It’s interesting how the subject of vacation for ministers has been approached over the years. In Charles Bridges’ classic work on ministry matters, he rejects the notion that ministers should ever have any sort of recreation, even taking a day off during the week. Spurgeon was another workaholic, having started and headed up over 60 organizations during his ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Now, we look at how important vacation, recreation, and even days off are for the minister. Ministers are casualties in the landscape of evangelicalism—1500 ministers are leaving the ministry every month! The reasons are myriad: burn out, hurt from parishioners, moral failure, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Wayne Cordeiro and others have written books on how ministers are prone to divorces, depression, anger, fear, and numerous other maladies that affect their psyche and their close relationships. Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty tracks his personal trek through these severe valleys and the systems he put in place for accountability and recreation so he’s running on full potential and energy as needed.
I’ve posted before that ministers living in a perpetual state of guilt—at least every minister goes through that season. He spends time in ministry with sermon preparation, visitation to the sick and homebound and those in the hospital—but that means time away from your family than most ‘normal’ families have (whatever ‘normal’ means). But then he spends time with your family (day at the park, weekend in the mountains, week with grandparents), he finds himself having a hard time pulling away from church matters. He emails, calls periodically, texts a parishioner or a member of your staff to stay on top of things. He’s had one major event happen while he were gone on vacation or a missions trip—he just can’t handle another.
So can a minister of a church, where a love for his members accompanied with the anxieties that compile daily (2 Corinthians 11:28) truly have a vacation? That’s something I am going to pray about and explore without Internet or e-mail, both of which help but also significantly hinder productivity and, yes, even critical thinking.
We’ll see what God shows us during this time. I’m looking forward to it immensely. So this is what I’m going to do next time I vacation:
- Trust my associate pastor, ministry staff, and deacons to handle the ministry very capably when I’m away–which I know they will do.
- (HT: Mark Combs) I will uninstall all my social media apps from my phone (Facebook, Hootsuite, and E-mail) in an effort to break the habit of checking my phone all too frequently when I should be with family, friends, and my Heavenly Father.
- I will watch what I eat–even as I know I’ll go to White Castle, Cracker Barrel, and a myriad of family functions and BBQs.
- I will continue to exercise. I’ve redeveloped a love for running, thanks to the C25K app. I’m on vacation from my work, not from my health.
- I will attend a worship service with my family while away. I need to hear the Word, even as I preach the Word hundreds of times per year.
- I will bring books that may or may not have to do with my vocation as pastor. Will I bring my Bible? Absolutely–and I’ll read through the Psalms (yes, I’m preaching on those when I return), but I’ll do this devotionally for sure. A leadership book? Sure! Harper Lee’s new book? Still debating. A soccer book? Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson sounds excellent. Os Guinness’ Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion? Well, maybe just one preaching book! (OK, OK, I may not bring all of those, but when leaders are readers, you’ll see why reading is a great way to relax and sharpen!
What a necessity there is in being intentional about your vacations!