I realize vacations are a luxury. Plenty of bi-vocational pastors do not get vacations. Some full-time pastors get so much grief from their churches over vacation, they simply skip them. Time away is essential. Every pastor needs it, and every church should give it. If your church is gracious enough to provide vacation time, you should use the time to recharge.
For fun, I’ve put together a list of “shalts” and “shalt nots” for the pastor’s vacation.
1. Thou shalt take a vacation every year. It’s good for the soul to rest. Most of us need at least one week each year to unwind.
2. Thou shalt get off the field. While I understand the concept of a “staycation,” getting off the field makes it easier to take a break from the stresses of ministry.
3. Thou shalt leave clear instructions before you go. Your church or staff will call you if you don’t give them a heads up about who is leading in your absence. Don’t ruin your vacation by being sloppy the week prior.
4. Thou shalt relax. Make sure whatever you do on vacation does not invite more stress.
5. Thou shalt enjoy your family. I’ve heard of pastors taking time off without their families. If you do that regularly, it’s selfish. Ministry can pull you away from your family, so a vacation should be when they receive focused attention from you.
6. Thou shalt read something fun. Put down the systematic theology volume and pick up a good work of fiction.
7. Thou shalt not skip church. If you miss a Sunday in your home church, then visit another church. It’s good to experience other churches. And Jesus’ resurrection is kind of a big deal—worth celebrating every Sunday!
8. Thou shalt not skip devotional time. You need a short reprieve from ministering to others. You don’t need a break from God.
9. Thou shalt not feel guilty. Taking a vacation does not mean you love your church any less, but it does show your church how you love your family more!
10. Thou shalt not return unless in an extreme emergency. It’s tempting to rush back because a key member is having hip replacement surgery. If you must, then take ten minutes for a phone call. Only return for the most extreme emergencies.
If you do not have vacation days, it’s time to ask for them. The downtime is critical to longevity in ministry. You are better for your church when you have time to rest, relax, and get away for a vacation.
This article was written by Sam Rainer and originally published at churchanswers.com on March 16. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.