Leading in ministry from a place of rest

Oct 27, 2023

Reading time: 8 Minutes

Restful, peaceful chair at home

Hurry is not God’s best for leaders. Many are leading under the influence of their stressed-out and overwhelmed lives. We struggle and strive to see God’s call on our lives fulfilled and to reach more people with His message of hope. All the while, we are daily withering under the pressure of family demands, careers, and ministry obligations. There will always be pressure in leadership, but it should never be the place you lead from.

Our society has cultivated a mindset of resting after completing the work. The problem is the work never gets done. There will always be more to do on your to-do list. There will always be more work needing your attention. If you only rest when the work is done, you will never feel you have permission to rest.

This is not God’s plan for rest. It is the opposite of your divine design. In Genesis, God created man on the sixth day and on the seventh day God rested. Man’s first full day began as a day of rest. Rest was the foundation, not the reward. Rest was the place from which all work would start. God’s rhythm of living for our lives is one of leading from a place of rest. It begins in communion with Him and from that time we leave empowered to do the work we are called to do.

Your leadership roles may require administrative or organizational skills, or you may spend more time in communication and compassion roles. Setting boundaries can be difficult when your skills and gifts are in high demand. Every emergency is worthy of attention. Every prayer request is important. In setting healthy personal boundaries, you are not judging the validity of another's needs but being a wise steward of what God has given you. It is how you prevent burnout. The list of needs is endless, and there is always someone in need of the hope found in Jesus. Despite the unending to-do list, rest is a mandatory part of an effective, healthy, and sustainable ministry life.

Ten years ago I was burning out. During that time God took me through an extensive time of restoration. As a board-certified internal medicine physician and researcher, God used my natural curiosity to dive deep into what it means to rest from both a biblical and scientific standpoint. This research was presented in my book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity. Within it I share about seven different types of rest needed to feel restored.

Physical Rest: Divided into passive forms like sleeping/napping and active forms like stretching, leisure walks, and massage therapy to help improve circulation in the body.

Mental Rest: Quieting your thought process and clearing your mind for better focus and

Spiritual Rest: Focusing on building an intimate relationship with God over ritualistic religious routines.

Emotional Rest: Practicing authenticity and vulnerability by express your feelings with
people you trust.

Social Rest: Spending time with people who do not put any demands on you and simply
enjoy being with you.

Sensory Rest: Downgrading the external sensory input from your electronics as well as the lights and sounds in your environment.

Creative Rest: Allowing yourself opportunities to appreciate natural beauty like the beach/flowers or man-made beauty like artwork, and letting it inspire creativity inside of you.


Man enjoying beach and nature


A key part of the equation is identifying which of the seven types of rest you need most which can be done with my free assessment at RestQuiz.com. You can then focus your attention on intentionally doing more restorative activities to pour back into the areas of greatest deficit. This is what we see within the Jewish culture when they practice their day of Sabbath. They avoid their normal work and spend the day doing restorative activities like spending time in God’s presence (spiritual rest), enjoying quality time with family (social rest), and spending time in nature (creative rest). They are not lying in bed all day. They understand that rest is not simply the cessation of activity. Rest is an active process of being filled.

If you are a leader who seeks to help others through your gifts and talents, it is critical you learn how to rest well. It is necessary to move from a place of overwhelm to a place of overflow. Where you no longer pour into the lives of others from your place of emptiness but from a place of fullness. It is not merely breaking away for a vacation, but a deep abiding rest where you can momentarily lay it all down when you feel God drawing you near. It is the ability to step away from your leadership duties for a time, while you focus not on the calling but the One who called you.

What does it look like to lead from a place of rest?

  1. Embrace Sabbath as the beginning of your work week.

    Sabbath is not how you end your week; it is how you prepare for your week. Seek first to enter into the rest of God. If your position requires you to work on Sunday, choose Friday or Saturday as your day to rest. Purposely slow down and intentionally make room for God to begin the work of restoring those areas of your life stress has broken down.

  2. Learn the value of sleep and develop a relaxing bedtime regimen.

    Over 40 million people suffer from sleep deprivation and insomnia. Those who work in an emotionally stressful situation are even more prone to have difficulty turning off their mind and relaxing their body when it’s time to go to bed. Rest is the bridge that allows you to transition from your busy day to a peaceful night’s sleep. Turn off the electronics, release your anxious thoughts through journaling, or renew your mind in scripture. Determine a relaxing sequence of events to help you experience sweet sleep.

  3. See joy as the compass pointing you in the direction of God’s best.

    Leadership is not supposed to drain you to the point of extinguishing. God’s  desire is for you to prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers. Joy is how He strengthens you to thrive in your places of influence. Work without the benefit of rest becomes void of pleasure. The work then feels like a burden and loses its ability to be satisfying and fulfilling. Rest allows an opportunity for joy to show the way back to God’s best for your life.

  4. Treasure and seek out time with uplifting, life-giving individuals.

    The people you are around during the day have a direct effect on how you feel. As a leader, you will undoubtedly have many opportunities to be a blessing to
    those who need an understanding ear to listen, the wisdom of your expertise, or the knowledgeable counsel of someone with a strong faith. Each of these encounters will pull from your social reserves and will require times of social rest to replenish your compassion and to refill you. Seek out those individuals who have a positive, restorative effect on you and spend time gleaning from those social interactions.

  5. Make room for the things you enjoy.

    The purpose of some things is to bring a smile to your face and birth a song in  your heart. Every activity does not need to fit into a specific business or ministry checkbox. There should be enough margin in your life to allow time for those activities and hobbies you love for no other reason than you enjoy them. Lift praises and thanksgiving during these fun moments. A well-rested life is a wide-open space God can breathe upon with many opportunities to bless you with the gift of His goodness towards you.

  6. Appreciate the small beginning and trust God for the increase.

    Striving to see results does not lead to God’s best. Abraham learned this the hard way. His desire to help God do things faster resulted in Ishmael which only  created more work and more problems. When we choose striving over trusting, we are saying we are not content with God’s timing. We want the increase now, and therefore we will go to great extremes to push ourselves in the hopes of a favorable outcome. Do not strive for results, instead, aim to please God. Honor His ways and trust His timing. In due season, you will see the fruit of your labor and your rest.

  7. Stay attentive to how God is leading you.

    Communication is one of the gifts of learning to lead from a place of rest. You will be able to more clearly discern what activities are still yours to do from the ones that were only yours for a season. Separate out your emotional ties from what God is calling you to do at this time in your life. Find the freedom to be still and silent in His presence, knowing you will leave these moments of rest better
    prepared to be a leader. Allow God to lead you as you lead others from a place of rest.



Used with permission from the following online article:

Dalton-Smith, Dr. Saundra. (2023, April). Leading from a Place of Rest: A Guide for Christian Leaders. Thrive & Cultivate: Mental Health Resources for Church Leaders(6), 12-18.

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