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Every congregation that gives its pastor a week or two each year for study is making a great investment—and I want to congratulate congregations that do so. The investment I am 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 a congregation grants its pastor(s) regular study breaks.

In my own call, the church has granted me two weeks of study break each year. Whenever I return from one of these study breaks, people will ask me about them. Admittedly, most occupations do not get study breaks (when is the last time the tradesman or stay-at-home mom got a study break?), and so study breaks are unfamiliar to many in our churches. So, you might have questions: what typically happens on a study break? Why are they helpful?

The concept of a study break is fresh for me, since my most recent study break was mid-October of last year. Sometimes 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 and planning. For my most recent break, we spent some time in Canada (where our families are located) and the rest at home since we now have our oldest daughter’s school schedule to work around.

Typically, it takes a day or two to begin “shutting off.” I have 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. Some specific projects I have worked on in the past during my study break have included preparing an adult Sunday School class, pulling together small group leader training, planning a long-term initiative for developing a culture of disciple-making at our church, and studying for my next preaching series. On other study breaks I have chosen to focus less on specific projects and more on reading as much as I can to develop personally and as a pastor.

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 on his ministry. When your weeks are stuffed with counseling appointments, 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. One important aspect of leading an area of ministry in the church is that you need to be able to think not only in terms of week-to-week responsibilities but also in six- or twelve-month intervals so that there is clarity on long-term direction. A study break can give pastors a time to provide clarity on ministry vision and strategy that can strengthen congregational ministry and support the ministry of congregational members.

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, spend time with friends, and pray does wonders to restore energy levels that can be invested back into my family and 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 evenings are 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 the pastor’s family receive more focused attention. An important qualification for a teaching elder is how he leads and cares for his family. By encouraging the pastor to have some extra time with his family, the congregation is helping him to safeguard his ability to minister to his family.

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 are to lead the congregation spiritually.

For these reasons, I am grateful to my congregation for the support they show their pastors in granting us regular study breaks. I am so thankful for how they encourage us to take study breaks and how they inquire about them, without making 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 our congregation in turn is blessed through its pastors being sharpened and renewed for ministry.

Wayne M. Veentsra is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church serving as an associate pastor of Harvest Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wyoming, Michigan. Ordained Servant Online, May 2022.

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Ordained Servant: May 2022

Pastoral Care

Also in this issue

Encouragement for Leaders from 1 Samuel 30:1–31

Promoting Happy Pastors

Commentary on the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapters 28–29

The Pastor: His Call, Character, and Work by Faculty and Friends of Old Princeton

Augustine’s Theology of Preaching by Peter T. Sanlon

The Ministry of Angels

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