Vacations are nice. During my childhood my parents, who never had much money, always saved up enough so we could take a road trip in the summer. Although there were many miserable moments, I have fond memories of these trips. I couldn’t wait to take my family.
Vacations were a high point in my year.
Then I became a pastor.
Several issues spring up with pastors and vacations:
I need someone to speak for me. If I miss a Sunday (and what’s a pastoral vacation without missing a Sunday), someone has to speak. Church goes on. I used to have a number of guys in church who could fill in for me. Several of them died. Several disqualified themselves for various reasons. I pretty much have one guy left. I hate making him do it. I have to arrange my vacation around whether he’s available or not. He’s gotten much better at preaching, but it’s not his favorite thing. He agonizes over it and takes the responsibility very seriously. I appreciate that, but it puts a burden on me to not leave because I don’t want to burden him.
Many people skip when they know I’ll be gone. About half my church is just waiting for an excuse to not come. Me being gone is a great one. One time, the guy who preached for me said the only people who were there were people in his family. Good for his family being there, but how sad. This is probably the thing that depresses me most about missing a Sunday. Usually I try not to let anyone know I’ll be gone so they can’t plan on skipping. But even then, one time a family got up and walked out when they realized I wasn’t there and a guy they didn’t like got up to speak for me! This is not healthy or right, but it is the situation and it makes missing a Sunday that much more of a burden on me.
There will be inevitable comments made. “Vacation from what? You only work one day a week." “How can you afford to go on vacation? My family hasn’t been able to afford that for years. Must be nice.” Whether anyone says anything or not, I hear them anyway. They’ve been said enough times to let me know people think it. How much I spend, where I go, what hotels I stay in, and all sorts of things will be analyzed and scrutinized. I can’t help but feel guilty if I admit I had fun while gone.
If I miss church, it gives people an OK to miss church themselves. Granted, I miss only one Sunday a year, whereas most people in my church miss about 20. But inevitably, me missing church will be raised as justification for others to miss. “Well you miss Sundays every once in a while too.”
Shouldn’t spiritual leaders be reading the Bible and not vacationing? There’s a spiritual weight to being a pastor that sometimes makes me wonder if I should miss. Is this a good example? Should I be spending all this money and time doing something “fun?” Maybe this is just my head, but I still think it and feel it. Taking a break from pastoring is often taking a break from Bible study and from talking to people. It just feels weird!
After saying all this, I know there will be much advice given to me about getting over it and everyone needs rest and Sabbath day, even God rested. I know, it still doesn’t change any of this.
I don’t feel like I should be gone. When I am gone, I can’t stop thinking about how this is ruining someone’s faith. It’s amazing how many times I’m gone and we will have visitors! Occasionally the person who speaks for me will preach on something controversial and start stuff. Who will be mad this time? When I’m gone, it does burden other people with responsibility.
There is no escaping. People can text and call all the time now anyway.
Pastor vacations are needed. I take them anyway. But I do try not to miss Sundays much. I have responsibilities there and it’s on me to carry them. Granted, it would be nice if I got a break from the weight of being gone and others stepped up a bit. But this IS my job.
In the end, this is one weird job! This weird job makes vacations from the job weird too.