Monday mornings can be hard for some of us in ministry. Traditionally, Monday was the pastor’s day off (listen carefully and you can hear the snickers in the background). Leading worship, preaching and connecting with people is demanding and therefore Sundays take a lot of energy from clergy, especially those of us who are introverts. And many of us are introverts–I read a study a while ago that suggested that the percentage of introverts in ministry is higher than the percentage of introverts in the general population.
So that means that many of us in ministry wake up on Monday morning with the equivalent of a hangover–we are tired, perhaps a bit irritable, not totally sure why we should get out of bed and wishing we had won the lottery and could retire. Taking the day of seems like a good idea, which is why all the ministry books suggest Monday as a day off.
But it doesn’t often happen, at least not completely. There is always something to do–ministry is an occupation where things just never get finished. When we finish a sermon, there is another one needing to be done. When we visit a parishioner, there are three more who need a visit. When we finally figure out why the photocopier isn’t working, well, someone has to make sure there is coffee in the kitchen for the Bible Study group. And sometimes, the only time to really get to those things in Monday.
The rational is simple–I will just do these few things and then I will go skiing or spend some time in the workshop. But if I don’t do these other things today, then I have to find time to do them during the work week and that is full enough already. Maybe I can take all of next Monday off if I get some things out of the way today. And when I begin thinking that way, a Monday off becomes the Monday that never comes because no matter what I do this Monday, there will be something else next Monday.
We who are in ministry have some of the worst personal care habits of any occupation–or maybe not. I don’t know too much about people in other occupations and their work/relaxation habits but I do know about clergy. Some of us seem to function on the idea that we are pretty much indispensible. If we are not working, the church, the Kingdom and the universe will fall apart. It seems that some of us think that while God might have taken a day off to rest, we have to pick up the slack caused by his day of rest.
So, this is Monday. I have no work planned today and actually hope to go skiing sometime today. Well, I do have to send the chair of the deacons an email about the items I would like included in the agenda for our next meeting and maybe I should spend a little bit of time planning my work week so I can get a quick start tomorrow and there is that person in the hospital that I could drop in and see before I go skiing–well, you get the picture.
I have spent my ministry career trying to find the balance between the demands of ministry and the need for time for myself. I have actually tried to teach others of the need to take time off. And with all my teaching, writing and attempts, I generally have one foot on the wrong side of the burn-out line and keep going by assuring myself that I will take next Monday off completely.
Now, I have been getting better. It helps that the combined total of my work week is 80% but there is still that temptation to do just a bit more, take care of just a few things, to postpone the break until I get that important task done. But I am working on making sure that down time is actually down time, not just a sometime fantasy.
God was secure enough in himself and his creation that he could rest after six days of work, so maybe he can look after the universe if I take this Monday off.
May the peace of God be with you.