Is Skipping Church Good for Your Soul?

Was skipping church one day helpful or hurtful?

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

Charles Stone
Dr. Charles Stone is the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of three books, inlcuding his latest: People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP).
  • David

    I played hookey from church one time too! And heres what I learned:
    There is no place on earth that is more satisfying and edifying than being with the people of God, hearing His voice and singing His praise.

  • LifeHouseRev

    #4 was something I hadn’t thought of before. Great point!

  • I look at it like this. I work at a church, and need to be there each Sunday. Other people have the ability to skip church, I do not. But other people also have jobs, and they do not have the ability to skip work. It’s the same thing. Your best point here is to make sure you have your own “Sunday”. Ours is Friday, or Saturday. Depending on the week’s schedule. It’s just important to have that day, or Sabbath if you will, to rest. (And not to forget, God commands it!) But here’s the advantage we have over people who can skip church. There’s nothing happening on my day off that makes me feel guilty if I don’t go to it! 🙂

  • Thomas McCue

    Point #3 – I believe any person who experiences “burn out” because of the ministry is working in their own power. The Holy Spirit with strengthen all Christians to fulfill their calling. This is an excellent article, however I do disagree with your point #3.

  • Brian

    I find it amazing that people are so judgmental with their comments pertaining to someone else’s ministry and how successful they are. Then they say things like that person must not be under God’s power if they are tired or need a break. There is so much truth on how so many will come for a visit and the church may only have one shot as this author wrote to keep them coming back. The pastor works very diligently to give all they have to feed the flock it can and does catch up to out human only bodies.

    Then they come across some yahoo in the church (or other places) making judgmental comments such as some do and end up turning them away. Perhaps some need to look within before looking out. Seems Jesus said something about that and a speck of dust verses a plank of wood…Matthew 7:5. I think He called them hypocrites. Great article! Especially point #3!