Take a Good VacationBishop Tom Berlin Commentary
When I was a pastor I tried to work hard. When I was ordained, I promised that I would devote myself fully to God and God’s work.
I learned that the only way to accomplish that vow over time was to make sure that I took God’s commandment to sabbath rest seriously. Through the year I took the vacation time that I was offered. I learned that time off was an investment that enabled me to serve well. In a year when many churches have been dealing with difficult conversations about disaffiliation, when congregations have put in extra efforts to reach their members and the community after the pandemic, it is wise to make sure clergy and staff take their personal time off to renew, rejuvenate and rest.
Here are some steps to make sure your pastor and staff members have a good vacation:
Be diligent in your work. Laity appreciate pastors and staff members who commit themselves to their ministry. Report to your Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) regularly so that they have an idea of how you spend your time and the goals you strive to meet. If you work hard, people will encourage you to take your assigned leave to rejuvenate yourself.
Maintain a policy. Make sure your SPRC has a policy related to paid time off that is reviewed with every staff member and shared with the church council. Talk about the benefits of time off, whether it is for medical needs, vacation, or renewal of mental and spiritual health. This is an opportunity for SPRC to demonstrate that they understand the flow of your work and the shared goals of the church that focus the work of the staff.
Talk about it. Clergy are wise to talk to a few leaders in their church about their use of vacation time. Talk about where you are going, what you hope to enjoy and why the time is important. Likewise, if you have children, talk to them about the time the church offers your family. Help them understand that you will be paid even as you enjoy time with them, because the church loves and cares for your family.
Arrange for coverage. Whether you have one staff member or several, share how duties in the church will be handled when clergy or staff are on vacation. Ask church members to assist with hospital visitation, make phone calls to check on those who are sick, or visit members who are at home or in care facilities. People who help for a week may find a new ministry they enjoy. Make sure your leaders know what pastor to contact in your absence so that they will not need to call you for routine matters. Also find a lay speaker or pastor to offer a sermon. Few things distract a vacation more for clergy than returning on Saturday and preaching on Sunday.
Say thanks. When you return from a vacation, offer the congregation a brief word about your time away. Share how it helped you, your spouse, or your children. Tell them you appreciate serving a church that values you and your relationships. People want to know that you are doing well, and when you offer them some feedback, it will make it more likely that they will encourage you to honor time apart in the coming year.
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