I Need A Retreat

To retreat is to back up. Sometimes it is to regroup, re-energize, to plan a new attack. I need a retreat regularly, and when I don’t get it often enough my work suffers.

I am not talking aboutCalendar_0 a holiday, though everyone needs a vacation. You need some time to get away from everything with your spouse, with your family – sometimes without your children.

I am not talking about a holiday, but a day or more to get away from phones and from people and from your messy office. We all need to find a place where we can look at how things are going and take some time to look ahead.

This past week I had one day like that. I’m not too far away from the city of Calgary and Ambrose University College. I went to the Ambrose Library and hid there all day in a quiet cubicle surrounded by books. I took a calendar with me. I took my laptop. I took a binder
that is a “collect-all” for articles and plans and dreams I have had over the years. _1 Old Binder

My retreat is usually about what is going on in the church. While I take some time to set some personal goals, my main goal is to come away with a plan for my preaching for the next half a year or more. I want to know when I’m scheduling in a communion celebration. It’s usually the 4th Sunday of the month, but not always. I want to know where I’m planning special prayer times. I check what Sunday Advent starts so I’m ready. I even sometimes figure out what kind of testimony I would like on a certain Sunday. I plan in our Special Days like our Annual Open House & Chili Cook off in September.

I need a retreat because it is too hard for me to get that kind of planning in when I’m sitting in my office surrounded by the mess and a thousand other things to do.

I hope you get some time to retreat this summer – for a vacation, yes – but also for some planning and dreaming about what God might have happen in your area of ministry and influence.

I need a retreat. So do you.

What a way to Start the New Year!

My wife and I had the most wonderful opportunity as we entered the New Year. My niece got married in Mexico, and someone paid for our trip to go. Wow! An all inclusive paid for Mexico photoholiday in Mexico! After a fairly hectic December, we sure appreciated this wonderful break.

For the first 3 or 4 days we did absolutely nothing besides lounge at the pool and read a book. Drinks were served right to us. Occasionally we got up to enjoy one of the great buffets. What a break! I read 5 books. Three of them were “fluff” books, but two were ones that got my ministry heart going.

It was a time of relaxing and refreshing and re-energizing.

I also had the honor of officiating at the wedding and it was great. A beach wedding with the ocean behind me. I even got in a little bartering as I wanted to buy a few things. I enjoy that.

I hope you are blessed with a vacation like this at some point. Maybe you have the funds to pay for it, or maybe God will use someone else to bless you with a vacation. What a great way to start the new year!


Livin’ Large at Lake Louise!

Chateau-Lake-LouiseI can’t afford to stay at the Chateau Lake Louise. Not on my small church salary.

But here’s the view from my window!! I stayed there just last week!

My denomination holds an annual DSCN7219Pastor’s Retreat for all its 600 plus pastors and spouses. Our group is large enough that we need a big hotel and meeting space. The Chateau Lake Louise provides that!

The expectation is that our church will cover the cost of our 3 days at this retreat. What a treat!!! I couldn’t afford to stay there if I was paying, and neither could many in my congregation. What an incredible privilege!

But I have to say that the sessions and the worship were probably on par with God’s beautiful creation. The Holy Spirit was definitely present. It was a great time of truly letting go everything else and focusing on our Lord Jesus!

We are a very privileged pastor couple!!Lynnette and Andy

Burnout Doesn’t Have to be Your Reality

Just recently I received a question from a young person in ministry asking me how I prevent myself burning out and how I keep on going.

What a great question!

Burnout is a real possibility for anyone who doesn’t watch out. Small church pastors are at great risk in this for a number of reasons. Small and rural church pastors have many demands from them. They rarely have a second staff person to share the load with and yet are asked to do a wide variety of things. Some of the days just don’t have enough hours to accomplish all that is expected.

So why might someone face burnout? Sometimes it’s as simple as not having enough sleep or taking time for a sabbath rest. Sometimes it may be because you are not sure you are serving where God wants you. Or maybe you are doing things out of your gifting abilities or just doing way too much.

Are their solutions? Can we prevent burnout? Here are some things I have learned that have helped me.

One, get enough sleep. For me, I need 8 hours of sleep. That means I sometimes have to go to be earlier than I would like when I know I have early appointments.

Two, take a sabbath. Take a regular day off. Don’t plan anything else on that day. Take time to relax. Enjoy some recreation. Go on a date. Read a book just for fun.

Three, take time to reaffirm for yourself that you are serving as pastor where you should be serving. It’s good to occasionally take time with God on this question so you are serving with confidence that you are where you should be.

Four, know your gifts and abilities and evaluate if you are doing too many things that are not in your “sweet spot” of serving out of your best. Sometimes we have to do things that are not easy of comfortable for us. We just have to. And sometimes we can learn new skills. Other times we have to be honest and say “no” to certain expectations because these only drain us and tire us out. Say no where you can, delegate where you can.

We are not good at everything. And there are things we just don’t enjoy. In another church I was expected to do services at the Seniors Lodge. I always had to force myself to do it and it always turned out alright, but I am so glad that is not an expectation of me in my present church.

Just a caution: If you are getting close to burnout, ask for help. Ask for a break. Talk to an authority or to a pastor friend to find your way through.

May you find your way through, not burning out, but enjoying the journey!

I Got a Medal in a Half-Marathon!

I want to be clear right up front – it was a “finisher medal”.

I was nowhere near the front of the pack. In fact, there were probably only about 3 people to finish after me. I’ve never been an athlete and played on few actual teams but I’ve realized the importance of physical exercise, so I run.

I’m the typical pastor, who sits at his desk working on a sermon, sits at the table for a board meeting, sits in the coffee shop having coffee with a member of the congregation or sits at the table enjoying a meal with friends. My life is taken up with a lot of sitting and eating. Not that I mind the eating part, it’s kind of like my hobby. All that sitting and eating doesn’t do much for my physical condition.

A few years ago I realized that I needed to do something for physical exercise. Since I’m not good enough to play on a team of any kind, I decided to try running. I had never run in my life, but I was amazed that I could actually push myself and begin to run just a little farther and then farther. I even began to enjoy getting out on the road for a run! I couldn’t believe it. It was fun!

I finally got brave enough to join a few other guys who were running at 6:00 am three mornings a week. I began to run races. I ran a few 10k races. I even did two Half-Marathons! And then I moved to a new church in a new town with no running buddies.

Now I don’t have the accountability of friends waiting for me to show up each morning so I thought I should sign up for one race a month. February’s race was a 21K run. Training in the winter with snow storms and cold weather limited my running as I do all my running outside, but I did finish the 21K!!

Why do I run? Because it is good for me physically as well as mentally. When you are thinking about church stuff all the time it’s hard to move your mind away from it. Running helps me do that. All the fresh air first thing in the morning is great too. For me it’s not about speed but about the exercise and the ability to say that I did it! And where I run, I can see the Rocky Mountains not too far away. What a great view!

I would encourage you, do something physical regularly. If you don’t know what, try running!

The Importance of Withdrawing

To retreat in battle may seem like a bad way to win a war, yet to retreat to Hawaii or to Banff, Alberta may seem pretty enticing!

Sometimes withdrawing gives opportunity to recharge, to refocus, and to strategize about the best way to move forward.

The denomination I pastor in has an annual retreat to Banff. Watching the glacial-green Bow River flowing through town or looking at the majestic mountains that seem to rise up to the heavens makes me think about God. And sometimes I need that! I can get so busy doing things “for” God that I forget to just enjoy him. The beauty of nature sure helps. So does the great worship and the wonderful teaching of the retreat. It give opportunity to go home refreshed.

The other day I had to withdraw from my office in order to do some planning. I was starting a new sermon series in 1 Thessalonians and wanted time to, not just work on the next sermon, but think through the whole series. I also wanted to work through taking notes and figuring out how to apply some things I had been reading lately. I knew that there were too many  distractions in my office. There were emails, and books to read, and lists of things to work on. And like any small town pastor I have an open door. I don’t have a large church building to hide in or layers of secretaries and staff to hide me. When people come, they expect to see me, and I want that. It just means that whether they are church members, a salesman, or members of the community wanting to talk with me about my community involvements, most likely I will have people popping in to see me. Thus the importance of with drawing from distractions for a time and for a specific purpose.

I would really encourage every pastor to retreat and withdraw without guilt. This is an important part of planning and leading well.