Six Ways to Use Vacations to Help Preaching, Passion, and Productivity

20140920_160118_AndroidIt’s interesting how the subject of vacation for ministers has been approached over the years.  In Charles Bridges’ classic work on ministry matters, he rejects the notion that ministers should ever have any sort of recreation, even taking a day off during the week.  Spurgeon was another workaholic, having started and headed up over 60 organizations during his ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Now, we look at how important vacation, recreation, and even days off are for the minister.  Ministers are casualties in the landscape of evangelicalism—1500 ministers are leaving the ministry every month!  The reasons are myriad: burn out, hurt from parishioners, moral failure, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  Wayne Cordeiro and others have written books on how ministers are prone to divorces, depression, anger, fear, and numerous other maladies that affect their psyche and their close relationships.  Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty tracks his personal trek through these severe valleys and the systems he put in place for accountability and recreation so he’s running on full potential and energy as needed.

I’ve posted before that ministers living in a perpetual state of guilt—at least every minister goes through that season.  He spends time in ministry with sermon preparation, visitation to the sick and homebound and those in the hospital—but that means time away from your family than most ‘normal’ families have (whatever ‘normal’ means).  But then he spends time with your family (day at the park, weekend in the mountains, week with grandparents), he finds himself having a hard time pulling away from church matters.  He emails, calls periodically, texts a parishioner or a member of your staff to stay on top of things.  He’s had one major event happen while he were gone on vacation or a missions trip—he just can’t handle another.

So can a minister of a church, where a love for his members accompanied with the anxieties that compile daily (2 Corinthians 11:28) truly have a vacation?  That’s something I am going to pray about and explore without Internet or e-mail, both of which help but also significantly hinder productivity and, yes, even critical thinking.

We’ll see what God shows us during this time.  I’m looking forward to it immensely.  So this is what I’m going to do next time I vacation:

  1. Trust my associate pastor, ministry staff, and deacons to handle the ministry very capably when I’m away–which I know they will do.
  2. (HT: Mark Combs) I will uninstall all my social media apps from my phone (Facebook, Hootsuite, and E-mail) in an effort to break the habit of checking my phone all too frequently when I should be with family, friends, and my Heavenly Father.
  3. I will watch what I eat–even as I know I’ll go to White Castle, Cracker Barrel, and a myriad of family functions and BBQs.
  4. I will continue to exercise. I’ve redeveloped a love for running, thanks to the C25K app.  I’m on vacation from my work, not from my health.
  5. I will attend a worship service with my family while away. I need to hear the Word, even as I preach the Word hundreds of times per year.
  6. I will bring books that may or may not have to do with my vocation as pastor.  Will I bring my Bible?  Absolutely–and I’ll read through the Psalms (yes, I’m preaching on those when I return), but I’ll do this devotionally for sure. A leadership book?  Sure!  Harper Lee’s new book?  Still debating.  A soccer book?  Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson sounds excellent. Os Guinness’ Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion?  Well, maybe just one preaching book! (OK, OK, I may not bring all of those, but when leaders are readers, you’ll see why reading is a great way to relax and sharpen!

What a necessity there is in being intentional about your vacations!

What ways do you use your vacations to help relax and sharpen?

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Productivity at Your Desk: Exercises, Pomodoro, and Getting Things Done

I’m not at my desk very often, so when I am, I need to be productive.  And because I’m not at my desk very often, when I am, I need to make sure I stay in decent shape.

We have been seeing more studies on the dangers of too much sitting during the day.

For exercise, I came across this article called The Desk Jockey Workout: 8 Ways to Stay in Shape at the Office by Brett & Kate McCay from the Art of Manliness blog.  They make their case in these opening paragraphs:

For most of human history, work has been a physically demanding activity.  Our cavemen ancestors chased down mastodons and hurled spears into their tough, but tasty flesh, American homesteaders tamed the wilderness into productive farms with nothing but grit and sweat, and just 60 years ago, the majority of men in America flexed their muscles on factory floors or construction sites.

Fast-forward to today.

Instead of feeding ourselves by the sweat of our brows, most of us just slouch in a chair all day in a climate-controlled building while we push buttons and send documents through the ether. And the sitting doesn’t end after work. When we get home, we plop down in front of the TV to watch reality shows of men performing the kind of virile, physical, and often dirty work we fantasize about doing while answering emails in our cubicle.

Man’s transition from callused-handed, blue-collared laborer to soft-handed, white-collared desk jockey has done a number on us physically and mentally. Not only have our desk jobs made us weak, flabby, and stiff, sedentary work is sapping the very hormone that makes a man a man: testosterone.

What’s more, all this sitting is slowly eating away at our life meters. One study showed that men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less. For the desk jockey, death comes wrapped in a Successories Poster and waving a USB drive.

“Ah-ha!” you say. “I work out out like a beast in the gym every day and have a physique that rivals Eugen Sandow’s. My hour-long, herculean effort counteracts all the sitting and slouching I do at work!”

Sorry to break it to you Mac, but your visits to the gym aren’t doing much to mitigate the damage that accumulates from all that desk jockeying.

Studies have shown that consistent, vigorous workouts don’t do much to offset the damage we do to our bodies by sitting down all day at our cushy Dilbert-esque jobs.

So what’s a modern man to do?

It makes a difference.  Take time to read on!

In the midst of this article, they referred to the Pomodoro Technique.  I’ve used it for the past week, and it has really helped me be more focused and productive while I’m at my desk.   Created in 1992 by Francesco Cirillo, who based everything around a simple kitchen timer.

Why?

  • A ‘pomodoro’ is indivisible—lasting at the very least 25 minutes.  So for 25 minutes you focus on a task.
  • After one ‘pomodoro,’ you take a short 4-5 minute break.  But make that productive.  Do some situps, crunches, something to keep you active and alert.
  • After that is done and nothing else is pressing, you put on another pomodoro, then take another short break.
  • After four pomodoros, you take a 15 minute break.  Walk around your building, climb some stairs, more pushups/situps, etc.
  • If you have an interruption that takes you away, you’ve lost your pomodoro (remember, they are indivisible).
  • If something else comes across your mind that is urgent, write it down on another sheet of paper, and deal with that (maybe during your break).

You can download the PDF of the Pomodoro Technique, along with PDF’s of other sheets to help you along with a Cheat Sheet, To Do Today Worksheet, and Activity Worksheets.

You can also download free apps from the iTunes Store.  Just search for Pomodoro and you will get a number of options.  Some do cost, but try the free ones out to see if you like it.

What are some other ways you have found to exercise during the day in an office job, and other ways that have improved your time management and productivity?

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