George Austin, Montgomery, AL — I believe in getting good exercise every day, and along with that, watching what you eat and getting rest. In Fitbit, I average 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day, and I am in competition with colleagues on PAW’s Board of Bishops. I have never taken a sabbatical for refreshing and revitalizing, but if we followed the example of Jesus, we would. And we would be more on track and more like Him.
I’ve always had a quest for knowledge. I’m an above average reader, reading at least 10 to 12 hours a week. The best way for a man to keep his mind sharp is to use it.
My word to new pastors is: challenge your thoughts. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Dream big dreams and see big visions for the Apostolic ministry. Expect big things from God, and by stretching your mind beyond the normal, you can expect what eyes have not seen!
Steven L.Thompson, Indianapolis, IN — Last year, I took a sabbatical for a month, but I really needed a minimum of three months. I was experiencing burnout and nearly had a nervous breakdown behind it. Days apart are necessary to keep in touch with the real you. Often ministers confuse who they are with what they do. The sabbaticals have been very refreshing, and I’ve had the opportunity to truly hear from God. This year I’ve had two.
I exercise 3-4 times a week to release the proper endorphins in the body, or in other words the happy chemicals. I also take regular naps daily.
Lord willing, every year, I give our congregation the months of December and January off. We do not plan any meetings or rehearsals. There are no outside preaching or singing engagements or anything that remotely looks like ministry. We attend Sunday morning service, and that’s it. The goal is to promote family fun, fellowship and rest.
Brian Neighbors, Belton, KY — We do take some vacations but no sabbaticals. The last couple of years, we have gotten away to take a vacation, sometimes with the kids and sometimes without the kids. We go to several conferences a year. Having different brethren feed you and speak into you is a great thing.
Close to the house is a road that is not travelled much, and we walk that in the afternoon. That walk and talk as a couple means a lot. Going to the pond rests the mind. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back. It helps in a physical sense, too. A good night’s rest is a big thing, and we try to eat the best we can.
Prayer and a daily regimen of the Word is the biggest thing. When you pray and stay in contact with God, He can help you with all things.
Richard Gifford, Waycross, GA — I try to stay well rounded in the activities that don’t include ministry. I fish and hunt. Physically, I try to make it to the YMCA four or five times a week. When your body is in good condition, it helps your emotional state as well.
Every human being is cut differently. I have never taken a sabbatical. I don’t think they are required for everybody. If all you do is about the church and you aren’t taking any breaks from it, I think you will need a sabbatical.
Find a hobby that your entire family enjoys. The pressure is on your whole family. Find places to get away to. We do a lot of two or three-day trips. If my children are hating ministry or are disengaged, it weighs on me as well. For me to stay sharp, I have to make sure they are on track.
Michael Glover, Cullman, AL — I try to make sure I have focused time with every member of the family throughout the week. If I’m spending time with them, I’m relaxing. We take vacations, but we never miss Sunday services. We’re a home missions church, so I’m the only teacher.
One problem with ministers today is that they try to hold so much in and won’t share it with anyone. The mind can’t rest unless you have someone to vent to. I tell my wife everything, unless it is highly confidential between me and another brother.
My advice to up-and-coming pastors is to never be so much a man that you can’t ask for help. Set yourself a schedule to have a focused time with God daily. Call seasoned ministers and ask for direction. You can’t do this by yourself. If you don’t ask for help, you’ll struggle. I’d rather ask for advice than fail.
T.F. Tenney, Alexandria, LA — It’s apparent we have this drive for the purpose of getting things done, but Jesus left a lot of things undone. For instance, take the man at the gate called Beautiful; Jesus passed that man many times, but the apostles came by later after the death, burial and resurrection and the man was healed. Why didn’t Jesus do it? He left something for the apostles to do. You just have to roll with the punches. You have to learn not to take things personally.
You’ve got to have a pause button and a remote. You’ve got to change channels in life. Be real. False humility is pride with another face on it. There is no one-size-fits-all. God never alters the robe of righteousness to fit the man. He alters the man to fit the robe.
I have attended a lot of seminars and conventions not only in our ranks but outside the UPC, just to see where they were coming from because, really, that’s the world I’m working in. I also do a lot of reading. I’ve always tried to be aware of the cultural soil, the spiritual background as well as the spiritual aspect of it. You need to know the field you are working in. This is 2016. Things have changed. I don’t have to change my convictions, but I do need to change the way I’m thinking. I have to know how they are thinking if I am going to reach them.
I’ve taken sabbaticals, and I recommend it very highly, especially for high profile people who live under intense pressure. I think it is very necessary. There’s a rhythm to the ministry; there’s a squeezing. When I was younger, I used to take off twice a year. I found it best to take two or three weeks away. To some, I have recommended three months when they are under intense pressure or risking burnout. I tell them “Your problems will be there when you return, and they will have had kids.” It just comes with the territory. It has to be tailor-made.
My anointing and my body quarrel sometimes. My anointing will take on a responsibility and my body will say; “You didn’t ask me about that.” I have slowed down, but my mind is relatively sharp. I am well past 80 now, so I have to arbitrate between the two.