Avoid pastor burnout: plan for vacation

SUMMARY: The very attributes that make pastors good at what they do also make them reluctant to take a vacation. Yet even God rested on the seventh day. “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” (Genesis 2:3a, NRSV)

To avoid clergy burnout, make sure your Pastor-Parish Relations Committee (PPRC) reviews and plans for non-salary support. What should you consider when planning for your pastor’s vacation?

Use your Pastor-Parish Relations Committee.
Every congregation must have a PPRC to build relationships among the congregation and the staff so the mission of the church may be accomplished. The PPRC chairperson works closely with the pastor to insure all responsibilities are fulfilled during times of vacation or sabbatical. She or he also delegates responsibilities among other staff.

By virtue of baptism, every Christian is a minister. The United Methodist Church recognizes several forms of ministry by ordaining, consecrating and licensing individuals. Everyone in the congregation has different gifts, so it is important for the PPRC to learn what those skills are and how to use them.

List all pastoral responsibilities.
Focus on such tasks as leading worship (scheduling, Scripture readings, hymns, special songs, sermons); weddings; funerals; baptisms; and counseling troubled members.

Divide and conquer.
Enlist deacons, elders, local pastors, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, missionaries and certified personal to tackle each task. Weave the gifts of laity and clergy together so everyone can experience ministry. No single person should assume all of the pastor’s duties. The more people you involve, the more effective they will be and the more they will value what the pastor does.

Minister to the sick.
You may find those who are skilled at making hospital calls. Who knows? After a group does this for a week, it might blossom into a new ministry.

Plan for more than Sundays.
Remember the pastor’s role is 24-7; assign a person or persons to be on-call to help in emergencies. Identify people within the church who can counsel or advise others whether that means listening to problems or pointing them to a professional. Also, before your pastor hits the beach, determine the type of events about which he or she would like to be contacted.

Do not schedule some events.
Marriages and baptisms typically are scheduled weeks or months in advance. Block out the calendar so such events are not planned for vacation time. Identify a local pastor who can handle unexpected events such as funerals.

Take notes.
Encourage everyone to track what he or she did and report to the chairperson. Compile a report of what has been done and what needs to be done—so the pastor can start the week fresh, rested and ready to resume duties.

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