Go on Vacation Already! Lead More by Being Less Busy
There is an epidemic of unused vacation time in America. More than half of American workers left some vacation time on the table this past year. A record-setting total of 658 million days. $223 billion in economic impact. America also lags far behind other developed nations in the number of official holidays. So we have less time off to begin with and use less of our available time.
Lack of vacation also contributes to being too busy in the form of maternity leave. The United States is one of only two countries in the world (the other is Papua New Guinea) without any kind of mandatory paid maternity leave. Without this opportunity, many women are forced to continue working non-stop because they must support their family. They simply can’t afford to take time off, even to nurture their newborn child.
Though certainly not facing the same severity or disadvantages, men also often find it difficult to take time to be with their new children. While this and vacation may technically be allowed, there is an unspoken pressure that you would be looked down on for actually using the time.
The reasons for our cultural inability to take a break are many and worth exploring. My concern is that this busyness epidemic has infected the church. It is considered normal to skip vacation in the name of serving God. We wear it as a badge of honor to be constantly rushing and occupied.
If being too busy has tainted the church, it is because people learned it from their leaders. And if we want to reverse the trend, it has to start with seeing leaders take time off. Remember paternity leave? A recent NPR piece found that one key factor determined whether or not men took paternity – the article is called, “How To Get Dads To Take Parental Leave? Seeing Other Dads Do It.”
Busyness in the Church
People learn from what leaders do, not what they say. The old, “Do as I say and not as I do,” doesn’t work.
It’s easy to talk a big game about trusting Jesus with our work or ministry. But do your actions show it? Or are you guilty of being a preacher only and not also a doer of the word? You can’t say you trust Jesus with your ministry yet act like you are the one running the show by never taking a break.
If you feel like you can’t take a vacation, talk to your leaders, staff, and colleagues. It takes planning and teamwork to cover the practical duties of someone who is taking time off. Begin talking about having a culture of regular rest for everyone. Brainstorm how you can support each other in taking more time off. Encourage one another that nothing will fall apart if one of you is not there for a while.
Lead in a counter-cultural way by being less busy and taking more time off.
Here are a few concrete suggestions:
1) Use all your vacation time.
Of any profession, church leaders should be using all their vacation time. Be an example to those you lead. Demonstrate your trust in Jesus by stepping back from your work. This acknowledges that God is in control and we are all just under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd. Start small by taking one day to be entirely cut off from your work. You might be amazed how the world does not stop spinning when you stop laboring.
2) Talk about doing less and taking vacations.
People follow what you do, but it’s also important to clearly explain what you’re doing. Tell them about the importance of rest in the Bible. Tell them one way to give control of our lives over to God is by stopping what we’re doing. It’s faith, not laziness, that takes time to put away our work and rest.
3) Give your employees vacation.
The way your ministry operates should facilitate people’s ability to trust Jesus. As we have seen, inadequate vacation and busyness are contrary to this purpose. So make sure everyone has sufficient time to rejuvenate. You can even go beyond normal vacation and encourage extra time off, including maternity and paternity leave. What if Christians led the way in taking time off instead of caving to cultural busyness?
4) Schedule a Sabbatical.
It’s Biblical to stop what you’re doing! Sabbath, which means, “to cease,” is a weekly, yearly, and 7-years ritual. God commands it for our good and we neglect it to our harm. Sunday is our weekly rest and vacation our yearly rest, but church leaders should also make space for an extended break from work. It takes planning, but the refreshment is invaluable.
People learn by example. So go ahead and lead more by being less busy. Trust Jesus by taking that vacation you’ve been putting off.
Written by: Jacob Zoller
Jacob is a college pastor in Mobile, AL, who writes about productivity and rest at www.jacobzoller.com.