Holy Week. How do you react when you read those words? Do you look forward to the spiritual journey through Christ’s death and resurrection? Or brace yourself for the culmination of being overworked, overstressed, and overpaid?
Just kidding on that last one.
I have a confession. In twenty years of parish ministry, I have, at times, found myself thinking during Holy Week that Jesus had the easy part. At least he got three days of rest.
The not-so-Holy Week experience
The usual run of things is that during Holy Week you have more worship services to prepare for than any other week of the year. For pastors, one or more members of the congregation will pass away, so you add trying to faithfully prepare for a funeral to your to-do list. It will either be spring break for your kids or one of them will come down with the stomach flu. Or both.
And when your kids ask where you’re going for spring break because it seems like everyone else is headed somewhere warm, you say, “We’re going to church, kids. Three times.”
Not only is there church pressure, but Saturday night it dawns on you that the Easter bunny is supposed to show up tomorrow, and all the sugar in the house is absent. You may write “make unhealthy food choices” on your to-do list just to have some sense of accomplishment.
Don’t even get me started on family expectations; if your clan descends on your house for a holiday feast, hand them the keys and let them know they are in charge.
No egg bakes for you.
It’s so easy to forget what Holy Week is all about. You’re busy checking off your work list. Tending to the faith of others. Keeping order at home. It might feel like Holy Week is just one. more. thing.
But we need you. You have been called to a vocation of service to God through the church. Too many of us have been burned out and end up going through the motions. That’s why—in the midst of it all—we need you to invest in yourself.
Give yourself the time to let Holy Week actually feel holy. That your faith may feel authentic; your work maybe even occasionally inspired.
So, grab your calendar, and prioritize yourself this Holy Week by scheduling time to follow these tips. Who knows—they may even help you hurdle the mountain of work and land smiling.
How to put the “holy” back in Holy Week
- Take a deep breath…and write your sermon. If you’re preaching, you already know that Easter and Christmas are the most difficult sermons to write. You’ve probably already completed the first stage of the writing process—staring at a blank screen for hours. Take a deep breath, move around a bit, refresh the coffee, then focus. Consider use of a story that reflects the grace and love of God you want people to understand. It’s great that you loved your Systematic Theology class, but odds are people will remember a story better than your Greek translation lesson. Next year, two words: shared worship.
- Find a new church. That one surprised you, didn’t it? But I’m not telling you to abandon ship. Find a new church for part of a day. One that has a Holy Week worship service at a different time than yours (like noon or midafternoon). Then attend. Slip in the back anonymously and worship. Pray. Be still. Let the words of another preacher soak into you (without judgement). It’s one of the dirty secrets of church workers: it’s hard to worship when worship is work.
- Block out time each day for exercise. I know—self-care is first on the chopping block when time is tight. But if you go for a walk or a run or do whatever it is you do that gets your blood moving, your head will be clearer when you are done and your brain and body will manage stress better. Don’t argue with science! Besides, doesn’t it seem like God inspires us when we shut everything else off and leave our thoughts open? This tip may be key to helping you accomplish tip No. 1.
- Make a reservation at the best local Easter brunch buffet. Start with dessert; you’ve earned it.
- Block off time on Easter Sunday. Take two hours for that holiest of holies. Write it down (or type it in) so everyone can see. “2–4 p.m. EASTER NAP.”
- Take a Sabbath. Make plans for no plans on Easter Monday (or maybe even Easter Tuesday if your kids are off Monday). That’s an order. And a commandment.
It will all get done. It always does. But make time for faith—your faith—along the way and the rest of us will follow gladly.