What I *Didn’t* Do On Summer Vacation

I just got back from a month-long vacation.  (I know, I know: nice work if you can get it.)  I also took off blogging, dear reader, so allow me to fill you in on what I did on vacation.  Or, to be more specific, here’s what I didn’t do on summer vacation.

 

I Didn’t Feel Guilty

“You’re gone for a whole month?  [eye roll]  Must be nice….. ”  I’d get this response when I’d tell folks we were taking a month-long vacation.  I realize how blessed I am to be able to take that kind of time off (most people in my church are lucky to get a week), and I realize that lots of people don’t understand why a pastor needs vacation at all (“I mean, what do you really do anyway?”).  But, I’m unapologetic in taking vacation time, because I know that I’m running a marathon in ministry, not a sprint, and if I don’t care for my soul and my family, I could lose my ministry, my family, and even my soul.

Being a pastor is not like other jobs–my job is to pour myself out for my congregation and my community.  I’ve written elsewhere about the pressure that comes from preaching week after week, year after year.  In addition to that, I need to be able to be present to people in all aspects of their lives–joys and sorrows and sicknesses–and, paradoxically, for me to be present with people, I need some regular time away from my community.

Being a pastor is also a burden on the pastor’s family.  We can’t take weekend trips.  We can’t travel on Christmas and Easter.  We don’t go out on Saturday evenings.  My family knows that there are phone calls I get that mean I need to make a late-night visit to the hospital or have a long conversation about a failing marriage.  My family sacrifices a lot for my ministry, and I owe it to them to have some time away from the relentless needs of our community.

The very first day of our summer vacation–the very first day–I read a news story about how South Carolina megachurch pastor Perry Noble had been fired from the church he founded for personal issues that included a dependence on alcohol and a failing marriage.  I don’t know Perry personally, but I’ve heard him preach several times and was extremely impressed with his ministry from afar.  Perry appears to be a talented and faithful leader, and yet the pressures and demands of ministry got the better of him.

I’m going to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen to me.

 

We spent time with my wife's family in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina....

[We spent time with my wife’s family on the Outer Banks of North Carolina….]

I Didn’t Look at Email for 30 Days

I don’t need to tell you that to be truly off from work, one needs to be off email.  Completely.  This summer I had all my work email forwarded to my assistant for the entire time I was gone.  I needed to do this for 2 reasons:

  • for the health of my soul and my family, I needed to be completely off email and not tempted to check it from time to time;
  • I didn’t want to return to thousands of unread emails.

I know this arrangement was inconvenient for some people who needed a timely response from me, but I also know that I’m not able to be present on vacation if I’m still virtually in the office.

 

I Didn’t Check Facebook

I’m not a fan of social media, but I use it.  I’ve found, however, that for me social media is not life-giving.  So, I decided to completely stay off Facebook for 30 days.  I can honestly say I didn’t miss it at all.

 

[And with my family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.]

[And with my family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.]

I Didn’t Skip Church

I tell my congregation that I believe that they should be in church every Sunday unless they are sick or out of town, but honestly, I should really tell them that they should be in church every Sunday even when they are out of town.  Whether I am at home or on vacation, I need to be in worship every Sunday.

  • church reminds me that life is not about me;
  • church reminds me that God is in control;
  • church reminds that Jesus rose from the grave;
  • church reminds me that all I have comes from God;
  • church reminds me that I have a reason to be grateful in every circumstance.

So the four Sundays we were gone from Munger, we were at church.  We attended:

  • Church of the Outer Banks (an Anglican church start that meets in a YMCA in Kill Devil Hills, NC);
  • Redeemer Presbyterian Church (their downtown location on W. 14th Street in New York City);
  • Brewster Baptist Church, twice (an American Baptist congregation on Cape Cod, Massachusetts).

There are lots of dead churches in America, but I do my best to avoid these.  Instead, I like attending churches (big or small, traditional or contemporary) that are full of LIFE and the Holy Spirit.  The churches we attended on vacation this summer were all very different from each other, but each was alive and reminded me that God is active in the world, and that the Lord has faithful witnesses everywhere.

 

[Redeemer's downtown location is the Salvation Army building on W. 14th St.]

[Redeemer’s downtown location is the Salvation Army building on W. 14th St.]

And I Didn’t Not Want to Come Home

I know that’s a double negative, so let me explain.  The first couple weeks we were away, I did my best not to even think of home.  I love Dallas and I love our church, but the worry that comes from being a pastor never stops, and it took several weeks of being away before I could feel relaxed.  However, with about a week left in our vacation, I began to feel eager to return.  I think that eagerness was a gift from God, and although I was sad for our time away to come to an end, I wasn’t sad at all to be returning home.

And now, I can’t wait to see my church on Sunday.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “What I *Didn’t* Do On Summer Vacation

  1. I’m sure I speak for the congregation when I say that we will be glad to see you back on Sunday. Speaking for myself I’m happy that you had the respite to recharge yourself and reconnect with family. Leading a church is a huge responsibility and I’m sure one could become so involved that one neglects to take care of oneself. I can see how easy it would be to become emotionally drained ministering to people day in and day out as they go through good times and bad times. Myself I can’t imagine how hard it must be to shift gears to go from baptisms to weddings to funerals often within the span of a couple of days. In short, welcome back Andrew, and may God bless you.

  2. You were very much missed but it is such a blessing to have such gifted staff to fill in for you. All the messages in your absence seemed to be right on target for me and my husband. Welcome back.

  3. Although you always make it look easy, thank you for sharing in such a way that proves it isn’t! We do not take you for granted…and appreciate all you, Elaine and Jack do for your church. We love you!

  4. Andrew thanks for sharing I am glad you got to take a month off. I personally think pastors are some of the hardest workers out there. The constant pooring out I can only imagine…. You need to get filled up sometimes or you will just get burned out. I have now doubt you will be better for it and I hope you get to do it again. Also, jealous you got to go to Redeemer Presbyterian. I have always wanted to go but I have not, but like you said church on vacation…. hmmmmm need to start planning that. 🙂

  5. We definitely missed you guys and it will be great to hear you preach again on Sunday but I am so happy that you guys were able to take that time away as a family and enjoy each other. It is so very important. And the rest of the Munger staff and family did a wonderful job in your absence.

    Hope you feel rested and welcome as you return to worship on Sunday!

  6. That is how to spend a vacation! Total escape! My summers as a teacher are rejuvenating even if I don’t go anywhere. Just to not need to pour myself out to my children everyday is a blessing by the time May comes. I am glad you can find time for vacation. They say Americans aren’t able to vacation enough. They are right. We are blessed, my friend. Welcome back!

  7. Paula and I are happy that you had such a great time on vacation. Time spent with Elaine, Jack, and your extended family are so important for all. Although we are retired (we have 52 weeks of vacation), our family vacations are precious memories. I believe that our bodies and minds need time to regenerate and renew our perspectives. I can appreciate, in your case, where time off is a necessity and almost a requirement. My family and friends rely on your weekly inspirational messages and spiritual guidance. Thank you for all that you do for our family, and every family and persons with whom you come in contact. You and your family are in our prayers.