Taking Time Away

I am taking a few days this week up north doing some planning.  I have done this annually for the past several decades.  When I was serving in the local church I spent these days doing sermon planning for the year ahead.  Now I get ready for Church Conference season and try to take a balcony view of the District and Conference related to my role as Missional Strategist.

This planning time is a week I look forward to every year.  I anticipate the opportunity to take these days, step back and look to what’s next.  I like it partly because I get to spend a week by a lake and enjoy the beauty of the area around Traverse City.  But more than that, it really helps me move beyond the moment and the urgency of the immediate, to both practically plan and dream.

I wanted to write about this time I take away every year because as I talk with pastors I know that some never take time to step back and get a balcony view.  They never take time to get away from the regular daily activities to think deeply, to pray, to listen and to breathe. And my encouragement to pastors, and really to all of us, is to take the time.

For pastors, I believe doing some kind of sermon planning retreat is essential.  Folks do it in different ways.  Some take a week once a year, others take a few days every few months, some work with worship teams and others are on their own.  And I’m not suggesting that my way is the best way, but my belief is that we need to do it some way.

Beyond the sermon creators among us, I think all of us need time away.  I would invite all of us to consider taking time at least once a year to retreat, to create space to hear from God, to connect with God.  If you haven’t had a practice of taking this time in your life, start with a day, start with an afternoon.  My suspicion is this time away will become more and more important to you, and something you eagerly anticipate!

Friends there is so much more I could say about this and I’d say more but I’m ready to get back to my time away!


For the First Time in my Ministry I’m taking the time to Renew and Refresh!

As Pastors or SPRC members on our District are aware, I talk often about clergy and the need for time away from work.  I always stress (no pun intended!) with SPRCs the need to make sure their clergy leaders take all the weeks of their vacation and I push them to check up on those work-a-holic clergy types to make sure they are taking their time off during the week.  It is something that I believe is of critical importance to effective ministry.  While working hard is necessary ─ and I certainly encourage our leaders to work hard ─ time away, rest and Sabbath are just as important! It is a design that goes all the way back to the beginning.  Scripture teaches us that even God rested!

I have never seen myself as a work-a-holic.  I have always taken my vacations and my days off, unless a genuine emergency caused me to break that norm.  I am able to rest and not feel the urge to “do something productive.”  I have believed that to rest IS to do something productive.  My prayer for all of us Clergy and Lay folk alike is to find time during the upcoming summer months to get away from the routine, get away from the stress and enjoy what brings you refreshment and life.

The book of Discipline allows for District Superintendents to take a “Renewal Leave” of three months sometime during their six-year term.  Following Annual Conference this year, I will begin mine.  After thirty-six years of not ever taking more than two weeks off at any one time, I will enter into this lengthy period away from work.  And while I’m certainly looking forward to it, I am also a little scared!  I have a plan for a few things that I want to do.  I will engage a few special things that are on the agenda.  But for the most part I’m going to be by the lake, resting.  And while as I said I don’t really view myself as a work-a-holic, it just feels weird to be planning to be away from work that long.

I trust I will get over the apprehension I’m feeling!  I’m sure, if I’m anything like my colleagues who have taken this time away, I will come back refreshed and all too aware of how weary I was.  Please pray for me as I take this time away and know that I will be praying for you.  As there are issues or concerns that arise during my absence, Liz in the District office can get you the help you need through another Superintendent or others who are helping to cover for needs that may arise.

I wanted to share this plan with you now so that if there are concerns you have and need to speak to me before I leave, you can do so now.  Thanks for all you do in the ongoing ministry of your churches and the ministry we share together.  As the song goes (if you’re old enough to remember it!), I’ll see you in September.