by Samantha Hassell
90 = percentage of pastors who report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
90 = percentage of youth workers who are classifiably work-a-holics
14 = the number of real actual Sabbath days the average youth worker takes in a year
I could go on with a few of the other depressing statistics that my quick “youth worker burnout” Google search produced, but I think you get the picture.
I think there’s a reason Sabbath is considered to be a spiritual discipline. Discipline implies making an effort, practicing. And Sabbath is a tough one—see, in our culture, rest is for wimps; it’s for the weak. We wear our busyness like a badge of honor; carry it like a trophy we’ve won. Our identity, our importance, and our worth seem to lie in how many time slots are blocked off on our daily calendar. Friends, let’s see rest for what it is: a gift from God.
God modeled and practiced rest from the beginning:
“By then God had finished the work God had been doing; so on the seventh day God rested from all God’s work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creating God had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
Then, not only did God create and model Sabbath rest, God went on to command it:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8-10a)
What a loving God! Remember, God first gave that command to a nation of former slaves—they didn’t know anything BUT work. It’s as if God was saying, “You, my beloved people, need time to renew, to pull back, to worship, and I want you to have that chance—so here are six days to do what you need to do, but take this one to be holy and rest.” God says that to us too, ya know.
I know, I know, there are those of you who will say, “Sunday’s kind of a big deal in my line of work—how am I supposed to take off?” Or “I’ve GOT to be available.” Or “I wish I had time to take a day off, but then nothing will get done—I’ll end up behind.” I’ll affectionately call you the Pharisees! See, Jesus addressed the Sabbath as well—but as we know: Jesus is much more concerned with the attitude of our heart that with being legalistic. Remember, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Reminding us that the Sabbath was made FOR us BY God.
Practically speaking, let’s address some of those excuses. Sure, Sunday’s a big deal, but why does your Sabbath have to take place on Sunday? Why not Monday? Or Friday? Or whatever day works best for you in any particular week? Set that time aside and REST! And don’t forget to keep it holy. Spend some time in silence. In prayer—pray in color, pray the arts, take a walk and as you move, acknowledge God in creation. Figure out what works for you and just do it! And yeah, you’ve got to be available, but let your pastor and other church staff know when your Sabbath will be so they can field calls and offer assistance to anyone who may be looking for you. Turn your cell phone OFF! And as you Sabbath, realize the example you’re setting for those whom you serve. And for those of you who think that if you take a day off nothing will get done and you’ll end up behind, let me lovingly speak some truth to you: you’re not that important. It’ll be okay. I promise.
When I “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” when I practice the discipline of rest which has multiple benefits for my physical, spiritual, and emotional health, I am reminded that my dependence IS on God and that my identity, my importance, and my worth come not from my calendar, my to-do list, or my commitments but from God alone. So be intentional in not only resting but in keeping your day of rest holy. Practice the discipline of making yourself slow down and of acknowledging that God loves you enough to give you Sabbath.
Samantha Hassell has served the Cumberland Presbyterian church as a Christian Educator working with children and youth for nearly 12 years. She has served the denomination as well as presbyteries and churches in both Tennessee and Kentucky. She and her husband, Victor, currently serve the Sturgis CPC in Sturgis, KY. Samantha and Victor have three children: Victoria, Mallory, and John.