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“I hate vacations. If they are not interrupted, I always come back to more problems and more work.”

Those are the actual words of a pastor. He did not make the comments with malice as much as with sobriety.

Summer is often a traditional time when we think of vacations, so I’m taking the opportunity to encourage local congregations to help make their pastors and their families have a great vacation. Your pastor needs the rest and fun. It will also be good for the church.

So what can you do to make this vacation a positive time for your pastor? Allow me to offer eight suggestions.

  1. Pray that your pastor will really rest while on vacation. Too many vacations are often more stressful than restful.
  2. Pray for your pastor’s family on vacation. They too need rest and uninterrupted time.
  3. Have someone responsible for the leadership of the church during the pastor’s vacation. The congregation should know that the pastor is on vacation and that time is being protected. The members should be aware of who the primary contact is in the pastor’s absence.
  4. Don’t call your pastor on vacation if at all possible. This issue may be the toughest one for the members. After all, any church family can have an emergency need; thus there is the likelihood that some type of urgent request will be made. Hopefully, the emergency can be handled by someone other than the pastor.
  5. Don’t connive while your pastor is on vacation. Many pastors have shared with me terrible stories about malicious work and planning by members that took place during the vacation. Thus the pastor returned home to malcontents and crises. One pastor told me he refuses to take a vacation for that very reason.
  6. Let your pastor have the Sundays off around the vacation time. Sermon preparation is incredibly time consuming. A pastor can’t have a true vacation if there is still the need to devote time to sermon preparation.
  7. Provide vacation gifts. Many pastors don’t have the money to take a decent vacation. Sometimes it may be appropriate and gracious to provide the pastor’s family with a something that will allow them to take the vacation. When I was a pastor, I was blessed that a family gave me their beach condo for a week.
  8. Make certain that work is accomplished while the pastor is away. “I don’t want to take a vacation, because the work piles up while I’m gone,” a pastor recently shared with me. Church members can find creative ways to make sure ministry and work is done in the pastor’s absence.

It is not good for a pastor to forego vacations. It is not good for the pastor, for the pastor’s family, or for the congregation. Do everything you can to assure that your pastor not only takes a vacation, but that your pastor takes a vacation that it is stress-free and fun.

Let me know what you think about these eight suggestions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Once congregations can accomplish all these great suggestions, perhaps they can begin to think about accommodating the benefits of a sabbatical. I would even accept a sabbatical assignment in order to have more lengthy time off.

  2. Steven Ruff says

    I believe #6 is very is important. Upon arriving at the church I currently pastor, I shared with the leadership that I would like my vacation to run Monday – Sunday. When asked why, I told them that if I had to study for a sermon upon coming back, I couldn’t actually rest. Their response, “We never considered that.”

  3. Jeff Glenn says

    Vacations…..? I’ve heard about those! (LOL! Just a little bit of humor as I head off to work this morning!)

  4. Christy says

    What a great post and such an encouragement! These should aslo be considered for other church staff and minsters!

  5. Steve says

    Vacations are very stressful. I usually still have to do the worship planning and preparation even for the weeks I am out. That is why I have turned down sabbaticals, which are work-study times at our church, because they actually add more work to my plate and provide no stress relief.

    • Mark Dance says

      I have been there many times Steve, but eventually turned the corner on this dilemma by planning further ahead with my staff and/or volunteers. Long range worship planning has helped our whole staff and church by simultaneously creating more anticipation while giving some relief to the stress of next Sunday.

  6. Mike Woods says

    In my role as a corporate chaplain we are required to take 1 week/quarter vacation. Best plan ever! This would be a very healthy requirement for pastors. In addition to your suggestions above- a “win/win” for the burch and the pastor.

  7. Nathan Powell says

    When he is on vacation…mow his grass. Just kidding, but that would be nice. I am working and have a meeting tonight after I help a lady move. It is suppose to rain this evening. So I won’t get to it before tomorrow. I always fear that the deacons will hold a meeting to discuss the length of my grass.

    • Robin says

      No, seriously… offer to mow the lawn, or watch the pets, or water the plants. These are things that most people have extended family in the area to help with, but pastors often don’t live near extended family. And yes, I had a church council member complain about the length of the lawn at the parsonage – which I had hired her teenage son to mow! Some people just don’t have a clue…

  8. Mark Dance says

    A few years ago I started unplugging on vacation. It was not as easy as it sounds – especially considering that I also went “dark” on social media. The effect was similar to what happens when you charge your device on “airplane mode” (charges twice as fast).

    So what about legitimate emergencies? My extended family and staff knows to use my wife’s cell in case of an emergency.

  9. Dei Chung says

    There are very practical ways to serve our pastors as they take time off. Yes, mow their grass. Offer to bring dinner the day they get back. Meet them upon their return with a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and a few essentials they may have “cleaned out” before they left.

    My dad was a pastor and I remember several of our vacations got cancelled because someone in the church passed away and Dad felt the need to be there for them. I know when we did go away, there was always concern about what could happen while he was away. Church members can reassure their pastor with well-wishes and even gifts for the vacation.

    What a great article and so necessary! Thanks, Dr. Rainer!

  10. Rich Behers says

    I had the privilege to fill the pulpit yesterday while my pastor was away on vacation. Having served 4 SBC churches over 25 years and now working as a Spiritual Care Manager at a local hospice, I wanted to use these experiences to feed the flock while Mark was away. I felt an obligation to be better than my best because “MY” pastor was away. He’s a great man. I respect him and love him as a brother. He and his family deserve to rest and relax and not worry about who is preaching.

  11. Zanna says

    #6 is so important. Our deacons (who are according to our church constitution are actually supposed to be serving in more of an elder capacity) have made it clear that they are unwilling to fill the pulpit or teach on my husband’s behalf. I have felt that our young family needs a vacation this summer or that my husband & I need an anniversary trip to reconnect, but he feels like he is unable to leave. It seems as though they have promised us 2 weeks of vacation time, but don’t allow us the opportunity to actually use it. When we did use it 2 years ago to adopt our sons internationally, he caught so much grief for being gone. Churches like this really hurt families and drive pastors out of ministry altogether.

  12. Chris Amos says

    This list makes me so very appreciative of my folks. My wife and I will be going down to Myrtle Beach in September thanks to our church members. They truly appreciate and value my family. My church family has encouraged my family to get away, in fact at times insisting we do so.

    Equally important during my work week they support me while resisting any attempt to micro-manage. It seems as though we collectively try to out serve one another!

  13. Mark says

    This post is incredibly timely! I am taking my first vacation since 2012 beginning this Sunday, July 6th immediately after the service. We will hold a meeting this Wednesday to discuss who will do what so that everyone will know what to expect. I would add the following tip: Use the pastor’s absence as an opportunity to unite as you labor together to ensure the mission of the church doesn’t take a vacation because the pastor does.

  14. says

    Vacations have always been very important for my psychological health. I’m now a lead pastor, but for 30+ years I was a worship pastor on multi-staff churches. I always felt that it was more difficult for me as the worship pastor to get away. I had to “over-plan” the worship services with every little detail and nuance noted because I wouldn’t be there to do it as the natural course of my duties. I didn’t’ have good strong leaders, so I had to coach and rehearse them well in advance and with every little detail. (My wife always said that I should let them go…the drop in quality would make me missed. Hard for me to do.) It was easily twice as much work to get away as it was to stay. Nevertheless, I took my vacations and I highly valued them. They were very important for my family. They finally got me undistracted for at least a week.

    I was always jealous of the senior pastor, who, upon announcing his vacation would simply ask the staff, “Who wants to preach?” and solve his problem with several eager volunteers. Now that I’m a lead pastor, my biggest struggle is dealing with deaths in the church family. Already this year, when I’ve planned time off, there have been funerals. Fortunately, pastors have flexible schedules and can “make it up” at another time. Still, it is important to get blocks of time. I’m planning a vacation for mid-September and am watching a member’s declining health and wondering… That’s just terrible. I hate that about myself.

    It seems to me that it is the pastor’s job to cultivate the kind of culture that will allow him to get away. I’m working on not allowing the people to depend on me so much. It is a tight rope when the church is not too large. Smaller churches under 150 seem to be “pastor-oriented.” Still, it can be done and it is up to the pastor to cultivate the culture that allows him to get away.

    One final note: if you have a music/worship director or pastor, give him/her the week between Christmas and New Year’s off without counting it as vacation. If your church is large, I guarantee they’ve worked twice as hard as any staff member through the month of December and deserve the allotted time with their family. I usually worked every day of the week from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. Musicians’ families are often cheated during the Christmas season. Be an advocate for your staff! I would have appreciated it.

    • Preacher's kid AND preacher's spouse says

      Bob,

      It sounds a little bit like you are enabling your congregation in some unhealthy dependence… or is it possible that it’s more a function of your inability to let go? Give them some freedom — you might be pleasantly surprised by what happens. And if not, one week shouldn’t sink the ship.

      • says

        Preacher’s kid and spouse,
        That was probably the case when I was a worship pastor. The expectations of excellence were so heavy on me, it was hard for me to “let it go.” I’ve got more support in my lead pastor role to cover pastoral care and pulpit supply so that it isn’t as hard to let go now. I’m older and wiser now, too….though I still have much to learn.

  15. David says

    Much of the same can be said of all pastors – not just the Senior/Lead pastor. The Assoc, Ed, Exec, Worship, Children and Student Pastors also need vacations and the same courteousies. I am blessed that our church does look out for the entire ministry team and not just “the pastor”, but would like to encourage others to consider the entire team. They may carry a different load and responsibilities yet work just as much and diligently as the senior pastor. Their batteries also need to be recharged. Their families also need uninterrupted time together. They too may need encouragement to take time off and at times assistance to do so.

  16. Lisa says

    My husband is a pastor. We have family in KY and this past April he went to the T4G conference which is in KY. The kids and I traveled with him so we could stay/visit family while he was attending the conference. People at my church took this to be a vacation. At the beginning of June was the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore. We drove the kids to KY so grandparents could babysit and we flew to Baltimore for the convention. Again before we left people told me to have a great vacation and it was so important for the pastor and his family to get away. Have to admit, I’m concerned that if we take a week of vacation in the summer people will think all the pastor does is take vacations.

    • Preacher's kid AND preacher's spouse says

      You need to make sure that your church leadership is communicating on your behalf. You might not be able to say, “no, it’s not a vacation” but someone in the leadership should be very explicit about that. Communication is vital.

  17. Krista says

    We have found a great place to vacation as a Pastor and family. We started attending Life Action’s Family Camp several years ago. It is now a yearly tradition. At first we thought “why do we want to go to a ministry camp” for vacation but we have come to find that we feed/pour into others all year long and this is a great time for godly leaders to feed us. The whole camp is designed for “families” so all we do is spend time together! We reconnect in a great way. To top it off they encourage you to go media free so as soon as we drive on campus our phones and gadgets go away for the entire 6 days. We literally lock them in the glove compartment. We leave an emergency number with family and that’s that. It is by far the best vacation we take all year!

  18. says

    A relatively cheap way for churches to bless their pastors/staff is to give them more vacation time… and quicker. I was blessed in my last church to receive 3 weeks of vacation to start with… then 4 weeks at five years… and the potential of 5 weeks at ten years. (Previous churches had used an old model that held out 3 weeks of vacation as a very weak carrot at 10 years. Note: that might work with senior pastors, but it is ridiculous to promise staff members something that will take them ten years to get… many staff members move before that point and it simply becomes an empty promise on a piece of paper.)

    Even if your church can’t give your pastor a raise, you can extend the time he gets to recharge and enjoy his family.

    Thom’s suggestions are excellent, btw. I’d add that the longer the time away, the better the recharge. Forcing pastors to take short (2-3 days at a time) vacations doesn’t allow enough time for him to disconnect and regroup.

    • says

      Full-time pastoral staff should receive at least three weeks a year in vacation. The rationale is simple. When they are “on” during the weekend and evenings, everyone else is off. Pastors can’t take their family “for a weekend” like everyone else. For the sake of the family, churches need to give them three weeks. Our policy bumps it up to four after five years.

  19. John Russell says

    I would like to start looking at the possibility of a sabbatical for our church staff. What do you see are the typical guidelines for implementing this (how long do they have to be there, how long does the sabbatical last, etc).

  20. Alan Ettinger says

    I served in a bi-voc pastorate 12 years. True: Took an extended weekend with my son at a Rally America race. Our auto got hit and knocked under a fence at a fan site. Drivable. Back to church and prior to S.S.someone asks publicly, “See what happens when God removes His protection off you?” The same year, returned from church camp (a week of my, corporate vacation used up) and the deacon wasn’t going to pay my salary for the week. Helps lots just not to negate your pastor’s vacation! Great article and comments. Blessings (still yours).

  21. says

    Be sure you pay the pastor well enough that he can afford to take his family on a nice vacation. Four weeks off are great but only if you can afford to leave home. There are many free or discounted vacation sites for pastors but the cost of travel can make even those places out of reach.

  22. Dave says

    Just returned from 11 days away with 2 Sundays back to back off. Never in 26 yrs back to back. I unplugged from everything and all social media. No reading no iPad no laptop no iPhone. We were blessed by a couple with there Myrtle Beach home 2 blocks from ocean. I slept, ate, relaxed at beach or floated in the pool. Great time. Best in 26 years. Only calls to take were death calls but everyone was instructed on the plan for me being away. Also 2 trained deacons preached.

  23. Ralph Juthman says

    This has been an incredibly stressful year. If it were not that we were travelling to British Columbia for a family wedding, I might have considered cancelling my vacation. On the day before we were to leave, my treasurer called and said she needed to see me before I left. My hair stood on end, and I could feel my blood pressure rising. When she came to my office, she told me that the board had met during the week and wanted to bless my wife and I. She handed me an envelope with a check for a considerable amount. This was a complete surprise and very much a sacrifice on the part of the church. The card said, pastor, this is for you and sue to use on anything you wouldn’t normally do. I was humbled to say the least.

  24. Chris says

    Along with our pastors vacation time we also give him a one month sabbatical every five years to do what he wants for a refresher. It really helps with the burn out.

  25. Curtis Hall says

    As a pastor to other pastors, I would encourage you to talk to men in your church that own their own business’ and see what they do to get away for vacation. Learn from them. Also teach them that in a lot of ways, as a pastor, it’s like running a business. The business men in my church & I have a great relationship. I’ve learned things from them and vice versa.

    • Al V says

      ….like running a business…I thought it was supposed to be body of Christ not a business. Pastors don’t even get it.

  26. Nellie says

    know some pastors who have a vacation every week; get sermon off Internet and read that or tell long funny stories; then wonder why nobody saved. I also know some pastors who NEED help and most of the people in the church will only come if you feed them…kinda like the birds in my yard. One pastor is so scared of offending members that he is not bold or challenging so get nothing from the messages. He takes a pretty long vacation each year. Good help is what God wants; the widows and orphans are being neglected and that includes people who have children but they do NOT help. Tons of money going to overseas but can’t help out a church member who is in desperate straits and not on drugs or a moocher!!!! What’s with this? I do know a couple of churches who have given money to get someone over a tough patch but NOT VERY MANY. They go to other towns and help pastors of churches but not members,,,pastors gets special treatment in this dept. I wonder why these pastors in other towns don’t have members to help fix their homes up???????

  27. Atheist Max says

    I was an atheist who thought Christians should be left alone
    to their beliefs.
    Now that The Hobby Lobby has permission to push its religious views on its women employees
    I have become the sort of Atheist who thinks it is time to ask Christians to please consider abandoning these fairy tales.

    For example: If you want your Pastor to go on a nice vacation, help him come to his senses regarding religion and tell him to abandon it because Christianity actually makes no sense. It never did.

    Plus, the teachings of Jesus are really terrible, rather unclear and mostly dangerous.
    There is no healthy way to use these verses. No context makes them good:

    “Bring to me my enemies… Execute them in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    Let’s all take a deep breath and consider whether this stuff is really useful
    before we allow The Hobby Lobby to force people to follow it.

  28. JR says

    Hear hear.

    Whenever the pastor of my old church took a vacation or sabbatical, his admin assistant would shut down his email so that his inbox was not able to accept any emails. Smart idea. This went along with other preparation to members and to staff to take concerns to those left in charge in pastor’s absence.

    That’s terrible that folks would think to scheme and cause havoc while the pastor was out of town. Ridiculous. I am seminary trained, and currently working as a hospital chaplain. It’d be neat at some point to help a pastor in need of vacation by doing some pulpit supply. It sounds like that some pastors don’t have many folks they can depend on in times like that.

  29. Al V says

    Wow! This world is choosing to commit and promote the most horrendous sins before God…and you choose to write something as trivial and man-focused as this. I don’t expect this post to be published, but I can be surprised.

  30. Cliff says

    All very true. And good stuff to remember.

    I pastored for 14 years, Been in management as well. Even run my own business.
    Many of these are not unique to pastors, but are felt by many in leadership positions.
    It is good for pastors to remember that when we are feeling like we are the only ones.
    Sometimes we can have a suffering messiah complex and really it is normal for leaders of all walks of life.

    We are currently in the hiring process for a pastor at the church I now attend. When we were discussing vacation time and the number 6 weeks came up as the guy we are looking at is very experienced. I said sure. I am not concerned about how much time you take off, rather what you do when you are here.

    Now having said that “LETS BLESS OUR PASTORS SOCKS OFF!!!!”

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