We all need vacation, regardless of profession. Having an extended mental and physical break is critical to sustaining our work ethic. But I’ve found that pastor’s don’t do this well. In fact, I am the first to admit that I have not embraced vacation the way I should have – but have made some drastic changes over the past 6 years. Pastors tend to feel like they can’t actually or fully disconnect. We tend to think that there are unresolved issues that we need to check-in on or follow up with. “It’s just one issue” or “It’s just two phone calls” or “It’s just a few emails I need to check.” And we always seem to suggest that it doesn’t distract from our vacation.
I call “bull” on all that. One email or one phone call causes us to reengage…and, frankly, some of that is simply a Messiah complex where we think we need to be involved in everything. We are not that important where the ministry would fall if we’re gone for a couple weeks. And, if it would, then I would suggest other changes need to be made.
So, I have a vacation coming up soon and over the years I have developed the following practices you might also consider in your own life:
- Entirely Disconnect. During my vacation I do not open my computer, for any reason (and I don’t bring it when I travel). I put on an auto-reply to email and will not, under any circumstances, check it. I turn off my phone or leave it on airplane mode and only change that when I’m separated from my family. I also tell my staff to only contact me if someone dies or a person on staff quits. My staff and elders know that if one of these things happen, they can call my wife’s phone. Lastly, I do not go on social media for any reason. I will not post or look. I completely detach.
- Extend Time Away As Much As Possible. I used to take a week at a time to “spread out my vacation,” but do so no longer. I realized it takes me 3-4 days to unwind in the first place, so now I will not take any less than 10 days at one time, but usually take two weeks in a row. This really allows my mind and body to actually relax for a season of time. It also gives my family an extended time of undivided attention.
- Limit Reading. So many people I know end up reading ministry oriented books while they are on vacation. I don’t do that, but instead limit my reading to the bible or something personal. This vacation I will be reading through the book of Hebrews and will be reading a book called, “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery.” In other words, this helps me focus my reading in a way that doesn’t engage my mind in matters of ministry.
How do these practices compare to or challenge your own?