Why Do Pastors Need Sabbaticals?

Updated: Jan 9


Quite often, people who work in ministry are burdened with unbelievable loads of duties every day and physical, emotional, and spiritual "fuel" can get low. Consequently, church members can also suffer from from being led by those who are experiencing stress, burnout, and even compassion fatigue.


There is a solution that has saved the ministry of many pastors and staff: Taking an extended Sabbath time to rest and recalibrate; also known as sabbatical.


The Sabbatical tradition began in the universities at the time when the university was part of the church. The idea was that university professors needed one year in every seven to become students again and to refresh their spiritual calling. That tradition is mostly alive and well in secular as well as church-related universities today. Unfortunately, it is not as alive or well in the churches.


Too often church leaders are reluctant to arrange periodic times when pastors or staff members can become worshipers for the purpose of refreshing spiritual life and calling as well as reconnecting with family (who often sacrifice family-time since those serving in ministry can rarely turn it off). However, the Sabbatical meets a mutual need for both pastors/staff and church.


Sabbatical is not a reward for good work, a benefit to keep pastors happy, or even merely an extension of a normal vacation period. It is also not a time to do research or work on special projects. Rather, it is an important part of the program of the church and the working relationship between the church, staff, and pastors from which everyone draws benefits.


Since it has been noted that fatigue seems to set in after about six years of full-time ministry, and pastors and staff seem to know instinctively that they need a change and renewal, it is wise to be proactive and plan for a three month Sabbatical leave every six to seven years of full-time ministry.


Guidelines for a Successful Sabbatical Include:

  • Setting realistic goals that include specific times for Rest and Recalibration.

  • Making financial and obligational arrangements well ahead of time so that it is not a burden for the church or the one taking the Sabbatical.

  • Planning for reentry is equally as important as planning to embark on the Sabbatical.

The Sabbatical is an important event in the lives of pastors, their families, church staff, and congregations. It is one of the most effective ways for everyone to develop and maintain a long-term connectedness and can be a vital ingredient in mutually beneficial relationships.

Prayerfully, the result being that the return from Sabbatical will bring a new sense of refreshment and readiness to take on new tasks in His service!
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