For almost 4 years now I’ve kept what I call “A Monthly Day Away to Study & Pray.” Fellow pastors, if you don’t do something like this already, you should consider making this part of your monthly schedule. This has become such a rhythm in my life that I couldn’t imagine life without it.
Here’s how it works.
Long before my month fills up, I block off one day of the month for this day away. I don’t allow any obligations or opportunities to compete with this day. My admin knows not to schedule anything for me on this day. This is a day that helps protect me from burnout and refuels me for the rest of the month.
A few days before this day away arrives, I plan for how I will use the time. I ask questions like: What do I want to study? What do I need to pray through and process? How could I come away from this day the most recharged and refocused? I generally settle on 2 or 3 “projects” for the day.
Then, on the morning of the day away, I wake up early and drive somewhere away from the church office and away from where I’m likely to bump into people I know. This is a day to be away from the normal routines. 70% of the time I spend the day just 2o minutes away in Half Moon Bay.
Before I leave the house (6:30am), I quickly check and respond to email. If it’s a day that I bring my computer with me, I will check email just once more in the day, right before I return home. Other than that, it’s an email-free day. I also tend to leave my phone in the car and only check it once or twice in case of emergencies.
I begin the day at a favorite breakfast spot. This is the first chunk of my day away. I generally spend 3-4 hours at my breakfast spot reading, thinking, and praying through the first of my 2-3 projects for the day. For example, this past Monday I devoted this first chunk of my day away to reflecting on and writing out the major lessons God has taught me in my 4 years at Central Peninsula Church (I’m in my final 3 weeks here and begin a new adventure soon) and studying a few biblical texts having to do with the call to preach.
Next, I typically go for a long walk and spend the walk pouring out my heart to God. This is also the day’s intermission, transitioning me into my second project for the day. If I’m in Half Moon Bay, I go for a walk on the beach.
My next move is to a favorite lunch spot (if I didn’t pack a lunch and eat it during my walk) or coffee shop. I devote the next 3-4 hours to a different project of study and prayer. For example, this past Monday I used this second half of the day to work through the first half of J.D. Payne’s excellent 496 page book, Discovering Church Planting.
At about 4:30pm, I close up shop. I change clothes, drive to a trail, and get a good sweaty trail run in. On these days away I have a lot of ideas. Throughout the day I write down some of these ideas (most of the ideas aren’t very good, but a few of them are). I use my trail run to further process some of the better ideas, sharpen them, and determine whether or not to try and implement them. For example, this past Monday it was during my trail run that I thought through several ideas for a new sermon series. If it’s a day where my mind isn’t spinning with ideas, I just run and all I think about is running.
Finally, I arrive home at 6pm. At 6pm sharp my “Day Away to Study & Pray” turns into “Wife’s Night Out.” I spend the night hanging out with my boys while my wife has a night out to do whatever she wants: meets up with girlfriends, a night to herself, etc.
Months ahead of time my wife and I sit down with our calendars and schedule this important day. We look forward to this day every month. Nothing competes with it. We both come away from this day refreshed and refocused. Consider making something like this part of your monthly schedule.