On Thursday night and Friday of last week I attended something called the Global Leadership Summit. It was a great time of hearing teaching from excellent speakers, my favourites being Carla Harris and David Livermore (I’m sure you can find them on YouTube). Each of the speakers spoke from their wheelhouse, the things they were interested in, the things they are passionate about. Most of it was amazing and I’ve been left with many things to chew over and apply to my life.
But there was one thing that got my goat, that went against what I believe in, and because that thing is my thing, I’m going to talk with you about it here.
One of the speakers was a pastor of a church with a large congregation that meets in many different places at the same time. It’s a church that uses technology well. Again, I want to say that I agreed with much of what this guy said, I loved a lot of what he said, but he told one story that made me worried for him and for the workers at his church.
He told us that Friday was his day off, but that often he would find himself heading to the office for some reason at around 430 or 5pm on a Friday. Now, as soon as he said that, alarms started going off for me.
I much prefer Eugene Peterson’s approach. Peterson set aside Monday as his day off, his sabbath. He wrote a letter to his congregation informing them of this and asking them to respect that day off. He stated that if there was a crisis then they could contact him, but for anything short of imminent death could they please wait until Tuesday? He would send that letter out annually just to remind his congregation of the importance of a day of rest.
Pastors have one of the most emotionally draining jobs on the planet. People can feel like the pastor is their property and should be available at all times. But no one can live that way, and even God took a day off after creation. So if a pastor feels that he has to ‘drift back’ to the office on his day off as a regular thing, I think there is something wrong.
Now, the other part of setting up this story is that the pastor (talking at the GLS) told us that the church workers were allowed to go home early each Friday. That gave them time to pick up their kids from school, go to the doctors, all the stuff that you can do with a couple of extra week day hours. That is great! I think it’s wonderful that they built that into the workplace.
However, when this pastor would drop into the office on a Friday afternoon he would find some people there still working. They were working unpaid overtime.
Now this pastor is a great guy, he really cares for the people that work at his church, he’s a good leader. So he started to show the workers his appreciation. He would go around and give them a fist bump and say ‘Gold star!’
This meant a lot to the workers and their spouses would send him notes to say how much they appreciated the fact that he showed his appreciation. This made him more inclined to say thank you to all the people who were working when they could have been at home.
This situation continued and built up. And now when he heads in on a Friday afternoon he takes a bag full of little gold star toys and hands them out, yelling, ‘Gold star to you! Awesome job! Gold star!’ He showed us a video. The staff were so happy to get these toys. It means a lot to be appreciated.
And it’s lovely that he appreciates his staff. That’s great.
But wouldn’t it be even better if he told them all to get out of the office and go home? Wouldn’t it be great if he enforced the rule of rest, rather than encouraged overwork and overtime?
Insane busyness is a sickness of our age. I feel the church is called to be counter-cultural in this area as in many others. We need to be careful not to add to the busyness of our congregations by adding too many ‘good religious activities’ to their already overcrowded schedules. We need to remind people that it is God that provides our needs, not our work, nor our boss, however that looks from the outside, and that God has directed us to take a day of rest each week.
I have tested this and found that God will help me with my work in the rest of the week if I dedicate a day to resting. No-one has yet died because I took a Sabbath.
Even if you are not a believer, studies have shown that taking a rest will lead to better and more creative work later. And that not resting will lead to less effective and poorer quality work. The universe works on this rule of resting one day in seven.
I’m not sure how you’d do it, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if this man, this pastor, could give the same encouragement that he gives to his overworking staff to his staff when they left the office, went home, built relationships with their families and reached out to their friends and neighbours on a Friday afternoon?
Gold star to you – you played in the park with your kids!
Gold star to you – you read a novel (and therefore increased your empathy for mankind)!
Gold star to you – you stacked the dishwasher and filled the washing machine and gave your wife the couch, the remote, and a glass of wine!
Gold star to you – you invited your neighbour to go watch a movie with you!
A big gold star – you took a nap!
I encourage you to make time to take a rest this week. And if it helps, give yourself a big gold star when you do it.
For more on Eugene Peterson’s ideas on the sabbath, listen to this.
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