The Sabbath Study

In the Sabbath Study, Rian Djita, Albert Cheng, and I set out to understand what Christian schools do to encourage Sabbath-keeping and how Sabbath-keeping practices are related to the wellness of the school community. Read our first report here.

Respondents in our sample indicated a strong consensus that the Sabbath is important for their school community, but did little by way of official school policy to encourage Sabbath-keeping beyond avoiding scheduling meetings and school activities on the Sabbath. Most events are never scheduled on the Sabbath. The most commonly scheduled events include chapel/worship, prayer meeting or Bible study, and athletic events.

Our finding affirms a biblical truth that needs no empirical proof: we are created not only for work, but for rest, bearing the image of our Heavenly Father, who in six days made the heavens and the earth and rested on the seventh day.

We estimated striking differences between those who identified as “Sabbath-keepers” and those who did not in our sample. Sabbath-keeping teachers are far more likely to rest from the teaching labors, avoiding professional meetings, grading, lesson planning, and email on the Sabbath. They try to extend these benefits to their students as well, avoiding major deadlines immediately following the Sabbath.

To measure wellness, we used the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory, a validated six-item construct. Sabbath-keepers expressed significantly lower levels of burnout, an overall finding that replicated across almost all subgroups. (** p < 0.01; * p < 0.05)

We find a strong association between Sabbath-keeping and wellness, an overall finding that replicates for nearly all subgroups in our analysis.

What patterns of behavior may explain these differences? Sabbath-keepers are more likely to spend their Sabbaths with family and with church, attending morning and evening worship, participating and leading church activities, and sharing a meal with church members.

Sabbath-keepers are less likely to spend their Sabbaths engaging in recreational or work-related activities, such as streaming TV/movies, eating out at a restaurant, participating in community programs, doing chores/errands, traveling, and working job shifts. (** p < 0.01)

These patterns suggest that, in addition to resting from work, greater engagement with church-related activities rather than recreational activities may explain differential levels of burnout between Sabbath-keepers and non-keepers.