It’s happened again.
Another exhausted pastor who needs a holiday more than I need to eat ice cream on a hot summer’s day.
In the last 7 years, I’ve conducted over 100 church health consults and there have been recurring themes in these consults.
One of those themes is the inability of pastors to take holidays.
I find pastors accumulate numerous weeks of holiday time. While this is a financial liability to their church, this poses a far greater risk to their wellbeing and the health of their family.
3 Physical Reasons Pastors Must Take Regular Holidays
Prevent heart disease
The 2010 Framingham Heart Study revealed that men who took regular holidays were more than 32% less likely to die from a heart attack. That percentage moves to 50% for women. Refusing to take holidays diminishes your physical health.
Reduce stress load
An American Psychological Association 2015 study discovered that stress is lowered when a person escapes their workday environment. I think common sense will tell you the same thing. A small University of Vienna study discovered that people’s health improved after taking holidays. Workers had fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches and back pain. Remarkably, they still felt better five weeks later.
People relax on holidays as they change their pace and engage with different activities. The change of pace often combined with increased fresh air lends itself to better sleep patterns which in turn produces improved health.
3 Leadership Reasons Pastors Must Take Regular Holidays
Some may think I am joking but I believe that a pastor’s leadership will improve if they take regular holidays
Leaders get into a rut. Routines can become monotonously boring and bland. An air of discontentment can invade this territory and lead to some wrong choices.
Holidays break the monotony of daily and weekly routines.
Bland evaporates as you enjoy a lazy sleep in or breakfast in bed.
Evening strolls replace running to meetings.
Lingering over a coffee with the newspaper fills a couple of hours.
Your phone is off (yes they do have off buttons) and the watch is left behind as lazy days replace the humdrum of regular life.
When I slow down I find I tend to think differently.
I’m less concerned about the immediate and I reflect more on the important relationships in my life. I also reflect on the work of Christ in my world and ponder the why of what I do.
Holiday reflections can strengthen a pastor’s resolve to continue to serve the Lord.
Gain emotional energy
Emotional energy is just as important as physical energy.
We gain it from various sources: sleep, good food, exercise, hobbies and of course, holidays.
Holidays fill our emotional tank because we focus on things that we normally don’t have time for. Slow walks in the evening. Afternoon naps. Adventures we can only dream about during our regular working year. Lingering over coffee with people we love.
We hold conversations we’ve been putting off because we just didn’t have the time.
These all replenish the emotional energy that we have expended through the course of a year.
3 Ways Your Church Benefits When the Pastor Take Holidays
Pastors are not the only ones to gain from their holidays. Their churches are benefitted and gain improved health because of these holiday breaks.
People step up
When they take a solid break other people in your church must step up to fill the gaps. This has a threefold benefit.
Firstly, it forces a pastor to focus time and energy on training and developing key people in your church. If team members are going to preach, lead meetings and do pastoral care while the pastor is away then they need to be developed to a good level beforehand. This focus on training and development is helpful for the pastor, church and these leaders.
Secondly, the church will fare better when the pastor is absent if trained leaders are ministering. The church won’t have to suffer through the ministry of sincere people who are clueless about their role.
Thirdly, the church will have better-equipped leaders when the pastor returns.
Reduced dependence on the pastor
Churches grow in health when they are less pastor-centric and operating more like a body in which each part works in accordance with its role. When members are unable to contact the pastor for prayer or counsel they are forced to turn to the Lord and others in the congregation. This reduces dependence on the pastor which is always healthy.
Increased appreciation for the pastor
When people discover the load their pastor carries they will have a deeper appreciation for the weight of ministry that they bear. They are more likely to say, “It’s so good to have you back” especially when it has been an extended break.
3 Ways to Reduce Stress on Holidays
Holiday at home
A 2010 study in the Netherlands found most people were not happier after a holiday. The study revealed that there was no happiness gain if the holiday involved moderate to high travel-related stress.
Lower the stress by planning extensively the travel components of your holiday (airports, planes, cars etc) and make sure you take time to stop and relax.
Maybe this explains the rise in popularity of cruises.
Spend the first few days unwinding
If you plan to go away during your holiday break I recommend you spend the first few days unwinding at home. This gives you time to switch out of your work routine, slow down your pace and jump fully into relax mode before heading off to your holiday destination.
Moving immediately from work to a holiday destination gives you no time to slow down and change your pace.
Get some me time
It’s vital to spend some holiday time by yourself. I like to go to a cafe, grab a coffee or two, read the paper, check out my twitter news and sports list and just chill.
This can be almost impossible when you have a young family however with thoughtful planning you can make it work.
The Last Word
A key to a successful holiday that relaxes you and maximises your break from the church is planning.
The first thing in planning your holiday is to put your holidays on the church calendar before any other event or program is planned.
Yes, you read that right.
Prioritise your holidays before any other church event.
While at first sight, this may appear selfish it is healthy for you and the church to put your holidays at a time that is beneficial to you and your family.
Your spouse and children will discover that they, not the church, are your first priority.
I’ll leave you now to go book that holiday.