Oxymoron: Relaxing Rev

April 7, 2008

Sun-laden beaches, tranquil strolls, long coffee-slurping afternoons. Who couldn’t relax in such an environment?


I answer both from personal experience and from hearing holiday reports from other vacationing shepherds.

So why is the holiday experience such a challenge for our select group? Upon returning from my own weeklong trip yesterday I jotted down a few thoughts. Let me know if any of this rings true for you too.

1. Pastors worship work and don’t appreciate rest.

2. Pastors think deep down that the world of their church revolves around their sovereign power and presence (how will they survive without us?)

3. Pastors are functional by nature, yet by very definition holiday’s are often devoid of functionality.

4. Pastors are often flock orientated not family orientated. For many of us casually conversing with our families for a prolonged period is unusual and, embarrasingly, difficult.

5. Pastors are often poor relaxers in the hustle and bustle of everyday life; this means that when full blown vacation comes they haven’t had much practice.

6. Pastors like to be solving problems. Holiday’s are too easy.

7. Pastors – many of them anyway – struggle with ‘guilt feelings’ that they are slacking. This is because they believe in unbiblical slogans like ‘I’ll have time to rest when I get to heaven, but not before then” and such.

8. Pastors, usually technologically connected and information overloaded, suddenly feel ‘out of the loop.’

9. Pastors, either out of insecurity or fear, need to endure the thought that someone else is filling their pulpit.

10. Pastors, now with some free time on their hands, can’t help but embrace the opportunity to plan ahead.

11. Pastors schedules are typically highly structured; holiday’s are full of unstructured time.

12. Pastors are too exhausted to enjoy the break.



  1. so basically we’re neurotic…Yes, I’ll agree to that.

  2. Colin:
    I would add from my experience an addition to #8-we refuse to disconnect from the electronic ties to work even though on vacation (cell phone, laptop, blackberry, etc.)

  3. Colin:
    I would add from my experience an addition to #8-we refuse to disconnect from the electronic ties to work even though on vacation (cell phone, laptop, blackberry, etc.)

  4. There is always the fear (which for me has been a reality) that the cell phone will ring and you will be called back due to a serious illness or a death. I dread every time the phone rings when I try to vacate with my family. Dread . . . holiday, the two words shouldn’t go together. But for me they often do.
    Plus, there is always the next message to work on, even while on a break. I will get up very early, before my family and study and work — I really don’t want my children to see me working on their/our vacation.

  5. All sadly true Colin, whether we admit it or not!

  6. Before re-entering the academic front, my pastoral vacations involved one day on either end to

    1) ‘unwind’ (remember how to relax)
    2) ‘re-wind’ (look at my schedule for the coming days so I would not be overwhelmed my first day back).

    I remember having a few relaxing days in between. Needless to say, a weekend getaway was pretty fruitless:)

    Thanks for the post, Colin.

  7. Your fourth point is very astute. Pastors who are at home while in the home tend to have far more profitable holidays.

    Can I add another point couple of points?

    1) Many pastors actually end up preaching while they are on holiday.

    If, for example, you minister away from your hometown, your trips ‘home’ (and to your home church) will often involve being asked to preach. It’s natural for the congregation in which you grew up, or in which you have close friends and family etc, to want to hear your preaching while you are with them anyway. Also, you don’t want to offend their kind invite to open up the Word to them.

    A lot of Free Church guys deal with this by having a ‘no preaching while on holiday’ principle. If the congregation wants them to preach, that can be arranged for another date when the man isn’t on holiday.

    It’s a difficult one though. How would you handle this situation?

    2) Pro-active pastors can find it very hard to switch off when visiting another church on holiday.

    In your own church, you have so much responsibility, you are constantly strategising and planning… But when you are on holiday and are worshipping in another congregation, it can be difficult to switch off and attend simply to worship.

  8. A lot of these are not peculiar to pastors or even folk in positions of authority anywhere in the church. We all struggle to relax and not worry about the world back home. Almost anyone with a Type-A personality will have difficulty coping with unstructured time.

    I dare say pastors have a harder time than most but I’m not a pastor and identify strongly with more than half the points.

  9. Wow! What a scary list! You can just slot my name into every line.

  10. Another oxymoron – Scottish Holiday.

  11. Harsh, harsh, John….. but true ;

  12. Another Pastors on Holiday point from my experience

    Because my days are so structured (#11) then my daily devotions have a set slot. Holidays mean things like a lie in, getting up with the kids, being in a caravan – and its very easy to bypass my time with God in his word and prayer.

    And then that leaves you open to temptation.

    And then you get back from holiday spiritually flat or discouraged from the temptations.

    So I’ve found I really need to work at making sure I have time alone. It’s not rocket science, but the change in the routine can be dangerous.

    Or maybe that’s just me…

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