Constructing Sabbath Rhythms

Brian Sullivan   -  

This week in our Sacred Pace Series we taught on Sabbath (sermon here). The last section was on “Practices” or “how to practice Sabbath”. In a great way, I had a lot of “how” to practice Sabbath and challenges to practicing Sabbath questions after the sermon. This was great in two regards:

  1. I intentionally spent more time on the “what” and “why” of the Sabbath in the sermon. The response after was great because people understood the need we have for Sabbath (rest. delight. resistance.) and wanted to begin to put into the practice.
  2. The 2nd reason this was great – and why I didn’t spend more time on “how” (other than the sermon was getting too long) –  was that everyone is different. We all have different personalities, different stages of life, different vocations, different opportunities and challenges, different ways we experience and relate to God, etc. So to give a one size fits all on “how to practice Sabbath” is not helpful.

With that, here are some tips that will help you cultivate a plan to practice Sabbath. This was adapted from a document for Pastors called “Sabbath Rhythms” which drives at cultivating rhythms of rest daily, weekly, trimester and yearly.


Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “We must study as hard how to live well, as how to preach well.  We must think and think again, how to compose our lives, as well as our sermons.”  Living a life of gospel intentionality is to allow the King of all creation to be Lord of your calendar.  It begins with by establishing Sabbath rhythms. Think through your daily, weekly, trimester and annual rhythms.

  1. Daily Rhythms: Divide your day into modules (4 hour periods). What are peak energy times for you to do your most important work? What time will you go to bed? Get up? When will you spend time with God? What are priority times for your family that you need to guard? I do my best thinking in the morning so I schedule more meetings / admin work in the afternoon.
    Module One:  9:00am – 1:00pm
    Module Two: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
    Module Three: 5:00pm – 9:00pm

2. Weekly Rhythms: shape your weekly rhythms around your priorities and energy peaks.  For example,     Monday is a recovery day for me so I do administrative work. Have guidelines to adhere to – questions to consider::

  • What unique circumstances do you have that you need to plan around?
  • What are the most important times/things in your week that you need to guard? 
  • What are the maximum nights a week you will work? 
  • What day will be your sabbath? 
  • When will you get a date with your spouse weekly? 
  • How many meals will you eat together as a family? 
  • How many meals will you eat with others in community? 
  • How will you participate in biblical community (community group)? 
  • How often and when will you exercise? 
  • When will you read your bible and pray? 
  • How much time will you devote to kids activities? 
  1. Trimester Rhythms: it is important to build your Sabbath rhythms around the natural rhythms of your roles and your culture.  Trimesters are a natural way to calendar a year (the school calendar is also a helpful way to plan if you have kids in school). Know what you have to do in each season and if overall it is a busy or slower season. Here is an example of a broad trimester calendar : 

T1 (January – April):  busiest season of the year in the church.

T2 (May – August): slowest season of my year. A season of deepening our church and training new leaders to launch for the Fall. 

T2 (September – December): moderate season for our church.  Typically December is        a slow season for us. 

Have specific times you plan into each trimester :: 

  • Take two full days to pray, study and work “on” your life vs. “in” your life 
  • Marriage Sabbath: take one extended weekend each trimester to work on marriage, family and calendaring.  
  • Plan and schedule out the next trimester.  Plan out every day for the next 120 days.  
  • Set personal and vocation growth goals for the next trimester.
  • Plan out weekly work schedule based upon personal and vocational growth goals. 
  1. Annual Rhythms: Intentionally get longer stretches of rest each year. Plan during slower seasons of work / school schedules etc (summer, end of the year, etc.)
  • How many vacation days do you have? How and when are you going to use them? 
  • How can you get extended time away to work ‘on’ your vocation vs. ‘in’ your vocation (conferences, annual trainings, focused time away to evaluate, plan, dream etc.)


  • ‘Define what’s most important in your life based on what God says, not first on what you (or others) think. This is the only way to build a life that lasts and thus is truly productive (Matt. 7:21–27; Proverbs 3:5-6; 14:12)’    (What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, Matt Perman)
  • ‘If you have more to do in a given week than you can get done, you are doing things God hasn’t asked you to do’ (paraphrase from a message by Tim Keller)
  • What are avenues that stir your affections for Jesus* – schedule those daily, weekly, monthly, yearly (*see ‘Sacred Pathways’ list below)
  • Work through your rhythms in community to get input, feedback and accountability
  • Continually come back to and evaluate your rhythms (particularly in new seasons of life)
  • Count the cost of major changes on your normal rhythms (move, new job, further education)
  • Have intentional time daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to go over your schedule
  • Recognize ‘seasons’ of tiredness (busy work time, illness in family, new baby) – but monitor and plan so ‘seasons’ don’t become habits

SACRED PATHWAYS (From ‘Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas) What is a “sacred pathway”? Put very simply, it describes the way we relate to God, how we draw near to him. Do we have just one pathway? Not necessarily. Most of us, however, will naturally have a certain predisposition for relating to God, which is our predominant spiritual temperament. The Nine Sacred Pathways :: 

Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors

Sensates: Loving God with the Senses

Traditionalists: Loving God Through Ritual and Symbol

Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity

Activists: Loving God Through Confrontation

Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others

Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration

Contemplatives: Loving God Through Adoration

Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind