough meetings or grow the the youth meeting big enough to fill the hole in my heart. All my effort revealed was how much I needed Jesus.
Pastor will abuse scriptures like,
“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” John 9:4
But you must always keep Matthew 11:28-30 wrapped around your heart.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The more you mature you will discover something called self-respect and you will come to understand that effort does not equal value. You’re not more valuable to God because of how hard you work, but you may become less effective if you don’t learn to slow down and process your efforts.
If you are in a meat grinder church, allow me to help you protect your soul.
Establish Boundaries Like Jesus
Jesus found ways, on purpose, to get away from the crowds, to get away from ministry. Jesus still ministered but he ministered to his twelve versus the masses. Jesus found a way to get alone with His Father and to do that he had to say no ministering, saving, healing and delivering 24.7.
There are those who may have tried to make Jesus feel guilty that he had all this power and he was being selfish for resting, sleeping and spending time with his disciples.
Don’t let others shame you for resting because the real power and wisdom is on rest not work.
Make getting away from the crowds intentional
Ask your church to help you get away from the crowds. Establish your vacation time, you weekly day off and your holiday time to be with family. Never be ashamed to ask for time off. If your church will not allow or will dock your pay for it, then you have found out how much they value you.
Your church should be trying to help you get away from the crowds, to find Sabbath and if they are not, it’s time to look for another church.
Double down on personal quiet time
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35
If you’re in a church that requires a lot from you, you must prioritize alone time, not for the sake of accomplishing more work but for the sanctity of your mind and soul. This means you may have to cut down on Netflix or scroll time in favor or meditating on God’s word or a silent retreat but it will be worth it in the long run.
Take time to just sit with the Lord. You don’t need to say a word, just let the Father love you. Let his Spirit surround you. Fill up on his presence and peace.
It’s the only way you’ll survive the meat grinder.
If you’re a youth pastor, or pastor, who needs help, check out my coaching opportunities here and here. Even if you just need to vent, check in or learn the skills needed to keep yourself out of the pastoral junk yard.
I want to help you stay in the game as long as possible without having to play hurt and end your ministry career in a ball of flames, never to return. Let’s talk about what you need to stay in the game.