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Festivals vs downtime: how should I use my annual leave?

So here it is, merry festival season. Everybody’s having fun. The church notices are full of upcoming trips to Keswick, New Wine, Focus, Forum, Spring Harvest, Sixty One, Cedarwood… the list goes on. It’s time to get out to the fields and do the Christian festival thing!

For some of us, it really is the most wonderful time of the year, a much-cherished opportunity to soak up great teaching, fellowship, and sung worship, spending time engaging with the Spirit, and refocusing our faith. For others, it’s all a bit of a mystery – it’s not something we’ve experienced, something we particularly fancy, or something we tried a while back but didn’t vibe with.

But whichever end of the spectrum you tend towards, if you’re a Christian in paid work, chances are there’s a much bigger question in your mind.

Should I use my annual leave for Christian festivals or downtime?

Now don’t come at me: I know Christian festivals can be downtime in and of themselves. But be honest: brilliant though they often are, they’re not what you’d call relaxing. If you spend your nine-to-five (or your eight-to-eight) working up a big bank of tiredness, a week of camping, team games, small talk, Portaloos, and sausage butties is unlikely to give you that fresh-and-rested feeling. Chances are you’ll get home happy, dirty, and exhausted. And then Monday arrives, brandishing a fresh heap of emails.

All of which means that for lots of people, ‘festival or downtime?’ isn’t as trivial a question as it might sound. In our church communities, Christian festivals can often be seen as the spiritual pinnacle of the year. They’re often a place and time in which God meets with his people in particularly powerful ways. They’re a ministry that has a strong claim to our time. And so, in comparison, some people might worry that choosing a week on the beach would mean they’re a less committed Christian, or even a bit lazy.

I have my own experience of this. When I transitioned into the world of work, I suddenly found that using 10 of my 23 days of annual leave to help at a Christian festival was a very different proposition to using 10 days of my eight weeks of uni vacations. I needed to see family, I needed to plan a wedding, and I was properly tired. It wasn’t that the festival became any less good or important; it was that the shape of my life changed.

So, if you’re wrestling with this question, here are a few thoughts to consider as you discern the best way to spend your leave.

First off, it’s helpful to remember your work is a key part of your calling and ministry as a Christian. Our jobs are God-given gifts, and they contribute to his kingdom work in all kinds of ways. Accountants bring order out of chaos, enabling wise, fair use of money. Bricklayers construct homes that enable human flourishing. TV producers create excellent entertainment that sparks joy – et cetera. And rest is a crucial part of work: that’s why God models Sabbath rest right from the get-go of creation (Genesis 2:1–3).

Taking a well-earned break isn’t a betrayal of your ministry – it’s a wise, godly thing. It ensures you can continue to do your tasks to the best of your ability, that you don’t burn out, and that you keep work in its right perspective: as something God ultimately ordains and provisions rather than something you sustain through unrelenting effort.

In the same way, it’s important to remember the function of summer festivals. They are amazing opportunities for focused time with God and your church family. That’s a huge gift that can be deeply transformative. And that’s the key point – transformation isn’t just about what happens at the festival. It’s about how you live differently in the ordinariness that follows. In other words, the opportunity to gather with other Christians for intensive study, worship, and community time is at its best when it’s about being equipped and inspired to join in God’s work in his world – in all the details of daily life. Festivals are a staging post, not a destination.

So, as you size up your annual leave options, take some time to pray and discern what your greatest need is at this particular moment in your discipleship. If you’re giving your all to the job God’s given you, bearing good fruit in your employment, and really need some recharge time – take that Sabbath opportunity with a clear conscience. And if you know that you need some focused time in the Bible, in prayer, and in worship, and want to grow deeper relationships with your church community – go crack the tent out from under the stairs.

Whichever way you go, thank God for the different ways he refreshes us – and ask him to use whatever summer leave you get to re-energise you for the mission he’s given you in your Monday to Friday life.

Josh Hinton
Head of Communications, LICC

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