The world is not going to end if you take a day off. This planet will keep turning if you go on a vacation. One of the best things you can do to stay fresh as a preacher is to take a break.
So many pastors get burned out and fatigued because they lack balance. They are giving 100% of themselves 100% of the time. This is not sustainable and will lead to an inevitable crash landing. But there are two simple things you can do to keep yourself from burnout: Take a real day off and have a real vacation. Why are these so important?
Here’s why it’s vital to take a day off and have a real vacation:
1. God rested. God set a pattern of working six days and resting one. If your schedule is packed tighter than God’s and you think you have more to get done than him, you need to loosen things up. God commanded his people to remember the sabbath. Remember to rest. To recognize that God provides and even if you take a break from your work, he’ll keep providing.
2. It’s a good example to your people. Everyone works like crazy all the time. Days off are hard to come by and people work non-stop. As a pastor you may be tempted to go along with this lifestyle because you don’t want to be perceived as lazy. That’s the last thing I want. I want people to know how hard I work. I want them to be aware of the hours I put in, the pressure I’m under, the late nights and early mornings. The endless meetings, emails, phone calls, meetings, and tough conversations and meetings. I want people to know about all this stuff. I’m afraid if I take a day off and people see it they might think I’m not committed.
This is a trap. It’s the fear of man. Paul asked himself this question “Am I now trying to win the approval of people or of God? Or am I still trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).” Taking a real day off will help you overcome the need to please everyone and actually help you be an example to your people.
3. Your family needs you. Taking a day off and doing vacations is a great way to demonstrate to your family that they matter to you. To demonstrate to them that they deserve more than your left-overs. That they are first in your life after God.
Andy Stanley often says “Don’t give up what is unique to you for something someone else will do.” Someone else will eventually take your place as the youth pastor or teaching pastor or lead pastor at your church. But you are the only husband your wife has, you are the only mom or dad your kids will have. Don’t neglect them for the church. Don’t cheat on your wife with the church. The church is the bride of Christ, don’t make her your mistress.
4. To avoid burnout and stay energized. You are only human, you need to refresh and refuel. If you are giving all of yourself all of the time, you will eventually have nothing left to give.
How to have a real day off and a real vacation
I want to share some of the things I do to protect my days off and my vacations. If your days off and vacations are truly going to be Sabbath rest for you, then you need to guard them and make the most of them. Here’ how to ensure you get the most out of your days off and vacations:
1. Your day off must truly be a day OFF. For me this means on Fridays I don’t check work email, I don’t work on church related projects or tasks at home, and I don’t have ministry related meetings.
If someone asks me when I’m available to meet I just mention any day besides Friday. I’ll meet at 4:00 AM on Thursday morning for breakfast. I’ll meet at 10:30 PM on Tuesday night. But I won’t meet on Fridays (with very very few exceptions).
Saturday morning I can respond to email, work on projects, and have meetings. But taking Friday off gives me energy to get back to work on Saturday.
2. When you go on vacation, completely disconnect. For me this means I totally delete my work email and calendar off of my phone when the vacation starts. I don’t take my work laptop. I make sure my email responders are on for voicemail and email. And I make sure all bases are covered before I leave.
When I come back from vacation I want to be energized and ready to go again. If the vacation only meant moving my work from my office to the beach, I would come back just as drained as when I left.
I used to think it was “honorable” to never stop working. To work on vacation. To work on my day off. I thought these things would prove to others that I was committed and a hard worker. That’s a terrible way to live. Working on your day off and all through vacation doesn’t prove you’re a hard worker. It just proves that you need more work/life balance.
I want to do ministry for a few more decades. A day off each week and uninterrupted vacations are part of what will help me last.
If your church is not willing to work with you on this or doesn’t see the value in it, work to change the culture of your church. If you realize they aren’t going to budge, sharpen up your resume and start looking. Go to a place that has a healthy view of work/life balance. Your family, health, ministry longevity and ability to be used by God are not worth risking over a church that really needs to change.
What do you do to protect your time off? How do you stay balanced and avoid burnout?
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