Pastors need day of rest to stay spiritually, emotionally strong


SUWANEE, Ga. — Keys to ensuring that pastors don’t get worn down by the grind of ministry include observing a day of rest each week and taking periodic sabbaticals.

That’s according to the Barna Research Group, an organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America.

“When compared to statistics from 2015, current Barna data shows that pastors’ well-being — spiritually, mentally and emotionally — has decreased significantly,” Barna said in a June article that delved into the importance of rest and selfcare. “Overall quality of life, having true friends, and even the respect pastors say they receive by those in their community have all dipped lower.”

Barna said data show that pastors who prioritize rest are more likely to fare better in measurements of their mental, emotional and spiritual well-being than their peers who do not.

“Rest is not only a gift for the pastor himself, but rest is a gift for his family and his church,” said Andy Childs, a pastor wellness catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “When a pastor is rested spiritually and emotionally, he’s able to enjoy and love his wife and kids much more fully, and he’s able to lead his church much more effectively.”

Childs said it's unwise for pastors not to take time to rest and refuel.

“It’s the analogy that you can run a car on empty for a while but at some point it’s going to run out of gas,” he said. “You have to refill.”

Ruth Haley Barton, author of Rhythms of Work and Rest, told Barna that unplugging for 24 hours "is really the kingpin of a life well lived in God."

The Barna survey found that pastors are also not faring as well when it comes to feeling energized by their work, motivated to become better leaders. They also are not feeling as supported by those around them as they did in 2015.

“Meanwhile, their loneliness and isolation, mental and emotional exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy in their role are trending higher,” Barna said.

Barna said pastors who rank as strong or very strong on a spectrum of pastoral selfcare not only rank better in their mental and emotional well-being, they also have the energy to be better leaders.

“Rest and sabbatical are elements of pastoral self-care and are deeply important for pastors’ continued well-being,” Barna wrote.

Pastor Glenn Packiam told Barna for the article that it’s important for churches to understand the purpose of sabbaticals, who gets them, and for how long.

Packiam called sabbaticals “preventative healthcare.”