For a long time, one preaching book inspired me. I occasionally read John Stott’s Between Two Worlds. It is not a technical book. It’s quite practical in its approach. For the discipline of homiletics, obviously there’re other really good books besides this one, but not many can beat the practical advice in this book. One of the best advices I read is the “quiet day” for the preacher. Some may even prefer an entire weekend away. What is a quiet day?
A quiet day is a day for studying and planning. In some ways, it isn’t just a day to relax, though it may do just that. It can also be a day of vigorous work. Whether this occurs once a quarter or half a year, the quiet day helps many a preacher to refocus. With the very busy pastoral duties, many ministers will get caught in the rat race of wedding, funerals, sermon preparation and counseling. These are all good things, but this busyness will cause the loss of focus. The quiet day brings back the focus.
During the quiet day away, the minister should have an electronic fast. During this time, it is tempting to check emails and get caught up in busyness again. Of course, people’s Facebook can have endless updates also. A quiet day should eliminate all clutter so that the minister can have time to clear his head.
The quiet day for a preacher can be devoted to planning series for sermon. What are the next several series going to be about? Think about the congregational need, whether intellectual or spiritual. Sometimes, we get so caught up with their spiritual need that we may forget that their brains also need feeding from sound knowledge.
If that planning is already done since the beginning of the year, then a quiet day will also allow the minister to look at whether the goals for the previous series have been accomplish and to think about what can be done better. Sometimes, we can get caught up with the praises of our fans and lose track of self-evaluation process. The quiet day is good for that reflection.
If evaluation is done, the quiet day can be necessary to read up on the next series or two. What I mean by reading up is not merely reading what other sermons are saying about the topic or series. What I mean is for the minister to do his or her own academic reading whether it is an updated series of books on the topic or biblical passage. Everyone needs a refresher course on what is going on “out there in the ivory tower”. This is the only way preachers can improve intellectually. For some who haven’t been reading academic stuff, the quiet day enables them to get rid of mental rust and cerebral cobwebs. The reason why this is done on a quiet day is because reading stuff like this is tough with all the distraction of the parish office.
The quiet day is also good for prayer. Every minister could use a little time away to pray. Prayer can be useful in sorting out all the planning and reading. It can keep the mind focus on the ultimate concern of the pastoral office.
The location of the quiet day is also important. Many of us will be tempted to go in when everyone is gone from the office to have that quiet day. I would advise against it. A quiet day is best spent in a different location. Locations have symbolic significance. The office, thought quiet, can still inundate us with that feeling of work. Some may prefer a seminary library when the seminary has no class on that day. Others may go to a cabin. We all have to figure out what works for us.
In order to plan the quiet day, I would recommend that each minister take time out by marking on the calendar and informing his staff when this will occur so that people can anticipate and work around this. If you’re a senior pastor reading this, I think you should also allow your pastoral staff to have the same privilege to have the same amount of quiet day away. Let them go with a quiet day and come back to share with you what they’ve learned. Many will think that this is not practical and shrug off this blog. Many will think that the parish work is so busy that this would be impossible. Sometimes, working fast and hard doesn’t mean working smart. The quiet day might just be the solution to our problem. Those who shrug off the quiet day might be the ones who need it the most. For many, the quiet day should not be a luxury. It should be a necessity.