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Should Pastors Take Vacations?

Two years ago, I spoke to a pastor about his church. After he shared with me all the areas in which he had been involved and the ministries he led, I asked him an innocent question: When do you take vacation?

His answer flabbergasted me.

“I don’t,” he said.

I thought maybe he had misunderstood me, so I clarified. In the past six years that you have served as pastor, when did you take a vacation?

“I haven’t,” he reiterated.

I had heard him right the first time. This pastor had deprived himself and his family for the past six years. I anticipated burnout was not far away.

Unfortunately, I was right.

Why some pastors get little or no vacation.

I do think the pastor I encountered was an exception, but I have spoken to more than one pastor who has skipped vacations for a year or two or even three.

Some of you may know of pastors who have excessive vacations or who abuse the vacations given to them, but those pastors are the exceptions.

Rare exceptions.

There are many pastors who have no other staff. Though the laity do some of the work of ministry, church members still want the pastor to visit the hospital. Or officiate the funeral. Or counsel the person in crisis.

As a result, many pastors are reluctant to take vacation.

Some pastors have admitted to me that critics in the church get loudest when they are gone, so they are reluctant to leave. They know  the church will have some type of conflict taking place upon their return, so vacations become a time of worry and wondering.

The confusion surrounding pastors and vacation.

Numerous pastors have shared with me their uneasiness about vacations because they simply don’t know what they are supposed to do.

If you take a corporate job, vacation policy is clear. Churches are different most of the time.

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thomrainer@churchleaders.com'
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.