“I don’t take a day off. The devil doesn’t take time off.” This was one pastor’s philosophy. Both he and his wife have entered their reward. And yes, he did retire and between retirement and death had numerous very serious health issues. The story came from a staff member.
It sounds “spiritual”, doesn’t it? And this was a very Godly man who served the Lord faithfully in terms of his works.
My cute reply to the staff member was, “Well, I am following Jesus, not the devil.” And so was this pastor, although the quip lends itself to some friendly kidding.
Jesus did take time off. He withdrew from the crowds and the disciples to find time alone with the Father. Vance Havner had a sermon on rest. He took the passage where, in the KJV, Jesus said, “Come ye apart…”. Havner said, “If you don’t “come apart” you will come apart!
Recently our family took a family vacation. This was difficult to accomplish because there are 14 of us and it is difficult to coordinate married children’s schedules and finances. We planned this for six months and last week pulled it off! It was incredible and such fun.
One must realize that for the pastor, physical fatigue is seldom an issue. However, spiritual and emotional fatigue precede burnout. The Sunday prior to our leaving I asked the congregation I serve to not call me unless an emergency. They honored that and for the time of vacation I did not talk “business” nor did I take my laptop. I dis-engaged from the routine. I packed my clothes in a backpack and took a hardback Bible to just read. No study.
Cell phones and computers are wonderful tools. We choose to be slaves to them. Mine has “off” buttons, and the cell phone has voice mail. I haven’t missed anything because I am not available 24-7. One commented on the person who is always available and said, “Those who are always available are sometimes not worth much when you get them.”
I am prone to take on too much. Are you? I want to be in this for the long haul and finish well. What can we do as men of God and pastors to accomplish that goal?
1. Take your day off each week. Dis-engage from your “vocation” and spend time with God, do something for yourself, and spend time with family.
2. Take all of your vacation. One colleague tells me, “I need two weeks to relax. The first week I dis-engage and the second I relax.”
3. Do something different on your vacation. Your budget may dictate what you can do, but be creative and find things in your area that are inexpensive but get you out of your comfort zone.
4. Plan for your time off so as to eliminate the tyranny of the urgent while taking a day off or vacation – get away from the cell and laptop!
5. Set the example and insist your staff take their time off. Create a culture of working hard, smart, and effective, but also dis-engaging when it is appropriate. They will have a much better attitude and they will know of your care for them. It is a pastoral issue.
6. Be proactive. Look at your year ahead. Your emotionally “down” times will follow a mountain-top experience or a time of high stress. When you know those times are coming, plan for some time of dis-engagement following.
7. There are several retreat centers the Minister/Church Relations Dept. of the SBTC can recommend for you. These are designed as pastor retreat centers to help prevent or overcome burnout. Perhaps the SBTC can help your church leadership see the need to put some monies in the budget to enable this type of retreat every three or five years.
Summer 2010 is almost ended. Most of you could have written this post. But if there are some left who have not taken some time off, do yourself and your church a favor. Relax and dis-engage for a brief time before the fall rush!