August 20, 2013 by cbbeard
It really was a nice trip; my wife and I met up with her parents and traveled to St. Louis. Our plan was to relax and catch a couple of baseball games (one of my former youth group kids plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates…how cool is that!?!), and other than our team losing 2 out of 3, everything went great. We had a great time with great company with a very flexible schedule and a nice hotel room overlooking the Mississippi River and the Gateway Arch. But something wasn’t quite right for me.
I couldn’t quite place it at first, but in the midst of this relaxing time with very little to stress me out, I was still on edge. I had a weight in the pit of my stomach and something in the back of my mind that was nagging at me in an inaudible yet distracting tone. After a couple of days of dealing with this mental burr in the saddle of an otherwise-enjoyable trip, I realized what it was…guilt!
But this guilt was not because I broke a law or committed some moral indiscretion or because I got a little bit too much enjoyment out of the Pirates victory at the expense of the Cardinals fans around me. This rock that sat in the pit of my stomach and curtailed my relaxation and enjoyment found its way into my trip because I felt guilty…about taking days off.
The thing is, I love my job as Lead Minister. The lines between my job and the rest of my life are blurry, if not completely indiscernible. I started a PhD program so that I could learn to be better at my job, and I cannot remember a normal day where I haven’t spent substantial time thinking, planning, studying, or executing something related to my role as Lead Minister. Since I took this position, I have yet to use the full amount of days off allotted to me by the church. I hate to think in these terms, and I hate to proclaim my own worthiness, but when it comes to time and effort, the church that provides my salary definitely gets their money’s worth.
Along with that, my church is very supportive of me taking time off. I have a generous allotment of vacation/days off in addition to a provision in my ministry agreement that allows a couple of Sundays off for “sabbath” purposes. I was even encouraged to take an extra Sunday off this year to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the first church I served in.
So what gives? Why in the world would I feel guilty about taking legitimate time off for a nice trip with my wife and in-laws?
In a word…pride.
It’s pride that makes us want to prove our worth. I still deal with the stigma that I’ve come in contact with occasionally through the years regarding the workload and responsibility of ministers. From the proverbial “the preacher only works on Sundays” joke to people becoming upset because a minister wouldn’t drop everything at every beck and call of any and every “church member*,” there is a tendency for me to want to overcompensate and exceed people’s expectations. The flip side of that is that if I am absent, even for legitimate reasons, it’s hard not to picture sweet sister Sally saying to another congregant “that preacher of ours is off gallivanting again!”
But it’s also pride that makes us want to be indispensable. What leader doesn’t struggle occasionally with the lies of self-worth that tell us that without us those we lead would be in trouble! Good leaders lead in such a way that the efficiency of the organization does not ebb and flow with their presence. Leadership, especially church leadership, should never be about control or power and perhaps the best indicator of good leadership is the ability of the organization to cope with the absence or outright loss of a leader.
I want to be a leader for God who takes my role seriously enough that I give it my all, yet at the same time be a leader who doesn’t take myself so seriously to think that success of the church hinges on me.
I want to be a leader who jettisons pride in its many forms and takes seriously the importance of sabbath and recreation as a God-ordained habit.
I want to be a leader who can take a couple days off and truly enjoy it.
What do you think? Do you struggle with pride that keeps you from employing and enjoying times of sabbath and recreation? What can we do to ensure our churches find priority in recreation and recharging with God in times of rest and sabbath?
* These attitudes, by the way, have not surfaced at my current church, which makes my guilt even more mental!