As I’m putting together a Holy land pilgrimage for next March, so many pastors have told me they would love to go but simply can’t afford it. I understand the reality of finances. Pastors are not highly paid (which is an understatement). Most of them do the work with a great deal of love and drive, but very little fiscal reward.
Unfortunately, when churches refuse to help their pastors go on pilgrimage, they are overlooking a great return on their investment. There are significant benefits when a church sends their pastor to the Holy Land. I wrote about my own pilgrimage experience for EerdWord in 2012, and the article is still timely: When a Pastor Becomes a Pilgrim.
In terms of investment, think of it this way — if a church is aware it will never be able to offer their pastor a 3-month sabbatical (a once-common practice which is falling by the wayside as congregations shrink) why not make a 10-day or 2-week pilgrimage possible? Better yet, offer it before the pastor requests it. Besides traveling to Israel/Palestine, consider Jordan, Turkey, and Greece. All of these places are significant in scripture, and experiences in these lands will bring greater insight and depth to the person charged with bringing the Bible into the center of your congregation’s life. Weekly.
And please do not wait to make that pilgrimage experience a retirement gift! That’s like sending an invitation after the event has passed — it will only lead to regret and a sense of opportunity lost. Send the pastor now, while she’s active in ministry. I can assure you that the time and resources spent are not wasted. Both pastor and church will reap huge rewards! Christians know that love is not a zero-sum game — and in this case neither is money spent on spiritual enrichment. Your congregation’s benefit will outpace your investment.