Should you tell your congregation when you aren't going to be preaching? It could be a vacation week, or a conference, or a mission trip with the youth. Do you advertise your absence and who will be there in your place? Or do you let it be a surprise?
Here's the rub. If you let the cat out of the bag, it is almost guaranteed that attendance will be down those weeks when you are gone. Bit if you don't, few enjoy the surprise of a substitute preacher, no matter how good he may be.
I did both this year. In July, I was gone for three weeks attending my sons's installation as pastor at his first church, followed by two weeks on with a medical mission trip to Kenya. I put the information out far on advance,m including whee I was going and who would be filling for me. My thought was, “I should trust my people, and believe that their worship attendance is not all about me.” Worship attendance was down about 20 % those weeks I was gone.
Then, I had went to preach at a nearby church who was also meeting to call a new pastor. I only told my elders, letting my absence and substitute be a surprise to everyone else. I believe our attendance was right on average. But I felt like I was being a bit deceptive and sneaking around behind their backs.
I know that churches with more the one pastor don't always advertise who will be preaching. They want the message to be primary, and the communicating personalities secondary. By nature we all have our favorites.
This whole issue makes me wonder how many in our churches have a personal relationship with the preacher rather than with Jesus. No now would admit that, but it happens. Flattering, but a bit disturbing.