“When was the last time we laughed like that as a family?” I asked myself as we were on our way to a small family get away during spring break. The church calendar had been non-stop from Thanksgiving to Easter Sunday; the kid’s sports program had us running every night of the week from basketball to volleyball to gymnastics. It seemed as if there were not enough hours in the day or enough days in the week. We were always exhausted. Family dinners were infrequent because of the differences in our schedules. We rarely saw each other. We were like ships passing in the night.
One night after an exhausting day my wife and I were lying in bed and we realized that the hectic pace of our calendar was taking its toll not only on us, but it was clearly taking its toll on our children. Living in a pastor’s home is a challenge and oftentimes pastor’s kids bear the weight of the responsibility just as much as their parents.
I am sure if you are in ministry and you are reading this you have felt the same way I did. The difficult pace of ministry can have a negative effect on several areas of your life. It affects your health, your marriage, and it affects your family. So that night we made a decision. We decided that we were going to do whatever it took to disconnect for a few days. We realized we were not doing ourselves or the church any good running on an empty battery. We needed to “get out of Dodge” and get some much needed rest and some quality time as a family.
So for the next few months we pinched pennies, saved all we could, rolled all the spare change we collected, and stopped all unnecessary fast food visits. My children dubbed me a dictator during those weeks and months but every time they would resist or come against my decisions I would remind them that the time we were going to spend together as a family was a better investment than some of the things we were going to spend money on. After several months we were able to save enough to escape for three days. I can honestly testify that this time made all the difference in the world for us and I believe it will make all the difference for you and your family.
I know what some of you are thinking right now “I don’t have the time to get away or the money to pay for it with gas at $4.00 per gallon” but I would disagree. I believe that there is no greater investment of both your time and your money than on your family. I have to be honest it was a struggle for us financially to get away and it took a lot of work to even get out of town, but trust me when I tell you that your family is worth it.
I learned a few lessons through this process that I would like to share with you and I pray they will help guide you through the decision process to take some time to get away and rest and to spend some quality family time.
#1 It does not have to be expensive to be effective
I appreciate my wife for her ability to stretch and save a dollar. Her diligence usually saves us a boat load of money on vacations or getaways. We have learned to try to keep it simple when it comes to getting away. It may not be a trip to Tennessee like us but there are plenty of inexpensive and effective alternatives. Go on a camping trip, rent a cheap hotel room for a few days, or if money is a little tight spend a few days visiting local sites like the zoo, beach, or a state park. Many Christian camps and retreat centers even offer nights for free for pastoral families. Be creative and do not write off a getaway for lack of money- there are other options and the effort to find them is worth it.
#2 Give yourself permission to unplug
There will never be a shortage of work in the ministry and I guarantee you that any work you leave behind will be waiting for you when you get back. Give yourself permission to unplug so you can focus on your family and you can rest and refresh your body and mind. I am blessed with an amazing staff and leadership that help to pick up the slack when I get away. If you do not have staff then choose some strong lay leadership that can teach, visit, and hold down the fort while you are away.
#3 Focus on your family
Do not lose sight of the goal of this trip. You are there to re-connect as a family. I was determined to spend time together. Make your family the focus of your getaway. Make sure you take the time to talk and listen, eat your meals together, and make sure you have lots of fun together. If you make the commitment to pour into your family I promise they will take notice of this and will appreciate your effort.
When I was younger I could keep up with a hectic and fast-paced schedule but as I get older I am realizing that I cannot go at the pace I used to. I was exhausted, but I learned that it wasn’t just me, but my wife and my children were exhausted too. This was confirmed to me when several times during our travel my whole family was sound asleep and several days I had to act as room service because no one but me wanted to get up to go to breakfast. Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 say it best “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ ” Give yourself permission to REST…sleep late, take a nap, and slow down. This rest will help you recharge.
These times away are essential to your health and the health of your family and ministry. Preventative medicine is always more effective. Rest and refreshment can help you avoid seasons of burnout and total exhaustion. You will be amazed at the clarity and peace that comes just by taking time to get away and unplug. I challenge you to find ways and means to do this for yourself, but more importantly for your family. They are worth it!
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