Is it possible to learn to rest without guilt? I used to feel guilty any time I took a break. I mean any time. Sometimes I felt like I was wasting time that could have been spent on something more “worthwhile.” Other times I suffered from the “why wasn’t this money taken and given to the poor” syndrome … though my vacations weren’t necessarily spendy.
Getting away for a bit to replenish or spend time with the family was apparently fine for everyone else. Rationally, I knew it was OK for me, too. I just didn’t feel like it was OK.
Some of you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you serve a church that piles on the guilt or gives only moments a year for vacation, study break or Sabbath. One church I interviewed at many years ago offered me two weeks of vacation a year (10 days, not 14), with one of those weeks being a church short-term mission trip that I would lead and attend at my own cost. While that example is extreme, it’s not that extreme or uncommon.
Sabbath is something pastors will have to learn to embrace or it will force its way into their lives violently. I used to feel guilty going on vacation. Now I feel guilty when I don’t. I’ve learned the hard way that a burned out minister has little to offer except his/her fumes and can do serious damage to themselves and their families by ignoring God’s Word on rest.
The church deserves better. Your family deserves better. God deserves better … and rest is His grace offered to you. Accept it. The world can go on without you. In fact, if you’re burnt up … it may go on better without you until you breathe again.
Here are some of the “best practices” I’ve gleaned from my own journey and that of my colleagues. When you take a break:
1. Be thankful for your vacation, but don’t brag about it.
While most church members are glad to see you have a good time, they don’t want to feel like you live for vacation or spend most of your time having fun. They want you to spend some time having fun. Just not most of the time.
Especially be mindful of how the money side of the vacation looks. It doesn’t matter if your parents paid for the whole thing or you used hotel/airline points or Ed McMahon delivered it to your door personally. You’ll never have the chance to explain. You don’t have to pretend you lived like a pauper if you didn’t. Just don’t brag and be wise about it.
2. Don’t apologize for it.
Part of your church’s spiritual growth is knowing where they end and you begin. It’s also good for them to embrace the Sabbath concept and develop grace toward their pastors—and to see you role-modeling a balanced life. If you apologize for resting, you hinder all of that.
3. Watch your tweets and Facebook posts!
These are prone to understatement, hyperbole and misunderstanding. It’s fine to share a little of your vacation so people can see what you did if you want to. But, be careful. Share what you really think might interest people. Spare them the pictures of your wife in a bikini, pictures involving you and alcohol, etc. No one really wants to see those anyway—except those who want to use them against you.