Monday, July 14, 2014

The Perils of a Pastoral Staycation

I get 4 weeks of paid vacation a year. This is, for the most part, the standard vacation for ordained pastors in my denomination. My wife gets the equivalent of about 2.5 a year, but she also gets sick time and weekends. She also does not have a Masters Degree with 90 graduate hours of study. But I digress.

I am very thankful for my four weeks a year. I need them. There are folks I know, especially in the public sector, that get more. And there are folks I know that get less.

Our challenge, with Jennifer working part time, is that we don't really have the resources to travel for my time off. Nor does Jennifer have all of the time that I have to be gone, especially having just completed cancer treatment. Being on staycation though, is always fraught with challenges for a pastor, especially when one serves a church that compels the pastor to live in a residence provided by the church as part of their salary package.

One of the challenges comes when one tries to figure out what one should do during worship time on Sunday. Go to another church? Stay at the house? The problem with staying at the house is that it leaves you peeking out the window to see who is attending, and fearful that someone will want to drop by for keys. In the church we served in Fowler, our home was less than 15 yards from the sanctuary, which means that if we stayed in the house we not only were subject to the awkward sense of being home while people were worshiping next door, but we also heard worship next door from our living room.

This year is further complicated by me splitting my Sundays. I took Sunday night off last week, but Sunday morning off this week. My sister came into town on vacation, and I wanted to show her around the Hills for the week. So I did.

And because people know I am not far away, I am often drawn in to do things I otherwise could not if away on vacation. These things include:
  • Doing a funerals (this has happened at while on vacation more than once)
  • Answering questions about who to help with assistance vouchers
  • Going to church social events with family that I have been personally invited to
  • Continuing to "be the pastor" in the community even though I am not working which has impact on how I dress, what I say etc. Even though I am not working, the "weight" of ministry is still not removed 
  • Seeing everything that is happening at the church because I live right next door
  • Having garage sales for the church in my front yard
  • Responding to pastoral concerns via phone regarding illness etc.
  • Much more
Now, with some minor exceptions, there is no blame to be laid. This is part of the deal of the pastoral staycation, and why it is more difficult to leave work as a pastor unless one leaves town.

Perhaps pastors need to talk about home exchanges for vacation stays? I don't know. I just know that a staycation, although sometimes necessary in ministry, is never really completely time off.

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