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I am coming off of my summer preaching break at Revolution. When we started the church five years ago, I preached almost 100 times in the first two years. While it seemed necessary at the time, it was not wise and certainly not sustainable.

It's always interesting to me when pastors hear about the break I take each summer. They often tell me how they could never do that or what they would do if they did that. I’ve also talked to church members who don’t know what to do with a pastor taking a break. I get quizzical looks and they say, “It would be nice for me to take four weeks off”—which totally misses the point.

Here’s what I do on my break and why you as a pastor should take one:

  1. Rest. During my break I go on vacation and spend more time with Katie and the kids than I normally do. I take more retreat days to be alone with Jesus and work on my heart. In the flow of a ministry year, it is easy to get busy, and the voice of the Holy Spirit gets drowned out. While I take my day off each week and try to take a retreat day each month, it is easy to skip these.

    A summer break gives me no excuse. During a break, I’m able to read my Bible longer and journal more, pray more and work on myself as a man, a father, a husband and a pastor. If this were the only thing a pastor gained from his break, his church would be better off, but there’s more.
     
  2. Let the church hear from other communicators. I would love to think I’m the greatest communicator my church has ever heard, but that isn’t true. In fact, they get tired of how I say things and what I say. I start to run out of interesting things to say, and my stories get dry and don’t connect. I get tired of the series we are in—10 weeks into it I’m ready for the next one. A break lets other people preach, which develops other communicators who God is calling into ministry or preaching. It allows my church to hear a different way of preaching, a different lens of reading the Bible and new insights and stories. Depending on how well they do, it might also give your church a greater appreciation for you.

    Some notes on guest speakers: Make sure they line up with you theologically; don’t preach heresy on your week off. And they must be good. I knew one pastor who booked speakers who weren’t as good as he was so when he came back people were excited he was back. I want Revolution to be great 52 weeks a year, regardless of who is preaching.
     
  3. Get your love and passion for preaching back. Preaching is hard work. It is tiring and draining. Don't get me wrong, I love to preach and prep a sermon. It is one of the favorite parts of my job, but it is physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally tiring. Pulling back for a few weeks is incredibly important. Two weeks into your break, you will get the itch to preach again. This is good, but just enjoy the last two weeks. For me, I’ve learned that I need to take a week off from preaching every 10 weeks. Every pastor is different, but that seems to be my limit.
     
  4. Evaluate the church. Andy Stanley calls this “working on the church, not in the church.” When I’m not working on a sermon, it gives me a chance to pull back and look at everything. This summer, my leaders and I spent a great deal of time evaluating missional communities, talking about our first Revolution Church plant and what that will look like, and how we will get from 250 to 500 in attendance, what needs to change for that to happen and what will change because of that. In the normal flow of a ministry year, it is hard to have these meetings because they take time, but the summer is the perfect time to pull back and evaluate.
     
  5. Look ahead. Right along with evaluating your church, you can look ahead. You can read for upcoming sermons and series. You can work ahead on things. This summer, I started to work on the series we will begin in January. This is a huge help to our church, because it allows us to have resources, daily bible study questions, missional community guides and other study guides to educate our people in Scripture. None of these things happen at the last minute.
     
  6. Grow your leadership through books and conversations. Taking a break gives you extra time to read outside of sermon prep. I love to read, and it seems I am always reading five books at a time, but a summer break helps me read more and from a wider variety of books and topics. It also helps me have time to talk to other leaders, ask them questions and learn from them for the benefit of our church. This summer, I spent time talking to pastors of churches that are in that 350–500 range to see what is next for us. I talked with pastors who have planted a church and about what they learned in the process.
     
  7. Gain energy for the fall. In most churches, the fall is the second biggest growth time of the year. The spring is the biggest for Revolution. Taking a break in the summer to pull back gives you the energy for the coming season. If you go into the ministry season at 85 percent, you will burn out and not make it. If you go in at 100 percent, you will push through and be of greater use to your church and to Jesus.

If you are an elder or a church member who has the power to encourage your pastor to do this, do it. The benefit to your pastor, his family and your church is enormous. If you are a pastor, stop making excuses about this. Educate your elders, vision cast and lead up. At first, my elders didn’t understand why I’d do this. That’s OK, but don’t let that stop you.

Josh Reich is the lead pastor of Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ, which is trying to live out the rhythms of Jesus. The church's dream is to "help people find their way back to God."

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Jerry Dodson

commented on Jul 2, 2015

If one preaches almost 100 times in two years,as Pastor Reich does, that's preaching about once a week. By way of comparison, before he was 20, Spurgeon had preached over 600 times. Granted, pastors need a vacation like anyone else, and my congregation graciously gives me four weeks a year. So, I'm out of the pulpit four Sundays out of fifty-two. But I found this sentence very disturbing, "I get tired of the series we are in?10 weeks into it I?m ready for the next one." It took me three years to preach through Genesis. Three years. And two to preach through Philippians. It will take about eighteen months to preach through Ephesians (my current sermon series.) I think it took Martyn Lloyd- Jones five years to cover that book. If ten weeks is your limit (and elsewhere Pastor Reich said he needed a break every ten weeks), perhaps preaching isn't his calling.

Charlie Carroll

commented on Jul 8, 2015

Brother Jerry, I find it sad when one tries to compares preachers whether it be an old famous one or one that just left the church you are presently in. When you said "my church gives me 4 weeks a year" I find that for myself quite excessive. but I have not taken a vacation in over 3 years. Mine is a pretty new work and it never seems to be the right time. Now I need to grant you and I am planning on it this year. Pastor Reich was saying what is good for him. and it must not be the right thing for you. Ease up on the brother it is ok to disagree without questioning his calling. You get 4 weeks a year, I don't want to be gone from my church 4 weeks in a year. but that is me.

Dale Greer

commented on Jul 2, 2015

I tend to agree that Pastors do need time off but not because Josh thinks it is a good idea, (it is) but because Jesus Himself modelled it. Reading the accounts of Jesus in the short 3 year history we have several times Jesus went away to be alone.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Jul 2, 2015

No two of us has been given the same gifts, and many of us have different numbers of pulpit assignments or opportunities. So it is unfortunate that anyone feels the need to suggest another brother or sister really isn't called to preach. A while back, I did three sermons a week, roughly 150 a year, with a couple of Sundays off "for good behavior." Now I do one sermon prep per week, often repeating it at a retirement center. I have no doubt that I am better prepared, mentally, physically, and spiritually with this lighter load of sermon preparation.

Jerry Dodson

commented on Jul 2, 2015

Sisters aren't called to preach. Women are not to be pastors.

Jim Baney

commented on Jul 2, 2015

I thank Josh for his honesty and his obvious passion for preaching God's Word and leading his church. Anyone who pours themselves into anything can attest to the fact that sometimes we get tired and simply need a break. To me, it is sad that we read something like this and all too often we feel a need to be critical when the author is simply trying to give us some insight into what has helped him or her. I hope our culture hasn't become one of being critical first...I would much rather follow Jesus' command to love our neighbor as ourselves...it's a much better way to live.

Wicklife Omendah

commented on Jul 5, 2015

I am a missionary working with orphans and widows in Kenya....Can any of you consider working with us. Wicklife Omendah www.christcarekenya.org

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