Last month I shared a few vacation tips for pastors, but I realize that I neglected to address what may be the most important aspect of clergy vacations—the week before you leave town. You know, the week you start to think you will need to stay home from your vacation in order to get all the things done that you need to do in order to go on vacation.
Maybe you don’t experience it that way. Perhaps I am projecting. Perhaps you are like my dear friend who calmly informed me a couple weeks before her sabbatical that she had all the worship services planned for the next however many weeks she would be gone. Seriously. She said it in the nonchalant manner I might use to tell you that I had purchased all my groceries for the week. (Which would be a lie anyway because you know I’m going to have to go back to the grocery story tomorrow for stick butter.) Every worship service planned. And now, she is gallivanting around Greece, while her congregation is running smoothly and no doubt congratulating themselves on their excellent pastoral choice.
My congregation, on the other hand, might just sit around staring at each other the first Sunday of my vacation. Because so far, I’ve got nothing for them. (Lest you think I’m completely negligent, we do have a volunteer who is coordinating worship the second Sunday of my vacation. And as a part time pastor, I should really only be expected to plan part of the Sundays.)
Of course, vacation preparation is not just about planning for worship. I also have a newsletter to get out, a ride schedule to coordinate, an event planning team to launch, a mentor letter to write, and a handful of pastoral care contacts that I know I won’t actually get to but I still have on my to-do list just for effect. Plus, of course, the household tasks of shopping, laundry, packing, and hotel-booking. (Joanna, if you’re leaving in four days, isn’t it a bit late to be booking the hotels? Why, yes it is. Thanks for asking. Now leave me alone.)
Here is my confession: I am not the kind of pastor who lives in a constant state of stress and busyness. I am the kind of pastor who enjoys periods of relatively calm productivity with occasional periods of literally not having enough hours left in the week to get everything done that absolutely has to be done by the end of the week.
Needless to say, this week is that last kind of week. And I’ve noticed that I have an interesting approach to these hyper-busy periods in my life: I tend to decide that since I can’t get everything done anyway, I might as well take on some extra things.
For example, this week I offered a prayer at a rally encouraging my senator to keep SNAP funding in the Farm Bill, and I finished a really good book, and I went to lunch with my mom and my brother, and I’m working on a craft project, and I’m writing this column–which, yes, is technically “due” today but really, it’s not like I’ll get fired if I skip a month. It just feels like I don’t have the energy to not do this extra stuff. Plus, I feel sorry for myself and all of the work I have to do (poor me); surely I deserve a little break to . . . pray and write. (Which is actually what most of my work is anyway, so I honestly don’t know what I’m thinking.)
I can’t say that I necessarily recommend the “just give up and say yes to everything” approach to dealing with a bloated to-do list. All I can say is that this is what I do. And it works for me. (If by “works” you mean I am still alive and still have a job when the dust settles. If, by “works,” you mean it is a strategy that allows me to remain centered, productive, purposeful, and sane—well, I don’t know how to help you with your completely unreasonable expectations.)
I hope you can find something that works for you in these sporadically hectic summer months. And if that “something that works” is super competent and organized (like, say, having all your worship services planned months in advance) try not to be too braggy about it. Or, even better, offer to plan my worship services with all of your free time.
Rev. Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS. Except for the next two weeks when they are on their own because she is on vacation! You can read her blog at SpaciousFaith.com.
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