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Leisure and Burnout in Ministry Articles

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Positive Leisure Patterns from the Start

The first month at the new church has been hectic but rewarding. You are beginning to learn the congregation, you know your way around the community, but something is missing. Could it be leisure?

The fact is, responsible work habits give us the opportunity to be at leisure. There is already a sneaking suspicion that a preacher only works one day a week, why would there be the incessant joke about it. It doesn't hurt to log hours and share them with staff parish early on so that they know what you do and where you spend your time. I am convinced that is easier to plan a life away from the parish if responsible patterns of work within the parish are established early.

  • Keep regular office hours as much as possible. When we keep regular hours, people learn that we are available and approachable. In turn, having regular hours for work and study will provide freedom for leisure.
  • The day off is a "must-see" for the congregation. If they don't see their pastor taking a day-off, they will have unrealistic expectations that you are available seven days a week.
  • Plan your work days wisely. I try to keep workdays to a maximum of 8-10 hours. If you spend four hours in the morning in the office, and anticipate four hours in meetings in the evening, free up your afternoon calendar for yourself.
  • Schedule "comp" time. For instance, you work a solid weekend on retreat with a group from the church, plan to take a couple of solid days away the next week, or in the upcoming weeks. I remember days in youth ministry when I was responsible for the youth up to 144 hours straight. Upon return I scheduled time-off that was not considered vacation to make up for personal time missed. The Staff-Parish committee came to understand that this was not only good for me, but also good for the church.
  • Schedule vacation sensibly. Everyone needs vacation, but new pastors must be conscious of their new situation. I have known of pastors in new appointments that were gone two of the first three weeks. This is not a great way to begin a new ministry. Find ways to accommodate personal and family needs without complicating matters with the local church.

And remember, a few months from now, you will no longer be the "new" preacher.


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