Many churches in the Northeast have the practice of "annual meetings", often in late January each year. At the meeting, reports and budgets are presented, slates of officers are offered for nomination, and usually the pastor goes home and needs to fall over into bed afterwards.
Believe it or not, but for many clergy, the end of the Annual Meeting session is the end of a long season ongoing since the first candle of Advent was lit weeks ago. For many pastors, it means that we've somehow survived yet another year where November and December have blurred into meetings made often at the last minute, boards and budgets in disarray due to folks wanting to think more about the holiday planning, and whatever "elephant" around the church wanders around the board room and the coffee hour, going unresolved. (Popular "elephants in the room" for congregations include: unresolved nomination slate vacancies, realizing the budget may not be able to be the same as it has been, particularly in the case of tithing/pledging and any cause/effect it has on the church's thoughts on pastoral compensation and benefits, and any number of deferred maintenance issues that are stalemated in the midst of Trustee boards, unsure if it's time to fix things or wait.)
In the midst of things, the pastor is often finding herself in the midst of the questions that bedevil or just simply cannot gain traction in a healthy way. The parking lot conversation will have all the answers, but often nobody wants to talk in the midst of the monthly board meetings or the annual congregational meeting.
What's a pastor to do?
For starters, consider an opportunity to retool and renew your ministry, yourself and your household.
On Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1, 2014, travel to the Good News Center in Utica (commuter and overnight lodging rates are available) to get help "Navigating the Relational Waters of Ministry", featuring the Rev. Dr. David Olsen, Executive Director the Samaritan Counseling Center in Schenectady, NY, and an ordained ABC pastor. Dr. Olsen is a gift facilitator and understands the dynamics of clergy in service to others, as inevitably we wear down and need some internal skills to sustain us through all the seasons of ministry.
The deadline for ABCNYS clergy is February 15, 2014. After this date, the Good News Center meal and lodging reservations will be locked in. (In other words, we are not able to take on additional conferees past 2/15.) The ABC/NYS Region Office is handling all registrations, and you can learn more via: http://www.abc-nys.org/programs/leadership-conference
It's the most popular word pastors tend to listen less to: Take a vacation (mini or long--your choice). Stepping away from the office after the annual meeting is a sane decision. (You can quote me, if it helps!) A pastor has gotten the church through the liturgical "big season" of Advent/Christmas with all its details and tight ropes we transverse. Plus, you've likely dealt with the church clerk or church office secretary regularly updating you as the first week of the new year slides by with that worried look that says "I've had no reports handed in yet!"
After up to eight weeks of non-stop duties (religious and administrative), a breather is well in order. For clergy residing near it, a great pastoral respite program is available free of charge (donations are welcome) by the Silver Bay YMCA in the Adirondacks. To learn more, visit: http://www.silverbay.org/index.php/spiritual_life/brookside_trinity
Other opportunities for clergy and clergy families to "get away" are available, sometimes with reduced fees. If a pastor is reading this outside of my own judicatory, contact your bishop/regional executive, etc., to see what's available. Thanks to various endowment programs and key donors, ministers may have a religious related camp, conference center or even monastic community where some time away can be nourishing.
A list published by the ABC Minister's Council offers a nation-wide listing. NOTE: The availability of these ministries and the terms of each facility may have changed since this list was developed. The link is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute endorsement by myself or ABCNYS.