NOTE: This article originally appeared here on the Reformation 21 blog.
I continue to be haunted by a question Tim Rice, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, asked me at the Hunger Games (also known as the PCA Assessment Center). As one of our assessors, he asked me during our two-hour interview, “When was the last time you had fun?”
Put differently, “When was the last time you took time out for yourself?”
For many, perhaps even most, that question provides no cause for alarm, but for me, as well as many other pastors, that question shakes us at our core.
Once the question was asked, I responded in a bit of amazement. It was not with words, however. I turned to my wife with a look of confusion; my mouth was still closed; she nodded in agreement as if to say, “I have been thinking the same thing.” Since my wife knows me best, I could not escape the reality of Tim’s question and the subsequent answer.
Apparently, I do not have fun. I do not take time out for myself.
What do I mean?
Pastoral ministry requires a lot of you.
Although our work cannot be measured in the same manner as other vocations (e.g., a real estate agent, construction worker, etc.), we, nevertheless, spend many hours on the job.
As a pastor, someone is always bidding for your time. Those unexpected visits at your study that turn into two hours, emails that need to be sent, counseling conducted, home visitations scheduled and executed, session meetings arranged, disputes settled, checks written, the scriptures properly interpreted (i.e., exegesis), prayer properly utilized, funerals conducted, marriages officiated, so-called important questions that people must have answered, and on and on.
This is only a part of pastoral ministry. There are many other aspects to it; nevertheless, all of the aforementioned, and more, are extremely time consuming.
You see, I enjoy what I do. Because of that, I do not mind putting in long hours. My vocation does not seem like work oftentimes.
Before my family awakes, therefore, I work. When they retire for the evening, I work. Like the navy, pastoral ministry is a 24/7 calling.
But unfortunately I have not learned that my work will always be there, and I need to take time out for myself.