4 Reasons Pastors Need Rest

On a recent trip to Denver, I did something I had never done before: I missed a flight.

Without getting into details, it was my fault—and I was frustrated.

When you miss an eastbound flight at 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, there aren’t many other flights to choose from. In short, I had to wait several hours in the Denver airport for a 1:30 a.m. flight home.

On my trip, I spent countless hours in airports and a total of 34 hours awake. Thirty-four hours! I am too old for that.

I was so angry and loopy. At some point, an inability to think or focus set in. Even when I was home and could sleep, I was unable to fall asleep. I was so tired that I could not sleep.

Many were the lessons I learned during this adventure. Mostly, I took away that I am not wired to function without rest.

[Four steps to a meaningful Sabbath]

While this is true on a basic human level, it is a great lesson for leaders and pastors as well. “Burning the midnight oil” or “burning the candle at both ends” are great metaphors, but they do not make leaders effective over the long haul.

Here, I want to explore four reasons why every leader needs to build rest into their calendar.

You need rest because …

1. Tired eyes rarely see a bright future.

Leaders are dealers of hope. Inspiring others to better days is our core task. Exhaustion causes us to see the future dimly. It is impossible to inspire when we feel stuck in the mire. Rest removes us from the pressure of the urgent to see the possibilities of the future. Those you lead are struggling to see past the immediacy of the moment. They need you engaged in the potential of what lies ahead.

2. When fatigue walks in, faith walks out.

Leadership is hard. At the core of a great cause is the belief that what you are doing will work. A lack of rest robs us of the strength to hold on to that belief. It is OK to get tired, but it is not OK to stay tired. You have to lead yourself enough to recognize when you need to hit the pause button. One indicator is when you begin to see things through the dark veil of fear. Rest renews faith.

3. Exhaustion makes mountains seem taller and valleys seem lower.

When a leader is tired, what once looked like a challenge morphs into an impossibility. Leaders tackle big mountains and persevere through dark valleys. Perspective helps keep leaders balanced during turbulent times. Rest is the key that unlocks perspective.

4. Decisions when you’re worn out result in potential fallout.

I once heard someone say, “Don’t make a big decision when you’re tired.” There is truth in that. Instead of pressing through and forcing a decision, it is often best to wait. When I am faced with a big decision, I do not like to make the decision when I feel pressured or tired. When you are exhausted, being decisive can become divisive. Wait, rest … then decide.

I have rested up since my Rocky Mountain airport fiasco. While I regained some sleep, I also gained some great leadership insight. Hopefully, this will help you the next time you feel tired. And hopefully I will be reminded to get to the airport a few minutes earlier from now on.

Kevin Lloyd is the executive pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. This article was originally posted on Lloyd’s blog, LeadBravely.org.