7.5 Reasons Why Your Minister Should Take Vacations

God Himself rested from His work; we are made in His image, and we are to rest as well

“Why is it when many discuss vacation time for ministers, their standard is the world?  It’s not that we can’t consider what others do; but why do some only look to a fallen world for wisdom to answer this question?  Go back up to the first reason, and consider time off from work that scripture gives.  Why not start there?  “Well, that’s not the real world.”  I’m sorry that God isn’t a part of your real world.  The church ought to set the example for how employees should be treated and paid.”

 

Ordained as a minister for almost 43 years, I have a lot of experience in the ministry and also in taking vacations.  From childhood, both my wife and I have great memories of vacations, and we have sought to make them special in the rearing of our children as well.  Once, I suggested to a congregation that taking vacations might be my spiritual gift, but I failed to convince them.  Anyway, I have 7.5 reasons for why your minister should take vacations, so here goes:

1. Because God likes vacations.  God Himself rested from His work; we are made in His image, and we are to rest as well.  He tells us to work, but also to rest.  On a weekly basis, one day a week, we are to rest from work we would normally do during the week.  Additionally, in the Old Testament, God appointed numerous days for feasts and such, that were time off from work, and involved worship, rest, and celebration.  God even commanded one year in seven for the land not to be cultivated as usual.  This Sabbath year would work out to average about 1.7 months per year on a given 7 year cycle.  Of course, people still had to harvest and process their crops, but it wasn’t work as usual, as in other years.  I love to work, especially in things I enjoy doing; but the Lord knows best, and calls us to take time away from work.

2. Because your minister needs it personally.  By personally, I mean that physically and emotionally, a minister needs the rest.  If he is doing his job the way he ought to do it, then a great deal of mental energy is being expended in study, counseling, planning, etc.; and if his heart is in his work, then He cannot get away from the burdens and problems of others, many of which are never known to others in the congregation.  Just like some of you reading this, who are in service type occupations with the high mental stress and often the unreasonable expectations of others, you need vacation time from your work.

3. Because the minister’s family needs it.  In a conscientious pastor’s home, the phone is always ringing, a text being received, another email arriving.  It never stops, because it goes with the job.  The challenge for a good minister is to manage these and every other demand, so that he is controlling these things and not being controlled by them.  His family will know.  Hopefully, they see him turn his phone and computer off, and concentrate on them.  On vacation, they know they are bigger and loved more than his work.

Many ministers’ families often see other families getting away for a long weekend, or dads having two days off each week, which they never get to experience.  His family needs vacation time.

Does your boss call you on your day off and engage you in non- emergency lengthy work conversation?  Are your family members singled out as responsible to be better examples than other Christians because of the father’s occupation?  Do people from your work drop in unannounced, see your messy house and proceed to eat up time you were going to spend with family?  These things don’t go on all the time, but they do happen in a minister’s home enough, that his family needs special time away from the circus.

4. Because the congregation needs it.  A friend recently told me the story of a new CEO who came to a major corporation which was in big financial trouble.  The first thing he did was tell everyone that he could not give them more money, but he could give them an extra day off each week; but that they had to document that they were spending the day profitably with family and helping others in some way, either individually or through an organization.  Corporate concern for employees’ personal lives made those employees better employees, and helped turn the company around financially.

Often ministers will hear, “Are you going on vacation again!!?”  “Boy I wish I had your job, with all the vacation you get!”  Instead, we should be praying for their vacation to be a blast; that’s what I pray for ministers, but also for everyone else in the congregation, when they go on vacation.

And even though the minister is on vacation, he still finds himself working, almost unconsciously at times, either with a book he’s reading, or article he’s writing or sermon idea he’s developing.  I remember being on the Outer Banks and studying Proverbs, and before I knew it, I had preliminary sermon development for around 30 sermons on Proverbs, and they ended up being good sermons; I know, because I heard them all.  I’ve sat on the side of a cruise ship and experienced my mind racing with ideas for articles, studies, answers for a counseling case, goals for ministry, etc.

People who can’t be happy for their minister going on vacation do not want their congregation to be blessed.

5. Because the minister needs it professionally.  This may seem like it belongs with one or two of the others above, but it really is a separate point.  Sure, we want the minister to come home fresh, with his sleeves rolled up and ready to get to work, but there’s also a perspective we want him to have when he comes home.  Many ministers become so focused on their local circumstances, that they fail to see that God has a whole big world out there, and maybe things aren’t as bad or limited back home as they might seem.  He worships on vacation in a church of another denomination.  He meets Christians from a different background than his own.  He loses some of his aloneness or panic or frustration he sometimes feels in his work, because, besides the Bible telling him the Lord has a big world, he’s able to see some of it for himself.  I know times when things have been rough for me, and I have wondered whether my job was secure or not; as I traveled around, I’ve thought, “Yeah, let ‘em fire me; there is other work I could do.  God will take care of me one way or another.”  A minister has got to feel the freedom that comes in knowing that God will take care of him, and he’s not worried about the future, nor is his life defined by those around him or his circumstances.

6. Because it’s part of the minister’s wages.  Do you want to know what stupid looks like?  Stupid looks like someone who complains against a minister taking vacation time that has been promised to him.  A church agrees to his wages, and part of his wages is his vacation time; but some will fault him for taking the time promised.  Maybe these complainers want their employer to shame them for taking their promised days off, like Saturday or Sunday; I don’t think so.  If you don’t want the man to have vacation time, then don’t give it to him; but don’t fault him for taking what he has earned.

And, a note to ministers who don’t take all of your vacation time, and everyone thinks that you are more spiritual and dedicated than those who do.  Well, you aren’t.  I don’t care if you use your vacation time to sit in your back yard and stare at a tree for a week; take the time.  You do a disservice to other minsters who aren’t as wonderful as you and who actually need the time.  You are doing more harm than good.

7. Because the Church ought to set an example before the world as to being a great employer.  Why is it when many discuss vacation time for ministers, their standard is the world?  It’s not that we can’t consider what others do; but why do some only look to a fallen world for wisdom to answer this question?  Go back up to the first reason, and consider time off from work that scripture gives.  Why not start there?  “Well, that’s not the real world.”  I’m sorry that God isn’t a part of your real world.  The church ought to set the example for how employees should be treated and paid.

Boy, he sure gets a lot more vacation time than I do.”  “They don’t give me that kind of vacation where I work.”  Okay, so why don’t you change jobs?  Go in business for yourself.  I know a fellow at the beach who cuts grass six months and surfs six; go and get yourself a lawnmower.  This attitude is about envy.  We’d all agree that the soul is more important than the body, so am I supposed to be envious of doctors who make more money than I do?  They get paid what the market brings for their services, and I’m happy for them.  When we as Christians can’t be happy for other people who have been blessed, it only exposes a deficit understanding of grace and the gospel.

7.5 And finally, because, as he leaves town to go on vacation, it gives the minister the opportunity to smile and wave goodbye to all the sinfully envious and bellyaching types he has to live with the rest of the year.

K.W. “Pete” Hurst is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves on the staff at Calvary Reformed PCA in Hampton, Va. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.