Because many schools are out most of the summer, pastors, like many families, choose to take their vacations this time of year. But many pastors are keenly aware of the risk of being called home for an emergency during their vacations. It is more common than most church members realize.
So, what should pastors do if the interruption takes place? Without giving specific details, let me share with you five considerations for pastors confronted with this reality.
- Interrupted vacations should be the exception. One pastor shared with us his vacation had been interrupted seven of the eight past attempts to get away. I bluntly told him he was deeming too many things to be an emergency. I also told him he was sacrificing his family to please other church members. That brings me to the second point.
- Your family remembers these interruptions. We have heard from grown pastors’ kids who still remember the pain of interrupted vacations. They still remember the angst every time the phone rang on vacation. Their perception is often that they really didn’t matter as much as other church members.
- Pastors need a back-up plan in place. Even in small churches, you need someone to visit the hospitals and respond to emergencies. Funerals can typically be covered by a pastor of another church. Indeed, some pastors have reciprocal agreements much like physicians who need back-up plans for vacations.
- Churches should consider reimbursements and re-schedules when pastors are called home from vacation. One pastor shared that it cost him over $1,000 in travel costs to get him and his family home for a church emergency when three members died in an auto accident. But the personnel committee of the church refused to reimburse him for his travel costs, and they did not allow him to reschedule those vacation days. That’s just wrong.
- Some members will simply not understand. “There is no easy way to tell a grieving widow you can’t come home from vacation,” one pastor shared with me. “I understand. She just lost her husband. But it was one of 17 deaths in our church that year. I had to find a way to take my family on vacation.”
There are some emergencies that require pastors to interrupt a vacation. One pastor was on vacation when a shooting occurred in his church. That is a clear and obvious reason to return home. But too many pastors interrupt their vacations for almost any need in the church.
It is a tough decision. Unfortunately, the pastors’ family is often the one asked to make the sacrifice.
How would you respond or set guidelines for these interruptions?