Imagine being in church one Sunday when your pastor announces that he is preparing to take two months off from his job. Not only will he be away for two months, but he will continue to be paid his normal salary while he is away. He calls it a “sabbatical”. It sounds a lot to you like a really long paid vacation. Would you be supportive of this idea? How about other people you know in the congregation?
Believe it or not, it’s normal and, in some denominations, required for pastors to take a sabbatical every so often. At Energize Ministries, we think a well-planned sabbatical can be just what a pastor who may be teetering on the edge of burnout needs.
The word sabbatical comes from the term, “Sabbath” which is, in essence, a time of holy rest that God has called each one of us to observe on a regular basis. It’s a time to put our daily routines and responsibilities on pause so we are free to spend time being still and focusing on our relationship with God.
A sabbatical is an extended Sabbath designed to give clergy members the opportunity to become refocused, refreshed and renewed. A pastor may use this time to reconnect with his family, address any personal issues he may be struggling with, work on a writing or study project, etc. Ultimately, the purpose of this time away is to make him a better leader, teacher and servant when he returns to his regular responsibilities.
Does your church give your pastor the opportunity for a sabbatical every 5-7 years? If not, it may be time to have a conversation with your leadership team about the benefits of doing so. There are lots of resources online where you can learn more. For example, this article from the North American Mission Board discusses the benefits of a sabbatical and contains a link to a very comprehensive guide to planning one, put together by Focus on the Family: http://www.namb.net/Pastor-Sabbaticals/