Over the last four years I have discovered certain ways to maximize my day off. I’ve also learned what will sabotage it. Find below the Ten commandments that I’ve made for myself to help me do the former.1. Thou shalt not under any circumstances ‘work the job’ on this day. Alright, that can’t be so categorical. There are such things as pastoral emergencies. However, speaking from a context of a medium to larger sized church, I can say they are rare. In any case, the biggest tempter who will be luring you to work on your day off will be yourself. You must resist every temptation to work (or even plan) ministry on this day. For example, Nicki and I make a special effort to debrief on church things Sunday evening, particularly so we won’t have to discuss it on a Monday.
2. Thou shalt not neglect small and satisfying tasks. Despite my call not to work the job on a day off, it is often refreshing to do the odd small task. Recently I have enjoyed the stimulus of doing lots of work around the garden or little bits of interior decoration on the day off. Unlike my pastoral work - which is a never ending treadmill - these activities provide a finish line. I can start a job and enjoy the satisfaction of finishing it. Very therapeutic!
3. Thou shalt not neglect biography and other soul assuaging books. I’ll be honest: I often feel a little low on a Monday. Emotionally, the tank is usually empty on a Monday morning (or at least the re-fuel light is on). Following Sunday’s exertions, I frequently wake up feeling as though I’ve just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. And I have, in a spiritual sense. Yet its amazing how a biography of a great saint can assuage the soul or how a little injection of Spurgeon can fill me with fresh encouragement.
4. Thou shalt not ignore friends and family but enjoy the company of one’s nearest and dearest. We have found that a day off is often the ideal time to spend time with those who know us best and love us most. Though for some pastors, spending time with wider family might not be relaxing, for many this will be a welcome opportunity. The reason such fellowship is often relaxing is that one can truly be oneself with your family and closest friends. They don’t regard you as a pastor, just as plain old Colin and Nicki. We need that.
5. Thou shalt not fail to have unhurried conversation opportunities with one’s wife. Monday is the day I circle especially to discuss the state of my marriage with my wife. That sounds much more formal than it is but usually we simply have some discussion about how we handled things together over the previous week. Sins can be confessed. Encouragements can be shared of things managed well. Above all, there is real opportunity to grow in our knowledge of each other.
6. Thou shalt not neglect ‘getting away’ from the city for a change of scene and a breath of fresh air. For some people who minister in a more rural setting, this might be flipped on its head. However, particularly for those of us who live and breath in the context of a bustling town or city, the fresh air of an open countryside or hillside can do us a world of good. Walking is a frequent activity on our day off.
7. Thou shalt not neglect prayerfully watching over one’s soul and in hearing the Word of God. This includes for me listening to a sermon or seminar on a Monday. Strangely, after preaching to others I often sense an even greater need to be preached to. So I press the play button on my I-pod and say ‘minister to me.’
8. Thou shalt not fail to give quality attention to one’s children. This recognizes that on many other days and evenings it is impossible to give long, uninterrupted time to my children. On my day off things are different, however. Nevertheless, selfishness or a preoccupation with filling the day with other tasks can prevent me giving appropriate focus to the children.
9. Thou shalt trust God, who works even while we rest. Ultimately, taking a rest in any shape or form is an act of faith. Only an unbelieving heart - a heart that does not fully trust in a God who is always Sovereign and who always works - prevents us from this.
10. Thou shalt not blog. OK, I’ve just broken this one.