Pastors and Vacations

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

Top 5 Things that Make This Pastor Sad

Pastoral ministry isn’t hard physically. Many aspects are actually totally enjoyable. One of my favorite things in the world is developing sermons and preaching them. Visiting people has become a good source of entertainment and fellowship. Hospital visits are even becoming more, well “enjoyable” isn’t the right word, manageable?!

Pastoral ministry is hard in other ways. It takes an emotional toll after a while. There are many sad aspects of the job that suck the life and energy out of me. Here are the leading causes of pastoral sadness.

1. Tragedies
Bad things happen to a lot of people. Watching the elderly woman take care of her husband slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Watching people slowly succumb to cancer. Parents who give birth to kids with health issues. Suicide. Accidents and injuries. Man, it’s tough walking with people through these things. It also seems like these things come in bunches. There have been times where these things just compound and I wonder where the energy comes from to deal with another one. I have learned to not take seasons free of these things for granted.

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Pastoral Incompetence, Incompetent Advice, and Prayer Chains

“You know, your church should really have a . . .”

Every pastor has heard sentences begin like this. Who knows how the sentence will end, but probably with you doing something you’re intentionally not doing after much thought and counsel. Most people assume you’re not doing it because you’re a moron.

“You know, our church should have a prayer chain.” This is one I’ve heard countless times. “The last church I went to had a prayer chain and I just loved it, I could keep up with everything and everyone.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why we don’t have one.” Now listen, if your church does a prayer chain, great, go for it. I am not seeking to dictate what your church does.

I and the board of our church have discussed this issue many times. We don’t have a prayer chain. Here is a brief list of reasons why:

They promote gossip.
They too often share things people don’t want shared.
I’d rather have people in my church talk to each other and be friends and find out what to pray for.
They promote gossip.
Our church isn’t that big; it’s not hard to keep up.
Anything the whole church needs to know is announced at church. Want to know what’s going on at church? Here’s an idea: go to church and you’ll know.
They promote gossip.

I’m not interested in any arguments on these points. This is not up for debate. Nothing you can say to me will change my mind.

Prayer chains are not biblically mandated. Prayer for each other is; but I believe prayer is centered on love. Love would be friends with people and know how to pray for people.

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My Thoughts When Someone Tells Me They Watched a Televangelist Instead of Coming to Church

Telling your pastor what TV preachers you watch while you skip church is not helping your cause.



One thing I hate about being a pastor is listening to people’s excuses for skipping church. I’m not interested. If there is a reason you weren’t there, that’s fine, but excuses drive me nuts.

One of the justifications for not coming to church is telling the pastor what other means of edification you partook in while skipping church. This frequently involves telling your pastor what televangelist you watched Sunday morning instead.

Here’s the thing: The majority of pastors on TV are heretical nut-jobs. Yeah, I said it.

If watching a televangelist makes up for not coming to hear me preach, then good Lord, I should have quit years ago.

Watching heretics is about the worst possible thing you could do while skipping church. You’d be better served getting another hour of sleep. Or wake up and drink coffee and stare out the window Talk to your kids. Even going to their baseball tournament is better than watching televised heresy.

Telling me that you watched a televangelist is not winning any points with me. It makes me worry that you think my messages are similar to what you saw on TV. That imbibing in that drivel equals drinking, what I thought, were rivers of living water proclaimed from God’s Word in my sermon.

I’m now more worried for you. I now feel that you need at least four more church services just to make up for the heretical information that is now swimming loose in the slosh of your brain. Instead of justifying your absence of one church service, you now indebt yourself to four more of my church services.

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How Should a Pastor Respond When Someone Says They Probably Won’t be at Church Sunday?

WHAT THEY SAY: “There’s a chance we won’t be at church Sunday.”

WHAT I HEAR: “We won’t be at church Sunday.”


Typically people skip church without saying anything before, during, or after the skipping. You are left to peruse Facebook for the details of what they were up to. They’re probably just out having fun with the family. Or they have left your church in a huff and you’ll never see them again. One or the other.

If someone goes out of their way to say to you, “We might not be at church Sunday.” The only reason they are saying this is because they will not be there. When people hint at not being at church, that’s them telling you they won’t be there.

Incidentally, when people say “We will see you at church Sunday,” They probably won’t be there either.

Look, no one is going to be at church Sunday.

Just give up on that.

Content yourself with preaching to those nice quiet chairs that faithfully show up every Sunday. They never complain. They don’t open cellophane wrapped candies. They don’t get up in the middle of your finest sermon point to go to the bathroom. They don’t do that stupid crouching walk across the front of the church in an effort to avoid distracting people, which results in the oddest walk ever, which distracts absolutely everyone, so instead of repenting they are thinking, “People who duck to avoid getting attention actually seem to get a lot of attention.” Empty chairs don’t show up late. They don’t spill coffee on the carpet. They don’t cough and hack and blow loogies. They just sit there patiently and quietly, waiting for you to wrap it up so they can go back to whatever it is chairs do in the dark.

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Why Church Hopping Exists

Our new Church Motto:
If you didn’t like your old church, you won’t like this one either. Go away.



An older man told me he’s left every church he’s been involved with because of conflict with leadership. Imagine my surprise when he left my church over a problem with me.

Another guy who left my church in the rudest way anyone has, later got kicked out of, yes “kicked out of,” the next church he went to.

A family left my church because they disagreed with pretty much everything we did. The wife decided to go to school to be a pastor. Now she can run a church right.

I was told that one family who left my church has also left every church in town. All the pastors know them, as they all were their pastor at one point.

One couple, who attends my church about six-months at a time, constantly bounces in and out of churches six-months at a time, trying all the new pastors as they come in. They never settle anywhere.

The majority of people who have left my church haven’t joined another church. I believe this will work out well for the church, but be a complete disaster for them personally.

When you’ve been a pastor long enough you get used to people coming and going. Sometimes you know why; sometimes you don’t. But news travels. I end up hearing what they are up to after they leave. Based on the later stories and interactions, I understand more why they left and most of the time, it wasn’t our church; it was just troubled people having troubles with everything.

When people leave my church, I try not to take it personally. I feel bad for them, most of them go on to prove they have deep spiritual issues that need dealing with. Some do hurt the church. Some hurt me deeply. Some are misunderstandings and personality conflicts that make me wonder if I should still be a pastor. Others just make sense.

“There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people,” is the cute cliché that’s supposed to make us feel better about our ineptitude. There is a point to be made there, but I still think churches can be better.

Hopping around until you find one that already meets all your requirements, will not only frustrate you, it won’t help any church.

There is much irony in pastors complaining about church-hoppers when pastors stay at a church for four years on average. Perhaps people are just following our lead? Dedicate yourself to a church.

Churches are not commodities to be weighed and compared and priced. The church is a family. You’re not supposed to ditch your family for a better one. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where ditching your family for another one is no longer taboo.

The church is a body. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We do our part collectively to keep the whole body strong. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where most of us are overweight and lazy. We don’t take care of problems, we just get them medically treated or covered up. Easier to buy a drug than maintain disciplined diet and exercise.

The church is like a building. It’s made to last, to weather the storm, and provide shelter and comfort for years. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where people move and we ditch old parts of town for new houses on the outskirts.

So, yeah, none of the illustrations for church make much sense anymore. It should not shock you that people are not loyal to your church. Grass tends to be greener in other fields. Other pastors are always better than the one you have.

I don’t let people leave without checking in on them. It saddens me to see the state of the church today, but more so to see the state of people who leave churches all the time. These are hurting people and the church is hurting right along with them.



But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
–Ephesians 4:15-16

How to Get People to Come to a Church Event

“You understand that no one is going to show up, right?”

 –Me every time someone excitedly tells me what new thing they want to start at church.


People always have ideas of great events the church can do. Obviously my ideas aren’t working, so the smart people will excitedly suggest an event. “Go for it,” I say. “But just know that no one is going to come.”

They pat my little head and give a condescending little smile to the cute, widdle pastor. “Oh you poor soul. Of course they will. Unlike your events, ours will actually be good.”

People will excitedly go about organizing their event and tell everyone about it. They’ll do all the things they know will work. The big day comes and no one shows up.

I don’t say anything. Why bother.

Unfortunately, this also happens at funerals and important events. People don’t show up for those things either. Here’s the thing: If you don’t show up for other people’s funerals; people probably aren’t going to show up for yours either.

If you don’t show up for people’s Bible studies; they won’t show up for yours either. If you don’t attend people’s picnics; they won’t attend yours either.

This is a hard cycle to break. I’ve yet to figure it out. Yeah, there are techniques you can use to manipulate people into showing up, but I’d rather just have people who want to be there be there. Unfortunately, if attendance is any indicator, no one wants to be there.

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Failing Pastor’s Opinion on “Christianity is a Relationship not a Religion”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”

–said by many who can’t keep church unity nor marriage vows.


Let me begin by saying that I do believe a believer can have a relationship with God through Christ by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

That being said, the idea that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion is a false dichotomy. Why can’t it be both? It, in fact, is.

“Religion” is a word that gets lots of heat. I’m really not sure why. Religion merely means stuff you do religiously, as in regularly, habitually, as a pattern. People religiously do their mornings the same. We do the same stuff at work. We do the same stuff when we come home from work. We are “creatures of habit.” Habit and religion are pretty much the same.

My wife and I have a great relationship. We love each other and have fun together. We also religiously do the same things. We eat the same types of supper, go to the same restaurants, go to bed at the same time. In fact, as any married person knows, if you veer from your typical behavior, your spouse will very quickly ask, “Why are you doing that? You never do that.”

I began eating cereal at night. I told my wife one week to get me a box of Froot Loops from the store. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. The Spanish Inquisition broke out, which I was not expecting (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). “Look, I just want a bowl of Froot Loops, that’s all. It’s no big deal.”

Relationships are religious, that’s kind of what makes them relationships.

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A Pastor’s Advice for Church Skippers

America, we are told, was founded as a Christian nation. I have my doubts, but even if I grant the point, I guarantee modern Christians would hate living in Colonial America.

One reason why is because church attendance was not optional. You went to church or you faced fines, stockades, and sometimes imprisonment. I can’t imagine any modern Christians being cool with that.

I know this because the church attendance of the average believer is pathetic. I’m not one who thinks people should be at church every single time the doors are open. But I do think you should be there regularly.

If a church has 52 Sunday services a year, I think attending 40 is not unreasonable. If a church has a midweek service then the number is up to 104. I think a person could make 80 without much trouble (that’s three months of missing church!).

Consider anything else you’re interested in, how often do you make it to those things? What about work? Most places of employment expect you to be there with two or three weeks of vacation plus some sick days. I gave you three months!

Life happens, I get it. But seriously: get to church people.

I know people could make it to church more because modern technology tells me so. Facebook lets pastors know exactly what people did while skipping church. You aint sick. You aint workin. You aint even doing anything productive. You’re just dorking around.

I actually dropped off Facebook because I couldn’t take it anymore.

To see people you pray for, you plead for them in prayer, sometimes with tears, skipping sermons that could benefit them for water skiing, or duck hunting, or sporting events, it just breaks a pastor’s heart. I try not to take it personally and I try not to get my heart broken, but it gets broken all the time.

Even worse, many of these people who skip church for every conceivable reason tend to have lives that fall apart. I always know when people start skipping church regularly that a certain thing is about to hit a fan.

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A Pastor’s Take on Why Kids Leave the Faith

THEM: We let our kids decide whether they come to church or not.

ME: Really? Wow. I’m shocked they aren’t here.



I‘m amazed at the choices parents make with their kids.

For my entire pastoral career I have had kids at home. My eldest was a baby when I began pastoring. Her birth was, in fact, one of the reasons I took the job: I needed money!

Parenting is hard. I know, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” is a promise in the Bible. Proverbs are extreme statements that are not always true. There are proverbs in the Bible that contradict other proverbs in the Bible.

Parenting is hard. Pride goes before destruction. I’ve heard many a parent of young children brag about their parenting skills, even some who wrote books on parenting while their kids were still at home. I’ve seen many a proud parent become a weeping parent.

Since I’ve observed this trend, I have tried to avoid it in my own life. I try not to brag about my kids and certainly don’t go public in comparisons, nor assume that the way I raise my kids is how everyone should raise theirs. I once heard it said, “If God wanted you to raise my kids, He would have given them to you.” Amen.

I only give parenting advice if someone asks me. Very few have asked me. Even fewer have done what I said. I have taken this as further proof that no one really cares about my parenting theories.

My kids are older now. One is in college and the other two are very close to college age. I’m about done with the full-time parenting stuff. My kids were in subjection for the years they lived in my house. What they do now in their lives and with their faith is up to them. I and their mother did our best. We weren’t perfect, but we took stands and our kids know we love them and they know we love the Lord.

I think the evidence says I might know some things about parenting.

My kids fit into our schedule more than we fit into theirs. This one rule has guided many of our decisions.

I’m amazed at the number of parents who let their kids and their kids’ schedules dictate their church attendance. They skip for every excuse in the book: sports, homework, sleep, work, chilling, and various other things. They let their kids decide not only if the kids will go to church, but if the whole family will go!

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