Pastors’ families often bear the brunt of ministry stress, yet among the qualifications for an overseer, the Apostle Paul instructed that “he must manage his own household well.” To cultivate healthy ministry families, Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in central Florida offers free retreat time.
“One thing that people don’t fully understand is the demand on a pastor’s time, resources and energy. They see him as maybe working a couple days a week, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Jeff Yant, executive director of Lake Yale, told The Baptist Paper.
“From pastors who are taking calls while they’re on vacation to somebody passing away or somebody in the hospital needing a visit or the multitude of things that go on, churches would do well to make that investment in their pastor, to say, ‘We will give you this time,’” Yant said.
At the point of tears
Lake Yale, located in Leesburg and supported in part by the Florida Baptist Convention, offers “comfortable hotel accommodations” and activities such as canoeing and kayaking, fishing, a ropes course, horseshoes and a walking path.
Southern Baptist senior pastors are invited to bring their families for retreat time that could last a couple of days up to a month, and associate pastors’ families may attend with a recommendation from the senior pastor, Yant said.
The conference center will even provide meals for the ministry families if meals are otherwise being served on campus at the time. Because money is often scarce in ministry, Lake Yale seeks to take the financial burden off such families when considering time away.
Last year, nearly 50 families took advantage of the offer.
“I remember one instance that we had of a pastor and his wife coming through for a sabbatical, and at the end of it, he came to us in tears and thanked us and said that they were contemplating leaving their ministry because of the stress, but because of the sabbatical, God had confirmed in them that they were to continue,” Yant said.
For a Baptist conference center, offering free retreat time to pastors’ families is “almost the low-hanging fruit,” Yant said. Though the facility bears some cost, the impact is far greater.
“We exist to make Christ known through a life-changing experience in an opportunity-rich environment. What better life change can there be than to see those who are called into ministry continue on in strength and willingness to go forward for the gospel?”
Lake Yale has a space with a couple of bedrooms set aside for what they call pastor sabbaticals, but they can always open up additional space if needed, Yant said.
Some pastors may struggle with asking for such time away, even if it’s without charge. Yant’s advice is to help the church understand the pastor’s daily life and to emphasize the need for a healthy pastor’s family in the overall ministry of the church.
“Nobody goes through life and doesn’t have time to themselves. Most factory workers, when they go home, they leave the factory there. Teachers may not leave the stuff there, but they do get a summer where they can rest and rejuvenate,” Yant said. “Pastors don’t have that ability, so we need to be building into them and allowing them to have that time that is specifically theirs.”
Also, because of the nature of their jobs, pastors rarely have a confidante to share life struggles. For pastors, their families are the people they can share their hearts and lives with, and they need to spend time with them, Yant said.
“For pastors to be able to step away and to be able to devote that time and effort to that first ministry calling of the family, I think that’s vital,” he said.
Time at Lake Yale is an opportunity for pastors to let someone “love on them” for a change, Yant said. Churches can even set the terms for the sabbatical, such as requiring that the pastor only be away during the week and back for Sunday or that the trip is limited to one or two weeks, Yant said.
Giving a pastor that uninterrupted time away, Yant said, will strengthen his family, the church and the ministry impact.
“A church would do well to do that, and their pastor would come back much more refreshed, much more on fire and excited about continuing to do the ministry there. The worst thing a church can do is continue to burn out its pastor. That’s what happens a lot of times,” he said.
If Central Florida is not close enough for a pastor in another part of the country, Yant recommends reaching out to a Southern Baptist camp nearby to ask if they offer similar opportunities at low or no cost. To locate such a camp, visit sbcamping.org.
“I encourage you to call them, whatever state you might be in,” Yant said.
For more information about Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center, visit lybcc.com.