10 Things Church Leaders Should Tell Pastors and Church Workers about Vacations

If you’re a church worker feeling guilty about taking a little break from daily duties—don’t. You’re human like the rest of us, and God created us to thrive in a balancing act of work and rest.

Dr. Beverly Yahnke, an expert on church worker anxiety and burnout, shares why you (and your congregation) will benefit big time when you take a relaxing vacation without regret.

After 30 years of providing clinical services for professional church workers and their families, I've concluded that a healthy church will communicate its expectation that pastor(s) and workers will take vacations regularly. Following some time off to relax, workers return from vacation reporting greater work satisfaction and improved productivity—they feel happier and “recharged” for the work awaiting them. Vacations benefit parish and worker, alike.

Some in the church may actually be critical or may misunderstand a pastor’s need for time away. When that is the prevailing opinion of the leadership, pastors and church professionals may feel guilty about being on vacation and may fail to take the days allotted to them. When leaders encourage workers to take vacation time, workers are more likely to take time away—time that will benefit both the worker and the church. Too often, church workers don’t hear that recommendation and infer that vacation time may be unacceptable (no matter what the call document may have said).


  1. Your family deserves opportunities to enjoy your time and undivided attention. Your family has shared you with us unselfishly for quite a while. Now we want you to take some uninterrupted time to be with them.
  2. Marinating in stress hormones isn’t healthy for you. You’ll return from your vacation rested, energized, and more productive. That will serve everyone well.
  3. Your vacation provides a fine example to many in the congregation who struggle to balance their personal and work lives. You’ll teach us that healthy adults take time away from work and make plans to have fun, creating family memories that can be savored for years.
  4. Despite your temptation to “stay in touch,” it is important for you to have time away without phone calls, emails, texts, or business tweets. Please don’t squeeze work into your vacation. Interact less with your laptop and smartphone and interact more with your friends and family. Don’t call us; and we’ll try not to call you!
  5. Your vacation must be more than two or three days long. (Most vacationers don’t relax fully until day two of the holiday, and then notice some anticipatory stress emerging two days before coming home.) You’ll benefit most by being away a full seven days (or more) if possible.
  6. You will prove to yourself and to those you serve that you are not indispensable and you will allow others in the church leadership to care for you and your family by taking on some of your tasks while you are away. (Workaholics embrace work in lieu of family; don’t do that!)
  7. A stay-cation can be useful and fun, but it does require you to enforce vacation boundaries between church and home. Planning a few day trips can be great and will reduce anyone’s expectation that you’ll be “dropping in” at church just because you’re in town.
  8. Vacations don’t have to be extravagant or expensive. What matters is that you try something new, and that you move away from the landscape of your ordinary routine. Visiting with extended family and friends is a wonderful change of pace (and you can return the favor by hosting family and friends in the future).
  9. Our Boards and Committees will evaluate our policies to ensure that pastors and church professionals will take all of the vacation days to which they are entitled. (Boards should also insist that healthy church workers take a day off each week!)
  10. Remember that even Jesus got away in a boat (with no apologies) and no one questioned His effectiveness and commitment to His ministry! 

Dr. Yahnke enjoys her holiday vacation in January.

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