From the Pastors' Desks

The Value of a Study Break

I think the congregation is making a great investment—and I want to congratulate you for it! The investment I’m talking about is pastoral study breaks; and, at the risk of sounding self-serving, on behalf of my fellow pastors, I want to express how helpful it is that the congregation give their pastors regular study breaks. 

In my own call, Harvest has granted me two weeks of study break each year. Whenever we return from one of these study breaks, people will ask about them. Admittedly, most occupations don’t get study breaks (when is the last time the tradesman or stay-at-home mom got a study break?) and so they’re unfamiliar. So, you might have questions: what typically happens on a study break? Are they helpful? 

The concept of a study break is fresh for me since my most recent study break was mid-October. Sometimes your pastors will get out of town for study to allow for some more uninterrupted time. Shifting locations can sometimes help us turn our attention from ordinary routines to more focused study. For my most recent break, we spent some time in Canada and the rest at home since we now have a school schedule to work around.

Typically, it takes a day or two to begin “shutting off”. I’ve typically had to press harder before the study break to tie up loose ends and then my brain is still thinking about pastoral concerns, to-do lists, and other projects. But then the rest of the time is spent reading, writing, planning, resting, and spending time with the family – all while resisting the urge to check my email or phone. Though each pastor’s study break is different, my own goal is to spend four to six hours per day on “study” related things.

But why give your pastors time to do this sort of thing?  Let me quickly suggest five benefits.

  1. The pastor gets to read and think. On my study break in October, I was able to start and finish four books. I was also able to finish up another three books that I had previously started. Some of these books were read for leisure, others were read for personal edification, and still others were read for specific church work. Being able to get away and read is an opportunity to help me grow.
  2. The pastor can get some perspective. When your weeks are stuffed with counseling appointments and meetings and sermon preparation, you can lose sight of the “big picture” of ministry. What are our goals for this season? What things do I need to work on? What things do I need to begin planning for in the future? These are bigger vision and strategy questions that sometimes get lost in day-to-day duties.
  3. The pastor can recharge, replenish, and have some fun before jumping back into the fray. Pastoral ministry is a great and demanding calling. I find that getting the chance to retreat, read, and pray does wonders to restore energy levels that can be invested back into my family and the church. Study breaks are useful tools to help your pastors persevere in ministry.  
  4. The pastor’s family gets to see him around in the evenings. An occupational byproduct of being a pastor is that your evenings are quickly filled up by evening appointments. This is understandable because most congregants are at work or school during the day and so that’s when a lot of meaningful pastoring gets done! The result is that the pastor is away from home several nights a week. A study break is a great gift to the pastor’s family because it means that they can have a week where dinners are unhurried and they receive more dedicated time.
  5. The pastor gets to reset devotional routines. Yes, even your pastors can struggle with their personal devotions! At least I do! Having a week without meetings can give me some runway to reestablish some healthier habits of devotion. This is so important because pastors must be meeting Jesus in His Word if they’re to lead the congregation spiritually.

For these reasons, I want to thank you for the support you show your pastors in granting us regular study breaks. I am so thankful for how you encourage your pastors to take study breaks, you inquire about them, and you never make us feel guilty for taking the time away from our normal labors. Speaking for my fellow pastors, we are blessed by this, and we hope that you in turn are blessed through your pastors being sharpened and renewed for ministry. 


In His Service,

Pastor Wayne


What Pastor Wayne is reading . . .

Wisdom in Leadership Development 
by Craig Hamilton 

This may have been one of the most helpful books that I've read this year. Following up on his book Wisdom in Leadership, this book looks at what churches can do to create an environment where people can serve with joy and grow in leadership responsibilities.

Culture Code 
by Daniel Coyle 

Hitting on similar themes as the Hamilton book, Coyle's Culture Code looks at a wide variety of groups or teams and asks the question: what helps these teams excel beyond the abilities of the individual contributors that make up those teams?

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