Finding Rest in Pastoral Rhythms

pastoral rhythms


Discover the importance of setting the right pace in Christian leadership. Learn how to find rest and avoid burnout by following Jesus’ example. Explore the significance of the pastoral rhythms of observing a Sabbath, setting boundaries, and pausing to pray in order to lead at Jesus’ pace. Find encouragement and guidance in navigating the challenges of leadership.


Are you weary? Exhausted? Too busy to even notice how weary and exhausted you are?

Many Christian leaders feel this way. Jesus teaches us about setting the right pace in leadership through several pastoral rhythms.

Time Pressure

Leadership comes with time pressure. The world is ever more complex and lived at an ever-increasing pace. Technology means that leaders are “on call” 24/7, responding to phone calls, emails, texts, social media, and so on. The impact of the world after the COVID-19 Coronavirus global pandemic is that these pressures have increased, as leaders have battled with a sudden change in landscape and ways of working.

If you are anxious, busy, stressed, troubled, or weary, you are not alone. Pastoral rhythms are becoming more and more important.

Jesus Speaks Into Our Busyness

In the midst of our tiredness, anxiety, busyness, stress, and weariness, Jesus speaks, willing to teach us to walk at his pace:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, New Living Translation

Jesus promises rest. But that does not mean doing nothing (or at least, not for too long!). Because he also says, “Take my yoke upon you.” He still has work for us to do. As you probably know, a yoke is what a farmer uses to connect two animals together to a plough. The yoke ensures the two animals walk together in the same direction and at the same speed. A yoke signifies work. The animals have work to do. But Jesus says the yoke is his. We are yoked to him. We should be working at his direction and at his pace. He should be setting the right pace in our leadership. That is the best of the pastoral rhythms we can aim for.

How can we ensure this is the case in our own ministry?

Pastoral Rhythms: Observe a Sabbath

God decreed that his people should observe the Sabbath as a holy day, set apart for him. Jesus declared himself Lord of the Sabbath. So Christian leaders should be taking at least one day off a week. Sunday, for most of us, cannot be our Sabbath, because we’re working: preaching, leading worship, speaking with people, and many other things. We are certainly not resting! God understands that it doesn’t matter what day it is, but we need one day off every week. Sometimes, we feel far too busy to do this. But I have noticed that I become much less like Jesus when I fail to take time off. I become irritable, and – ironically – less productive. If we want to be setting the right pace in our leadership, we need to observe a Sabbath.

Pastoral Rhythms: Set Some Boundaries

As an effective leader, it is inevitable you will be asked to do more and more. The more you prove yourself in leadership, the more people want to tap into your skills. But we all have only 168 hours each week. So inevitably, we cannot keep saying “yes” to things without saying “no” to something else. Most of us have a hard time saying “no” to people and new opportunities. But I am learning that the mark of effective leadership is knowing what not to do. If we are passionate about setting the right pace in our leadership, then we need to learn to take something off our schedule when we add something new to it. How do we know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to or take off our schedule? In God’s presence, ask “is it worth it?” Is what you are being asked to do worth your time, energy, and effort? And then ask God, “what do you want me to give up?” If we’re going to do leadership at his pace and in his direction, then we need to be willing to ask him what he wants us to give up as well as accepting the new opportunities he opens up to us.

Pastoral Rhythms: Pause and Pray

This is about being yoked to Jesus. It is about leading at his pace and in the direction he sets. So how do we ensure we are yoked to him at all times? By pausing and praying about the decisions we make on a regular basis. They only need to be “arrow prayers.” God, what do you want me to do next? Should I say yes to this? I sense I should be saying no to this person. Am I right? Pausing and praying this way helps me to slow down. I have a few moments to reflect and gain some perspective. It helps us make wise decisions. How many times do we make a quick decision we regret later on as it adds to our busyness?

Yield to Jesus’ Pace

I pray that each of us will ensure that Jesus is setting the right pace in our leadership. I pray he will help us to step out of our busyness, anxiety, and weariness, into his gentle yoke, as we work in his direction and at his pace. Take his words into your day today:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Let us find rest in the pastoral rhythms Jesus offers us as we navigate the challenges of leadership.


What is the importance of setting the right pace in Christian leadership?

Setting the right pace in Christian leadership is crucial for maintaining a balanced and sustainable approach to ministry. By managing your pastoral rhythms effectively, you can avoid burnout and ensure long-term effectiveness in your leadership role.

How can I find rest as a Christian leader?

Finding rest as a Christian leader involves following Jesus’ example. By prioritising regular times of solitude, prayer, and reflection, you can replenish your spiritual and emotional energy. Additionally, seeking support from trusted mentors or peers can provide guidance and encouragement in your journey.

What are some practical ways to avoid burnout in Christian leadership?

To avoid burnout in Christian leadership, it’s important to establish healthy boundaries and practice self-care. This could involve setting realistic expectations, delegating responsibilities, and taking regular breaks. Prioritising physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy can also contribute to overall well-being.

How can I maintain a healthy work-life balance as a Christian leader?

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a Christian leader requires intentionality. It involves effective time management, prioritising personal and family time, and learning to say no when necessary. Striving for balance allows you to serve others effectively without neglecting your own spiritual, emotional, and relational needs.

What can I learn from Jesus’ approach to leadership in terms of setting the right pace?

Jesus’ approach to leadership emphasises the importance of rest, prayer, and being led by the Holy Spirit. By observing his example, we can understand the significance of prioritising our relationship with God and relying on his guidance. Jesus regularly withdrew to solitary places, demonstrating the need for intentional rest and reflection in our own leadership journey.

How can I incorporate spiritual disciplines into my daily routine as a Christian leader?

Incorporating spiritual disciplines into your daily routine can enhance your leadership and personal growth. Practices such as prayer, Bible study, meditation, and worship can help you stay connected to God and cultivate a deep spiritual life. These disciplines can provide the foundation for effective Christian leadership.

What role does self-reflection play in setting the right pace as a Christian leader?

Self-reflection is essential in setting the right pace as a Christian leader. By regularly assessing your priorities, evaluating your energy levels, and identifying areas for growth, you can make adjustments to your pastoral rhythms and ensure that you are leading from a place of health and authenticity.

How can accountability relationships support my journey towards setting the right pace?

Accountability relationships can provide valuable support and encouragement in your journey towards setting the right pace. By sharing your goals, struggles, and progress with trusted individuals, you invite accountability and receive guidance. These relationships can help you stay on track and make necessary adjustments to maintain a healthy leadership pace.

Are there any biblical passages that speak to the importance of setting the right pace in Christian leadership?

Yes, several biblical passages highlight the significance of setting the right pace in Christian leadership. For example, in Mark 6:31, Jesus invites his disciples to come away with him to a quiet place and rest. This passage emphasises the importance of rest and rejuvenation in the midst of ministry. Additionally, Psalm 46:10 encourages us to Be still, and know that I am God, reminding us of the need for stillness and trust in God’s guidance.

How can I effectively manage my time and responsibilities as a Christian leader?

Effective time management involves prioritisation and delegation. By discerning your most important tasks and focusing on them first, you can ensure that your time is allocated effectively. Additionally, delegating responsibilities to capable individuals enables you to share the workload, empowering others and freeing up time for essential aspects of leadership.

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