It’s summer and everyone in your church is at the cottage or on holiday enjoying this amazing weather. This rhythm of enjoying the outdoors and warm weather from June to September is a very good thing. All of us, including Pastors, are taking several weeks here and there to get away, unplug (hopefully), and relax from the demands and cares of work and ministry.
I do need to let you in on a little secret about your Pastor, or at least a generality about most Pastors.
Most Pastors love and hate the summer.
What? Yes, it’s true. They love the summer for all the reasons why most people love and enjoy the summer. However, they also dislike the summer. Why? Because once vacation is over for the Pastor they are still working. While seemingly most people are off having fun on the weekends the work of the Church still goes on—even in the summer.
This natural rhythm of rest and renewal that summer brings can also bring anxiety and tension for us Pastor types. Crazy thoughts go through our heads. Will everyone actually be back to join in church life, or will people have wondered off over the summer, leaving the church without saying a word? We think, “I’m putting in 8-15 hrs. on a sermon that half the church will hear.” If you are in a smaller church of 150 or less, this can be a real mind-game for Pastors. Will we make budget? Will I get paid this summer? Summers are very lean times financially for churches. The financial pressure on pastors can be quite daunting.
Every day closer to mid-August is a reminder that end of summer is coming and the systems and structures of the Church need to be ready. Will we have enough volunteers? Will small groups or home churches be ready to launch in September? Does anyone else see this, or am I (the Pastor) the only one who feels the necessity for us to be ready to go? Clearly, all of these are real scenarios.
For those who aren’t Pastors
I hope that church leaders or lay leaders (and even church members) reading this will stop and consider what it is like for their Pastor over the summer. Put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes and act on whatever the Spirit may be prompting you to do. Maybe send a note recognizing that you see these realities, and remind your Pastor that they are not alone in this.
For those who are Pastors
I want to challenge us to consider a few things:
- Spend the month of June prepping as much as you can for September and make July through early August a season of rest for yourself. We can’t fight the summer ‘check-out’. If we can’t beat it, join it!
- Give yourself permission to ‘do’ less and ‘be’ more. You can practice what it means to ‘Be in Christ’. Being in Christ is no easy thing for some of us, which makes it vital that this become an intentional focus for you. Often we don’t know how to simply ‘be’. Fight the urge to do the next thing on your brain’s to do list, and find ways to lay down the burden of ministry for this season.
- Give yourself permission to only work 30 hrs. a week during July. Trust me, most Pastors and Church staff will be making up the 40 missed hours over the rest of the ministry year; that’s only 3.63 hrs. per month for the remaining 11 months.
- Rather than resent that everyone else gets to go play, go play. And don’t feel guilty.
- Use the summer to read more than you feel able to read the rest of the year. summer is a time for you to tone up spiritually and intellectually and reading is a major way we do this.
- Summer can also be time to remind yourself whose Church it is that you are pastoring. Whose Church is it? It’s not your church! As your email inbox dries up, as the phone calls subside, as the attendance wanes, let these realities remind you that, while you are important, you aren’t the one who keeps the church going. This is God’s church! Pastor, God will use you.
At the end of the day, you play an important but small part in a larger mission that Father, Son and Spirit are holding together.
Let Him hold it—at least for July.
My friends, Be well.
– Jon Hand is the Site Leadership Pastor at The Meeting House and previously served as the Director of Pastoral and Leadership Development for BIC Canada.