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I’m a pastor. Pastors are supposed to go to church. So I go to church, several times each week. I’ve done that for decades. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed church by choice. But one weekend I added to that handful of misses. I skipped church. Was skipping church that day helpful or hurtful? Read on and you decide.

My daughter had come to visit us over the Labor Day weekend and I scheduled one of our other pastors to preach at the weekend services. We took a long weekend at a lake house about 50 miles from our home.

The last time we took a long weekend we all went to church, a very boring one. This time however, I simply decided I wouldn’t go. To be frank, I felt a tinge of guilt because my wife will tell you I’m always the one pushing us to go to church while on vacation.

But for some odd reason, I didn’t push us this time.

So what did I do that Sunday morning? I sat in a swing and read my bible. I cut some dead limbs off a tree. I chatted with a neighbor. I exercised on my treadmill. I practiced the art of ‘slowing.’ And I really liked it.

Although I’m deeply committed to the local church and won’t make skipping a habit, I leaned a few valuable lessons.

  1. Skipping church reminded me that pastors’ schedules keep us from normal weekends that most families experience. Sundays (and Saturdays if you hold services) are our biggest work days. But, it’s not all about me and I will gladly stay faithful to God’s calling.
  2. Those not in pastoral leadership roles will never understand this sacrificial part of our profession because when they want to skip church, they easily do with no repercussions. And when they do, most don’t even think twice about skipping.
  3. An occasional ‘break from the Sunday routine’ can refresh a soul and help avoid pastoral burnout.
  4. I now truly understand how hard it would be for someone who has seldom attended church to give up his or her Sunday mornings and start attending. I really enjoyed having that Sunday free.
  5. Number 4 above reminded me that we pastors must craft compelling, Spirit-led services if we are to entice the unchurched to attend and keep attending. What they experience at church must be worth the price of giving up their relaxing mornings at home, at the lake, or at the ballpark. We may only get one shot.
  6. Pastors need  a sabbath too. Since Sundays aren’t ours, we must prioritize another day for rest. I now take Saturdays off and I was reminded that I must truly rest on that day.

If you’ve ever played hookey from church, I’d love to hear what you learned.

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015).

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William Howard

commented on May 11, 2016

Pastor Stone, God bless you. Now, let's drop the "skipping church" phrase. As Pastor you have a great charge that calls often for great personal sacrifice. However, even our Lord went over to the other side for rest. What you explained is not skipping church. And by all means, we are not to forget our families. Oh yes, Pastors do burnout. If you need some help in this area, remember Daniel 10:12. God bless you Pastor Stone. You be encouraged.

Dr. Juanita Brower

commented on May 11, 2016

Amen Brother Howard. I don't call it "skipping church" either. Just taking a little time for R and R to be able to continue in the work of the Lord so that you will always be ready and on top of your game as you are willing. God bless you in your work Pastor Stone.

William Howard

commented on May 11, 2016

Amen Dr. Brower. Amen.

Nicu Cocione

commented on May 11, 2016

We all have traveled and ended up visiting a church that appears boring but who decides what church is boring? Who's the audience? What we say and do as ministers have a heavy influence to those around us and should we not be concerned that we may be giving green light to anyone to skip church by choice/avoid a boring church and go to that lake house instead of remembering Christ? We all need a break from time to time but why not use the other 6 days?

Thomas Wilson

commented on May 11, 2016

Pastor Stone...as a bi-vocational pastor...choosing "one of the other 6" is not usually an option for me. I appreciate your words and I too have found the occasional "break" to be one of revitalization and empathy for those who struggle to "give up" their Sunday's. Thank you for your honesty!,

Doug Knox

commented on May 12, 2016

I agree. As a small church pastor, I too am technically bi-vocational. Since my other income comes from my Social Security retirement, I have freedom to concentrate solely on the single job. By my own choice I work six days a week at my calling, but I find myself increasingly aware of the limitations dealing with age. This Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I are going to camp with a long-time ministry friend and his wife. I believe all four of us are going to have a very refreshing time, and we probably will do little besides hang out.

Tina Kay

commented on May 12, 2016

I didn't attend church last night (midweek service) because I wasn't feeling great but I was constantly on the phone - you lock up afterwards, you remember to do this, you do that, you keep the offering, you're doing the prayer. I might as well have been in church. Am I a pastor? No. I'm the church secretary.

Robert Dewitt

commented on May 12, 2016

I really didn't have to read the whole article, the Bible makes it clear we are to attend church unless providentially hindered by something other than a choice. Heb. 10:25 "Do not forsake our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another;" When we make exceptions or excuses where God gives commands we are out of fellowship with Him.

commented on May 12, 2016

I enjoy church, but have found by not going to church 'religiously' has helped me to depend on God directly as when I was in church afraid. There were so many self-righteous and hateful people I couldn't bear it anymore. Racist and psychotic people were all I could seem to run into at church. I stop going and I found a relief, but I will be looking for a church home soon, and keep my focus!

Tim Johnson

commented on May 12, 2016

It was sad to read two of the comments. You did NOT "forsake assembling together", NOR did you do something "instead of remembering Christ". You spent time with God, you spent time with a neighbor and you spent time with your family. Those are all gifts from God and gifts to God. If I choose to be with my family in the middle of the woods instead of in a building built by men, I am still in fellowship with God and with fellow believers. I am still ministering and being ministered to. Unless it is an excuse to habitually miss church, how can that not be good?

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