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What do you do on your study break?

Great question. I get asked that every year during my annual study break in August.

One lesson I learned from a mentor was to see the ministry as a marathon, not a 100 yard dash. For that reason, he has encouraged all of his mentees to take an annual study break. Why?

1) Worship

Almost every Sunday for over 2 decades, I have been responsible for leading worship services. Even when I’m not preaching, I attend our services as an overseer – and I love it! I am passionate about helping people discover God on Sundays. It is an honor to feel entrusted by God to lead people to connect with Him every week! That’s one reason I love being in ministry!

However, its not healthy for me to be in that role all the time. During my study break, I get to participate. Undistracted by responsibilities. Undistracted with the constant thoughts like: “What are newcomers thinking? How can we do this better next time? What’s that on Tim’s T-shirt?”

So, one purpose of my break is to worship God unfettered by distractions.

2) Benevolent Rest

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In other words, God built one day of rest into every week and commanded one year of rest every 49 in ancient Israel, not to be legalistic, but because we need rest. As old Native American proverb says, “You will break the bow if you keep it constantly bent.”

I am called to ministry & blessed to get paid to do what I do. Still, the each year as the study break approaches, I can feel it. Less creative. Less patient under stress. More frustrated by mountains that won’t move.

The study break is a time for me to refill the tanks. So, I read books, listen to lectures and sermons, and talk with other ministers. Sometimes, I go to seminars.

Sometimes, I just make time to think. That’s one reason I like going to the lake as much as I can on my break. Nothing clears my head more than rigging the sunfish and sailing around the lake. And, there’s no better place in the world for me to get perspective and dream than on the front porch swing… or, the front yard hammock… or, in front of the fire as the sun sets across the lake.

This summer, I’m reading books on Elijah and church growth, as well as my favorite Leadership to Leader magazines.

3) Sermon Work

It’s hard to be spiritual and busy. So, study break is the best time for me to look out and the year ahead, pray, and plan all the sermon series through Fall 2010. Do you know how fun it is to think through the needs of the church, seek God, and prepare series? So far, I’ve worked on sermon series about Joseph, Elijah, Jonah, Practical Proverbs, 1 John, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Habakkuk, just for starters. All of them won’t make the cut for this year, but within the next five years, we’ll use the material.

Oh, wait. It’s not really fun. It’s awful. Horrible. You don’t know how difficult it is! (I don’t want you to think this is too easy!)

To get ahead for the fall, my goal is always to have 4 new sermons written by September. That allows more flexibility in my schedule (and less tension and anger, making me a nicer person to live with).

4) Visit Churches

Last week, we visited J10, the church NL started in Ashburn 8 years ago. Every year we try to visit as many churches that NL has started as we can. We’re planning to visit Common Ground and Momentum. It’s always rewarding to go and encourage former staff members!

This year, I want to visit a large church in Akron, OH to see how they use their building & do multi-site. We’ve also talked about a trip to visit a church in Idaho with Creed.

Think I’m going to run out of Sundays before I run out of churches?

5) Family Time

Sometimes, I think my family needs my study break more than I do. Many of you work on-call 24 hours a day. That’s the nature of our work. And, its great to work knowing what you are doing is needed all the time.

At the same time, the schedule and stresses of ministry can take a toll on the family. (My college roommate, a Christian college professor’s son, always said, “You’re not really in ministry until you’ve neglected your family.”)

I try to honor God, my family, and the ministry every week. But, study break is a break for my family, because I’m not being pulled in so many directions, I’m more relaxed, and we’re able to spend a little more time together away from the stress, as well.

My mentor took at least 4-6 weeks for a study break every summer for the last 30 years of his life. He retired at 65, still climbing. He’s probably more effective in his retirement years than most people are in their work years. One reason he’d tell you: he ran like a marathon, not a sprint. Thanks for allowing me to do the same.

Brett Andrews, Lead Minister

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One Response to “What do you do on your study break?”

  1. I so agree with what you have to say here about study breaks. I get four weeks a year. Unfortunately with our church schedule I seldom get to take all four weeks never mind taking them all together. However I am at a point of really reevaluating how my wife and I do life. I think it is sad that a common comment about ministers is that they neglect their families. I would like to change that.


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