For Overworked Pastors, a Restful Vacation Takes Preparation

A 2012 study by American Express found that 140 million Americans were planning to travel this summer (as reported on the USA Today Travel blog). Yet in my conversations with clients, what I’m hearing is that if they are planning a vacation (and many aren’t), it’s not something they’re looking forward to.

In a revealing post on the Day 1 blog, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow shares the results of a poll he took of his clients, Facebook contacts and Twitter network. He asked the simple question, “Why don’t pastors take vacations?”

One of the answers he heard was that taking a vacation is “not worth the energy and resources . . . I have to work twice as hard before and after just to take time off.”

Even though this post was written more than two years ago, it echoes what I’ve been hearing in my own conversations with coaching clients. For some it genuinely seems like it would be easier not to go on vacation. For one client, though, the family pressure was pretty high – in fact, the decision was made for him, “We are going on vacation!”

Once you’ve made the decision to take a vacation (or accepted the decision that’s been made for you), you’ve taken your first milestone. But what else can you do, even before you go, to make your vacation restful and effective, rather than stressful and detrimental?

It all starts with planning.

Tie up your loose ends before you leave for vacation

  • What are the things that will need to be managed while you’re away, and who will do those things? What resources will they need, and where can they find those resources?
  • Who should people contact for assistance while you’re away? Be sure to set up a special message for callers, with instructions for how to reach the right people. Also let callers know when they can expect a response (e.g., between 24-48 hours, within 1-2 business days).
  • Will you be available for emergencies, and who has permission to contact you? Under what circumstances may people contact you?
  • What responsibilities will you have immediately after returning? Get a jump start on these before you leave so you won’t feel pressured when you return. For example, prepare a draft of your next sermon and/or newsletter.

Taking care of these practical tasks will help you do the most important preparation of all – get into the right mindset for your vacation, so that you can be away while you’re away. We’ll talk more about how to do that in our next post.

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