By Randy C. Davis
I love vacations, but I have to work at them. I have trouble “turning off” the ministry mode.
When my youngest daughter was about 11, she said, “Daddy, I bet these folks hate to hear you’re on vacation.” When I asked why, she said, “Because they know one of them is going to die.”
Too many vacations were cut short or at least interrupted because the girls’ pastor-daddy had to go home to conduct a funeral. They never turned bitter, and even now they remind me of the fun we had on family vacations, but I could have handled those times better as a pastor and a father.
Minister, you’ve got to become proficient at taking vacations. They should rest your body, restore your soul, renew your mind, and if you have family, rejuvenate your entire clan.
Here are 10 simple tips I’ve learned the hard way over the years that I hope you’ll consider as you prepare for summer vacation.
Relax, you’ve earned it!
The Lord retreated from the crowds (Luke 5:16) so you should too. You constantly give of yourself as a minister but too often believe you have to justify why you would dare take time away. Get over it. The church gives you time off, so go and enjoy it.
Recruit deacons and other church members to cover your responsibilities.
They really do want to help. Relinquish control. You’ll relax easier knowing others “have your back.” By enabling others, you’re developing leaders. In the words of a famous Disney character, “Let it go.”
Consider a longer vacation.
Five or six days are not enough. Most of us need two or three days just to wind down. Years ago, I started making sure that my vacation was at least eight days. Take two Sundays off in a row. You and your family need the two weeks off. I promise, the church is strong enough to last two weeks without you.
Give leaders plenty of advance notice, months if possible.
They can help you protect that time commitment. Put it on your calendar at least a year in advance. Consider it a sacred commitment for your family, and do not change the date. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “God loves you and everybody else has a perfect plan for your life.” People will plan that time for you if you don’t commit to it.
The best vacations are those that are simple and not over-scheduled. My favorite vacations are sitting in a lounge chair resting in sugar-white sand by the Gulf of Mexico listening to some of the great old “hymns” like “Help Me Rhonda.” Play board games with your kids and grandkids; go on long walks with your significant other. Just relax.
Don’t go into debt for a vacation.
You can do a lot for a minimal cost. Find things to do near where you live. “Staycations” are always a good option, if handled well. Check with your local tourism board for ideas and search the internet. Don’t return from a vacation that is supposed to be relaxing only to become stressed by the bills you’ve got to pay. Plan and save well in advance. You’ll love a vacation that doesn’t financially linger.
Ditch the phone when you are supposed to be with your family. Your phone/computer will tether you to the ministry from which you are attempting to take a much-needed break. Tune into your family; tune out the technology. Your family will be thankful, and you’ll get some rest.
Invest in experiences and not things. Toys, gadgets, and stuff break and wear out. Your kids will remember that special hike, the night camping under the stars, or beating you in checkers 12 times in a row. Those memories last far longer than anything your money can buy.
Spend quality time in the Bible and in prayer.
Don’t prepare a message, just linger in the Word; linger in prayer. Your spirit and soul need a vacation as much as your body, so give it some much-needed restoration.
Thank your church.
Always demonstrate gratitude for those that covered the bases for you and to the church for providing a paid vacation for you and your family. You will never go wrong with a sincere “thank you.”
Ministers can’t run on fumes and expect a fruitful ministry and a healthy marriage and family. You give a lot to others, now give to yourself and your family.
Randy C. Davis is executive director the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This article first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.