I recently went on vacation with my family. Few things in the world are more beneficial for me than an occasional vacation. After getting away from the office and the daily routine and responsibilities of the church, I find myself reinvigorated to get back to the grind that is local church ministry. I do not have to be convinced to take a vacation, but this year, my wife stepped in and upped the ante.
While on vacation, she suggested (strongly suggested perhaps) that I take a vacation from my phone. She even circulated rumors among leadership in the church that the best way to reach me while on vacation would be to contact her and she would relay the message. She felt that this plan would at least cause people to think twice before they texted, called, or emailed me. She was right.
An interesting thing happened when I turned my phone off; no one died and the world did not stop turning.
I checked my phone once or twice a day and only returned phone calls, emails, or text messages that were urgent (there were two of those all week), and nothing bad happened. Of course, I was still available if there had been an emergency, but with the help of my wife and some leadership within the church, we made sure that I was only available in case of an emergency.
The time away from technology was great for me. I noticed several good things happening as I separated myself from my phone. I browsed Facebook and Twitter less often. I was in control of my day rather than being dominated by the buzz of messages or emails. I was less distracted devoted more attention to the people around me…I was “all there.” After the first couple of days, I didn’t miss my phone. I also found myself working more diligently to be organized before I left for vacation because I knew that I would be a little harder to contact.
You can disconnect from your phone as well, but if you plan to do it for an extended period of time, you may find it stressful. Here are some steps I would encourage you to take to help alleviate some of the stress you may feel by not being constantly connected and to help your church feel more comfortable with their pastor not being immediately available upon request.
- Educate your church leaders about your intentions. Your leadership does not need to be surprised about your lack of availability.
- Plan ahead of time. The more work you can get done before you leave and the better organized you are, the less likely there will be the need for you to be contacted about a mundane issue (think bulletin or newsletter).
- Find a mediator to screen your calls. This may be another staff member or your chairman of deacons. Regardless of who it is, there should be a contact person who decides whether or not you need to be bothered. I was fortunate to have a small team of mediators who had been recruited by my wife. This team included the staff of the church, deacons, committee members, and other lay leadership. Angela served as the last line of defense; she asked that people contact her instead of me. She’s a great wife.
- Decide set times when you will check your email and messages. When you check them, only respond to messages that require your response right then. If it can wait, let it wait.
- Make sure that there is a way to contact you. This will help your church feel less stress about you being out of pocket. They will respect your decision to unplug more if they know that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Return calls, emails, and text messages when you get back from vacation. This makes for a busy Monday for, but it also assures people that though you were not immediately available, you still care.
The lessons I’ve learned over the past week are going to carry further than vacation. I’ve learned that the world doesn’t end when I don’t answer the phone. My phone will no longer dominate my day. I will control my phone.