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.
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.
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.
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.