God never sleeps, but you have to. Our mission here on earth never runs out, but you run out of energy and motivation to keep on the mission. Your congregants will never say, “We have no more problems, questions, or concerns,” but you run out of answers and ways to pacify everyone. This kind of exhaustion is not uncommon at any time of the year, but once we reach the holiday season, we’re at real risk for total burnout.
How can a pastor reload and stay fresh for the work ahead so that he doesn’t give up during the holiday swell, hand the reigns over to an associate pastor, and go find work elsewhere? Two to three vacations spread throughout fifty-two weeks are simply not enough for the pastor who carries daily the kind of loads he does. He has to find small ways to regularly “get away for a while,” as the old commercial goes, and he can’t always afford to buy a plane ticket to do so. Here are five small but extremely important activities or other ways to help keep you sane and your family happy with the husband and father who comes home to them every day.
Find a hobby for your mind. Your typical workday is probably filled with staff meetings, mission team meetings, sermon planning, and all types of crisis control. Even your lunches are oftentimes work-related. So what do you do between 8:00 and 6:00 that allows you to take a mental break from it all? At some point midway through the day, get away or close your office door and do something not related to work at all. Read a fiction book. Spend a few minutes on a puzzle that you keep set up on a table somewhere. Do a crossword puzzle. Read the newspaper. Find a way to distract your mind with something completely different than the normal.
Find a hobby for your body. Your work is always going to wear you down. Why make it easier to do so by not taking care of your body? You don’t need to be a triathlete or body builder to be taking proper care of your body. Whether it’s jogging, biking, walking briskly, racquetball, tennis, basketball, working at the gym or some other activity, find something to do several times a week—at the same scheduled time each day if you can—that helps maintain your temple of the Spirit.
Find a hobby with your family. Depending on age and number of children, this will look different for many of you. But remember how much fun you and your family have on your summer vacations to the beach or mountains? It’s not because of the destination but because of the abnormal activities you do together during that time, such as playing board games, taking bike rides, going out for ice cream after dinner, roasting s’mores around a campfire. You can do all of that year-round! Find a hobby or activity your family can do regularly, if not daily, in order to help remind you of your first priority as a husband and father.
Find a hobby with friends. Nothing beats family time, but sometimes you need time off from being around people who consider you their leader. It’s important to have men (not from your church, preferably) who you can simply relax with and engage in some good old-fashioned silly fun. This might be golf or basketball or some other activity from your “hobby for your body” list. Or it could be hunting, fishing, watching baseball, playing cards (gasp!!!). But it’s important to have that group you can unwind with, and if it’s not with men from your church then it makes it much easier to share about burdens at work too.
Find a hobby with your staff. Trust me, if you’re burned out, they probably are too. (And if they’re not, then you’re not delegating well.) While you should encourage all of your staff to find their own ways to relax and unwind, everyone doesn’t need to only be doing it on their own time. Take responsibility to plan regular lunches, retreats, and other activities to do as a staff. Go paintballing or putt-putting, pop popcorn and watch a movie on your big screen in the worship center, or take a cooking class together. You might even alternate once a month assigning a different staff member to plan a staff activity, something they like to do on their own. But the important thing is to set the example for your staff how important it is to unwind and relax.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Want to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.