The Power of True Rest

How your small group leadership can be sustainable and strong

Rest takes discipline. That might sound strange to some, but it requires intentionality to maintain a consistent rhythm of spiritual practices to rest well. We’re accustomed to thinking of Bible reading and prayer as spiritual practices, but “rest” does not usually make the list. It should. Sabbath is a critical piece to this, but if we’re not resting in other ways, we can inadvertently misuse this sacred time and miss the divine intent of it.

The importance of rest for small group leaders cannot be emphasized enough, especially in a world that is increasingly fast-paced and filled with unlimited distractions. For over 20-years, I’ve gotten to serve as a pastor. Twice I’ve “hit the wall.” In other words, I got so depleted that I wasn’t able to continue in the same way I had been until I took time to care in new ways for my own soul.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to many church staff and volunteer leaders because the demands of ministry always outpace people’s ability to meet them, whether you’re shepherding a small group of people or a local church. Far too many of us learn the hard way. As my friend Lance Witt puts it: “You cannot live life at warp speed without warping your soul. When you run fast and hard and long, eventually you will drain your soul…Running on empty will eventually lead to cynicism, disillusionment, and burnout. You are not the exception.” (High Impact Teams) Your life and leadership will suffer in the blur of a hurried life.

Small group leaders are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of being influencers in the spiritual lives of the people circled up with them. In order to be spiritually healthy and effective, your soul needs rest. These five practices will help you to wisely prioritize your relationships and make deposits into your personal life so that your service as a small group leader can be sustainable and strong:

  1. Recognize Sabbath-rest weekly – Ruthlessly guard this day each week. It means setting boundaries, saying ‘no’, and some degree of planning to keep potential interruptions at bay so that you can let yourself to be loved by God. (Heb 4:9-11)
  2. Read and reflect on God’s Word daily – Slow down and allow biblical truth to truerestsimmer in your soul so that you can experience His restorative rest. Make your devotional life personal for yourself before making it practical for others. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  3. Rely on the Lord and the help of others – Alongside “slowing down” is another essential ingredient to rest: Solitude (Mark 1:35). Commune with God and listen for the Holy Spirit’s gentle whispers (1 Kings 19:12). Rally friends around you who will faithfully uphold you in prayer and help lift the load of your leadership responsibilities. By not trying to do it all on your own, you’ll empower others in ministry.
  4. Remember God’s promises and power – Recalling truths like these will replenish your spirit and empower you in your small group leadership:
    • God is building His Church – plant people in the fertile ground of those who are already growing together in Christ. (Mt 16:18)
    • God makes things grow – be faithful with what the Lord has called you to do and entrust the results to Him. (1 Cor 3:7)
    • God is always with you and will never leave you. (Deut 31:8)
    • God’s Word is alive and active – trust His truth to transform hearts. (Heb 4:12)
    • God wants all people to know Him and will meet them more than half-way (1 Tim 2:4; James 4:7-8). His amazing grace woos those humble enough to see their need for Him.
  1. Refresh yourself regularly – Find out what fills your tank and do it. What brings you joy and makes you feel alive? Is there variety to your routine beyond recuperating from being poured out for others? (Php 2:17)

True rest necessitates the nurture of our most important relationships beginning with Christ and flowing outward to our family, friends and others the Lord has put in our lives. Our most central relationships influence all the others, so a shallow relationship with God or a struggling marriage will affect how one leads others at work or in ministry. Sadly, by neglecting their innermost relationships, leaders end up forsaking their souls.

Jesus Christ is the One who enables us to live inside-out with Him as our source rather than allowing the pressures of life to turn us inside-out. Your soul will only find rest in Jesus who said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

You will find rest for your soul when you come under Jesus’ direction and learn from Him. True rest makes space for the Holy Spirit to do His refining and transformative work in your soul. As a result, you will be healthier, more joyful, and effective in your spiritual leadership. You owe it to God, yourself and loved ones, and the people whose spiritual growth you are influencing through your small group leadership.

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