I ran a marathon here in Anchorage a couple of weeks ago. In the two weeks that followed the race, I have only ran a total of seven miles. I've given my body time to rest and recover. Today, I plan to lace up my shoes and hit the trails once again. My next race is in less than 6 weeks and I have to train. But I surely enjoyed the time-in-between. Now I feel that both my body and my mind are ready to run again!
Summers are typically times-in-between in the lives of churches. This is a time when things slow down; when Sunday schools and choirs take a break; when worship services are combined; when meetings are more spaced-out. And while one may argue that ministry and mission doesn't really stop, that the need is always there and that summers present rich and unique opportunities to reach out to our communities (i.e. VBS, Summer Camp etc.), the reality is that everyone, church people included, need times-in-between to rest and renew. The work of ministry doesn't stop but we can and need to slow it down on a regular basis or risk being burnt-out. Our bodies, hearts, minds and souls need to rest and recover.
Jesus modeled this rhythm of rest and renewal in his ministry. He took breaks, solitary retreats and times to just hang out with good friends. He withdrew from the crowds and took naps when he needed to. He paid attention to his body, mind and soul and took intentional steps in self-care.
As a local church pastor, my ministry rhythms were always guided by the Christian year and the church calendar. The peaks of ministry were the season of Advent with its climax at Christmas and the season of Lent with its climax at Easter. And of course, there's the fall kick-off, the stewardship campaign, Baptism of our Lord, Pentecost and other special Sundays. From my experience, while I enjoyed the peaks of ministry, I always looked forward to the summers and times-in-between and have always been blessed with churches and parishioners who have given me time and space to recreate and renew.
After a year as superintendent, I've found that the peaks in this ministry are dictated by a totally different rhythm. The high intensity times for us in the conference office are Charge Conference season (which stretches from October to mid-February), our Fall and Winter Meetings, and Annual Conference. I would add, after going through my first one in this role, that Annual Conference is the Christmas and Easter of conference superintendency in terms of intensity and workload. It takes a lot out of your conference staff. And while work really doesn't stop, we have intentionally dialed it down after Annual Conference to give us time and space to breathe and recover before Charge Conference season comes upon us once again. I also look forward to our family vacation later this month.
I hope you, too, are giving yourself time and space to rest, recover and recreate. I hope you are allowing that blessing for others as well. Enjoy your time-in-between!
Your fellow disciple,