When I was younger, my wise father would offer sage advice when I complained about life being hard. He would say, “It’s a cold, cruel world, even in the summertime.”
Ah, summertime. For ministers, summer can be a difficult season. Schedules change, and the daily routine veers out of control. There’s excitement around events like Vacation Bible School and student camps, but the weekly task of sermon preparation doesn’t stop. Ministry to those in need remains the same. If you pay attention to worship attendance figures, you know the numbers will be down in the summer. Church members didn’t take vacation trips in 2020; they will this summer.
Alan Jackson, country music legend, says “there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” If that’s true, how do you survive this season of ministry?
Watch the sunset.
I happen to love summer. I have a deep appreciation for the long days with extended sunlight. It’s my favorite time of the year. So, allow me to provide you with a few things you can do to survive the summertime blues.
- Eat dinner outside.
- Take a walk in the evening.
- Spend time with your family and friends.
- Take your days off.
- Take a vacation. I highly recommend going to the beach.
- Watch the sunset.
My wife stayed with her mom for two years as she dealt with the horrible disease that is Alzheimer’s. Her mom lives in Florida. Her house was on a lakefront with her back deck facing west. During that time, my wife became a big fan of sunsets. I would get pictures of the sunset from her with reminders of God’s brilliance in creating such beauty daily.
When COVID hit, my wife and I started a daily routine of watching the sunset. We drove around our town and found a perfect spot near us that was on a hill and faced west behind a manufacturing company. For most of the spring and summer, we would park here and watch the sun drop behind the hills to the west. We laughed at the thought that if there were security cameras, what the security personnel must think about the couple who parked in the back of the parking lot every night. But the sunsets were fabulous at that location.
In May, we went to the beach to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We made dinner reservations at a restaurant on the beach and watched the sunset as we waited for our table. Applause broke out along the beach as the sun dropped over the horizon. What a spectacular sight.
(I’ve heard that the same type of thing occurs with the sunrise, but I wouldn’t know. Not a morning person.)
Guarding against the summertime blues
There are also some things you need to guard against if you have the summertime blues.
Don’t make any major decisions when you’re down. There’s an old adage for ministers that says “never resign on Monday.” The same principle holds true when you have the summertime blues. A friend of mine told me about his older brother buying a house and moving to a community several hours away. He later regretted the move and said, “If I had only taken a two-week vacation, I would have never made that move.” Rest, recover, and get a new perspective before you make any life-changing decision.
Also, when you go on vacation, be on vacation. Disconnect. Don’t be planning a sermon while you are taking time off. Be there, fully engaged with your family. If you are going to read, read a John Grisham novel, or your favorite author who is not a pastor. Don’t be looking for sermon illustrations.
When I vacation, I try really hard to be gone two Sundays so I’m not doing sermon prep while I’m away. The worst sermon I ever heard was from a seasoned pastor who had been on vacation the week before and came off of vacation on Saturday to preach on Sunday. It was a 26-point sermon, each point starting with the letters of the alphabet, about church members. Nineteen of the 26 points were negative. He resigned in the fall.
The archaic idea that you should only be gone two Sundays in a calendar year needs to go. Your church will still be there when you get back from vacation. There really are other people who can fill the pulpit while you are away. Take the time you need to rest, trusting God’s faithfulness in your life and the life of your church.