Some pastors don’t work hard enough, and some work too hard. But, it’s a rarity to find a pastor who knows how to balance work and rest in his life. I believe that the reason speaks more about the sinfulness of man than anything. For the workaholic pastor, he may work to find his identity or fulfilment in life. Or, he may work because he likes for people to need him. Whatever the reasons, a proper view of rest is both healthy and biblical. The Sabbath was instituted by God in Creation and was one of the most respected commands by the Jewish people.
However, somewhere along the way in American Christianity, we started to downplay the need for rest and uplift the value of non-stop working. Pastors gladly took on the value of non-stop working. In the world of church planting, it’s extremely hard to truly rest. You’re on the go trying to balance thirty things at once and trying to put out a hundred simultaneous fires.
Vacation is hard to do well because you’re still in that war zone. I recently watched American Sniper which is the story about a Navy SEAL who served in the war in Afghanistan. The SEALs are a tough unit that are often called to deployment for a few months, will come back for a few more months, go to deployment again a few months, and come back again for several months. They will do this time and time again, but it comes with a price. It’s hard to get out of the war zone. The war travels home with their family. They come home, and people aren’t shooting at them anymore. Yet, they have a hard time truly understanding that.
As pastors, we need to find ways to decompress. I think a pastor can truly have a restful vacation, but it takes intentionality. Here are several ways that can happen.
1. Be proactive even before vacations even begin.
The problem with having a restful vacation is a problem way before vacation happens. It’s the week to week basis where the pastor does not have the systems in place to take care of all the needs of the church. He has no volunteer base and leadership structure to deal with issues and handle the goings on of a church.
The pastor who needs rest needs to start building the systems and leaders to take care of everything else that happens within the life and body of the church. This isn’t something that can happen the day before vacation. It has to be a process that becomes part of the DNA of the church.
2. Put away your phone and other gadgets that can send notifications.
If we had the money, I’d probably be tempted to to have every new invention Apple puts out the day it comes out, but the truth is I don’t need every new thing. Having an iPhone is nice, and it does help with ministry. But, just having a new gadget is about more than productivity of ministry.
Also, my phone leaves notifications for email, facebook, twitter, instagram, church facebook, church twitter, linkedin, blog notifications, mailchimp, etc. Notifications are non-stop even on vacation. If you keep your phone on you at all times, the temptation is often too strong not to look at it. So, leave it. Check it once or twice a day if you have to just for emergencies. But, beyond that, nothing is as big of an emergency as you think it is.
3. Enjoy the present.
Don’t be constantly thinking about what you left behind or what you’re heading back to see or do. Enjoy your wife. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy every moment. It’s so easy to be caught up in the past of what happened or in the future of what needs to happen especially for those who are type-A. We need to be able to enjoy what God has put before us.
4. Rethink priorities and what is important.
That e-mail you thought was so important or that phone call that just couldn’t wait until you got back from vacation probably could wait. I’m very guilty of this as I’m sure many other pastors are as well. Your kids are going to grow up one day, and you’ll never be able to get those days of vacation back. Are those special memories going to be marred by you being glued to a cellphone or are they going to be remembered as special times with their daddy?
5. Do things that are truly restful.
Some types of vacation activities are not as restful as others. Only you know what those activities are that allow you to decompress and be able to spend quality time. Don’t do stressful things just because you feel like you have to. Find the rhythm that allows you to relax and don’t feel sorry for it. The Disneyworld vacation may not the best thing for your family. Maybe a week in the mountains or at the beach is a better fit. Find what works and do that.
Don’t allow excuses to determine the fate of your vacation. Be intentional and have restful vacations where you are fully present and fully enjoying the moments. You can fake a lot of people, but you can’t fake out your family. Rest is biblical, healthy, and it glorifies God.