BURNOUT WEEK::the juggling act

>> August 24, 2010

It's almost the end of summer.

Have you and your PH (and your PKs, if you have them) had a vacation yet? Have you escaped the hustle and bustle for some quiet rejuvenation? Have you gone camping and danced in the woods? Have you lain still on a blanket and watched the clouds float by?

If you're like us, it's hard to plan vacation time and make it actually happen. Unless you're lucky enough to work in a larger multi-pastor church, it can be nearly impossible to get away for rejuvenation. Who will preach? Who will plan the service? Who will answer the phones?

Burnout is actually a huge, HUGE issue among pastors and their families. (See tomorrow's post for the latest studies on this.) It's in our job description to give. After a while, it becomes part of our nature to just keep on caring for people - often at the cost of our own well-being. And every now and then we need to make sure to get away and have some fun.

Now I'm not advocating that all hard-working ministers should just sit back and ask to be waited on hand and foot. But how can we serve others in a healthy way if we are worn down and beat up ourselves?

Dr. Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, a family physician who is married to a Lutheran minister and who wrote a 2004 book raising the alarm about clergy health (“The Right Road: Life Choices for Clergy”), described the problem as a misperception about serving God.

“They think that taking care of themselves is selfish, and that serving God means never saying no,” she said.  (Taking a Break from the Lord's Work, Paul Vitello, New York Times)
I'm the workaholic, never-take-a-vacation type, usually because I can't figure out how we'd pay for it. I tend to see time off as wasteful, and travel with a pre-toddler can be more work than it's worth. My PH on the other hand, sees vacation as a necessary aspect of healthcare. It doesn't have to cost much, but he knows that we can't serve the church well, make wise spiritual decisions, or stay harmonious at home when we are running in burnout mode.

And my PH's district supervisors agree with him. They actually asked him point blank halfway through the summer: "Have you put your family vacation on the church calendar yet?"

So we went up north for a week, to attend a friend's wedding. And we made a big loop, stopping to visit old friends and fellow pastor families along the way.

I'm still recuperating from all the fun we had. But I'm glad we went. (And it was super cheap, too!)

Have you had YOUR vacation yet?

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Anonymous,  August 25, 2010 at 6:57 PM  

My husband makes quite the big deal (and rightfully so) of our summer vacation. We save and plan all year long for it and our kids really look forward to our time away as well. We are beginning to plan for our first sabbatical which will come in 2012 after 20 years of ministry and 7 years at our current church. Definitely something to look forward to!

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