Vacation Planning and a Vision Summit

By Rev. Lynn Bartlow

A good friend of mine in Illinois used to make fun of me and my travels. “Do you ever stay home and work?” Apparently he thought my husband and I were always planning our next vacation, our next education event, our next trip. Our Book of Discipline gives us, as appointed pastors, four weeks every appointment year for vacation, plus a week of continuing education and a week for camp or revival kinds of opportunities. I believe pastors should take every day of their four weeks. Ideally, we should take them all at the same time! It’s really hard to unplug from the demands of a busy church in just one week. Usually it takes me a week to get unplugged and then a week to enjoy before coming back.

As this new appointment year began in July, my husband and I once again turned our questions to, “What are we doing with vacation this year?” We know we are going on a cruise with my parents and siblings in July next year, but what about our four weeks this year?

We started talking about it, but we are struggling to make plans. We just can’t make decisions! There are too many options and too many decisions to make, so we get tired, and we quit. Now, we are less than a month away from the first week that we intend to have a vacation, when the kids are on fall break. We have no plans. The last time this happened? We spent all week at home in front of the television doing nothing. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I like travel! I like new things! I like being someplace where I don’t see all the things wrong with my house, all the things that I should be cleaning, and all the things I should throw away! I don’t like too many staycations in one year.

Our lack of planning means that our time together is not maximized. We miss out on opportunities. We spend more money because of last-minute decisions and reservations. We just miss out.

This experience can be translated to planning in the church. We can absolutely take every day as it comes and meet the needs and requirements each day brings. There are lots of things to do – people to visit, sermons to write, studies to lead, books to read, staff meetings to attend, meetings to go to, more meetings to go to, and even more meetings to go to!

But like our vacation, a lack of planning in the church means we miss out. We get so busy meeting the immediate needs that we don’t intentionally plan for our future. What’s our vision? Where are we headed? Is that meeting really necessary to move us forward, or is our time better spent somewhere else? What is our vision and our desire for our next phase of ministry together?

Ministry Architects, our church growth consultants, will lead us in a Vision Summit this month to make those plans. What is our mission? Who do we most feel the need to reach in this next year? How are we going to get there? Where are we going? Like making reservations in a hotel or buying airline tickets, these questions are essential to help us move forward in a specific direction instead of just doing everything good that comes our way.

Covenant Council and other elected leaders are invited to come to a Vision Summit on Sept. 26 – an intense three-hour work session in the evening. Really, however, everyone is invited. If you’d like to come, let me know.

While not all will come to the Summit, we would like everyone to participate in a survey as we prepare for that night. We sent out the link last week but here it is again if you still need it. Sunday is the last day to fill it out. Please add your voice to this process so we can plan for the next season here at St. Mark’s better than I plan for vacation!

This October, I think we’re having a staycation. After all, it’s a great time to be here in our desert! Besides, we haven’t seen the new sloth at the Reid Park Zoo yet. It will be a good week of rest and play. But we are already planning our Christmas vacation!

See you soon,
Pastor Lynn


• 8:30 and 10 a.m. Traditional service in Magee Campus sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
• 10 a.m. Modern service at Sanctuary Campus
• 10 a.m. Magee Campus youth and children’s Sunday School (except fifth Sundays) and child care
• 10 a.m. Traditional service livestream premieres on YouTube and Website

Worship online at 10 a.m. on Sundays at or YouTube UMC St. Mark’s AZ. You can also watch the service at a later time.