Between Christmas and last Sunday I took a break.  A lot of people take vacations, but I take breaks.  I use this language because it reminds me that I need to take a break from work, from technology, and from my usual rhythms.  We didn’t go anywhere, which is  the bias I carry mentally with the word “vacation” (my dream vacation would be on horseback to the Big Horn mountain range by the Powder River above), but these breaks are still critical in my life for a few reasons:

  • Breaks remind me I am not as important as I might think I am.  As a pastor, I live in a very regular rhythm… becuase weekends seem to occur pretty regularly 🙂  And just like everyone, my week is a series of deadlines.  Taking a break from all that reminds me that those deadlines and rhythms are a TOOL in my life, not the MASTER of my life.  And it also helps me remember that life will go on – at the church, in the community, and most other places – if I am not there to keep up.
  • Breaks remind my family that THEY ARE as important as I say they are.  Breaks give me a chance to unplug and just be husband to my wife and dad to my sons.  We spent a lot of time this last break reading, wrestling with the kids, playing nerf dart guns, sitting around a fire, and laughing at funny movies.  I will never get these years of my boys’ childhood back – they need big blocks of time when I am not distracted with an iPhone, a Macbook, and the demands of ministry.  Jen needs the same thing in longer periods of time than bi-weekly date nights.  That is why the blog is neglected (what is more important – my readership levels, or my family?).  The email inbox backs up (which I have to be very disciplined not to touch as much as possible… I live with a zeroed inbox), and the phone goes to voicemail.  I love technology – I really do – but not as much as it loves me 🙂  I have to beat it back!
  • Breaks test my leadership.  Breaks are a great time to step back and see which systems at the church are really working, and which ones are just propped up by my continual attention.  I maintain the discipline of being reachable for emergencies (and I mean EMERGENCIES), but I resist the urge to step in when the thought hits “I wonder if person X will do this…” or “I wonder if “Y” will get done if I am not there to ensure”… etc.  Then when I do return, I can analyze which things worked well, which didn’t, and who is in need of additional coaching.  Breaks are a great “systems check” of your systems and leaders!  Nothing proves leadership like absence!
  • Breaks give me perspective.  I step back away from the work to remember its importance and significance in my life.  I journaled quite a bit this last break about the state of the church as I see it, my reasons and passions for still wanting to lead it, where I’ve been in the last years, and where God might be calling me to go.  Sometimes you have to stop hacking your way through the jungle, put down the machette, and climb a tree to take a look around.  Are you still on track?  Is this where you want to be?  I would hate to put my head down into ministry as a twenty something and then raise it again from ministry as a sixty something, only to discover that I was not satisfied with my life.  That would suck!
  • Breaks let me play.  I read seven novels – over 1500 pages – during this last break.  And they were ALL scholarly works – NOT!  Mikey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” and Stephen Hunter’s “Bob the Nailer” filled my hours and I loved it!

I was told early on in my ministry by Ed Young – take a break from your ministry or your ministry will break you.  And I try to live by that.  I still struggle with the disciplines involved – I probably always will… but that is kinda what makes it fun!


3 thoughts on “Breaks

  1. I took a forced 90 day maternity leave from ministry when our first child was born. I thought I would hate it. But every one of your points came through clear during that time. I reluctantly went back after 4 months. With my son, I was off an entire year. Hugely important and yes, I was not in a staff position(technically) so I had more freedom. All that to say a break will definitely improve life as you know it.

  2. I love your first point. The dirty secret of workaholics in ministry is the fragility of their self esteem. It’s not passion for the cause behind 70 hour work weeks, it’s fear of who we might find if we slowed down long enough to keep ourselves company for awhile.

    It takes real discipline to take a break and realize what you feared is actually true – you are not as crucial as you like to think. So where does our value come?

    Your blog has integrity. What I mean by this is there are no thinly veiled attempts at traffic generation, no self promotion, and with the exception of “Ed Young”…no name dropping 🙂

    You should tell the story about Rick Warren asking for your card at “Q”…

    Grace and Peace

    • Hey Nathan – Yeah, I should tell that story!

      I walk a line sometimes – like with the Ed Young quote – between concerns of name dropping and attributing material to its rightful source. In this case – because those are Ed’s words, I didn’t want someone to say “Hey – Ed said that…”

      Thanks for the comment!

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