The Ten Commandments of a Pastor’s Vacation

Sam Rainer

July 3, 2017


I’m on vacation this week, enjoying time with my family. 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 important. If your church is gracious enough to give vacation time, then 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 own 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 the time 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 are going to 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 10 minutes for a phone call. Only return for the most extreme emergencies.

July is a good time for pastors to vacation, especially around July 4. It’s a time of the year when ministry demands are less than usual. I’m sure many of you are having fun with your families. Enjoy!


13 comments on “The Ten Commandments of a Pastor’s Vacation”

  1. So you are on vacation with your family and blogging “church stuff”?

    Actually, this is an observation and not a criticism. I confess, I take work with me, but limit how much I do while on vacation. I use the time “away” to plan out several sermon series for months down the road. When I do this, I come back with much less stress knowing the “preaching” is planned out and I can focus more on the “pastoring”.

    Thank you for the reminders!

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks John! And I wrote the post before I left 😉

  2. Jeannie Sladko says:

    Everybody needs time away. Your’re truly always on call and I’m sure if there was a disaster or bug emergency and your staff could not be there YOU WIULD GET BACK. Enjoy yourself, relax and let that big wonderful staff handle it. You are only once young and so are your babies. I live off my memories so God Bless and have fun Sam and Erin. I live ya’ll and can’t wait to get back to Bradenton.

    Thank you again for putting your sermons online so I feel like aim still there.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Jeannie! We look forward to you getting back to Bradenton.

  3. Greg says:

    Sam, good insight. After 24 years here, one key you mentioned is don’t get sloppy or lazy before you leave. Make sure sermon is ready to roll if you take front weekend off. I usually take Friday off before to get a good jump on time.

  4. adam says:

    i was really shocked by this. Its not that it isn’t good advice because it is, I think, I just didnt recognise it at all. I agree completely that time with family is important, and so I take time with my family frequently, we holiday together two or three times a year, including three weeks coming up next month. :). I don’t work saturdays. My wife and I also go on a couple of holidays or short breaks each year, we date each week, I limit how many evenings i work. I am not on call to pastoral issues, in fact maybe only getting involved in perhaps one per year. I teach once or twice a month, I take time out in the week to rest, or pray, or think. people don’t chase me when I’m not there, because they are empowered to lead. all of this is because we are supposed to model something to our church about rhythm and balance and family and God. and the church still grows. in fact sundays is one of our least frantic days. the church is busier monday thru friday running social action programmes, working with the various agencies such as government, health, education, police, housing etc to support the homeless, hungry, sick, disenfranchised, immigrants, refugees, broken families, parents, addicts, elderly, lonely etc etc. nearly all the church volunteer, nearly all the church are in small groups, but we encourage rest, and fun, and relaxation, and rhythm. I’m not saying all this to boast or belittle, but I was concerned that the advice was necessary for many church leaders. I want to encourage you that there is another way. a way that doesn’t kill us or kill our families.

  5. Rob Plaim says:

    How right you are Sam. I am also currently on vacation and I plan on doing all ten of these. Hope your vacation is peaceful. God Bless.

  6. Stephen says:

    So who gave permission to use though shall from scripture

  7. Stephen says:

    Ýwho gave permission to use though shall from scripture

  8. Rod Gauthier says:

    I am always intrigued by how colleagues view holidays. I have found that different ethnic backgrounds also view holidays differently. Some even view holidays as disposable time. I was a little taken back by your comment that holidays are a luxury. I realize that some pastors don’t have or take vacation (sometimes by choice sometimes, by necessity) and i truly believe that that is not a strength but a significant weakness. Ministry is taxing, no matter the size of the congregation. It is the responsibility of the church to provide holiday time for their pastoral leaders and it is the responsibility of the pastor to take that time for his or her own health and well being. If God rested after 6 days…
    Many of your “commandments” are spot on. Being prepared before you go, not neglecting your own time with God, taking care of details while you are gone, reading a little fun stuff, getting out of town are all important. The truth is, the church will not fall apart if we are gone for one week, much less two or three. And we need to remember that this isn’t our church, but Jesus’ church. He has been taking care of it long before we came along!
    Hope your holiday was re-creating for you and your family!

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