Church work is not necessarily more difficult than other work, but it is hard. Staying fresh, alive and creative week after week, year after year, in the midst of the stress, emotion, study, as well as the people and leadership tasks that are required, can be quite a challenge. As a result, a minister's levels of passion, enthusiasm, excitement and vision for the future may not be where they would like them to be or where the church deserves them to be from someone in such an influential role.
Sometimes a tiredness and fatigue settles in that normal holidays don't fix. Pastors and church workers need to heed these kinds of warning signs. To ignore them can lead to burnout, which can be very hard to bounce back from. When you are running near empty and your reserves are low, that's the time to do something about it. One option to consider is a ministerial sabbatical.
What is a sabbatical?
A ministerial sabbatical is simply a period of rest. However, a sabbatical is much more than holiday. It is rest with a purpose. When people in ministry are depleted, a sabbatical time apart for recovery of spiritual and creative energies can be extremely helpful.
The idea of the Sabbath is rooted in the Old Testament – God resting on the seventh day after six days of work (Gen.2:1-3) and commanding his people to do the same (Ex.16:26. Lev.23:3. Deut.5:13), as well as the command to allow the land to rest every seventh year (Lev.25:1-5).
The sabbatical also has a history with the schools of higher education since the middle ages where an instructor may be granted a leave of absence every seven years so that they can renew their passion for their subject. It is within this context that the ministerial sabbatical was born. Click here to read an insightful article containing more detailed background to the concept of a sabbatical as well as the types of activities that can make up a sabbatical period.
Ministerial sabbaticals are designed to strengthen and develop the pastor’s ability to serve the church. A well-planned sabbatical has been proven to provide a pastor with spiritual renewal, new perspective, further education, as well as renewed passion and vision resulting in a return to ministry with a clearer sense of mission and the renewed energy to work toward accomplishing it.
For those interested in taking a sabbatical, the book Clergy Renewal by the Alban Institute has some very helpful suggestions for sabbatical planning. Also, click here to read an excellent sample Pastoral Sabbatical Program.
If you are a church worker or pastor, is it time for you to consider a sabbatical? Even people in the corporate world can do something similar (check out the book Reboot your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break which has a ton of great ideas).
Some other books I would highly recommend related to this topic are: Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion and Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul.
A sabbatical … it could save your life, your family, your ministry and your future impact!
See also my poem: Sabbath.
NEXT: Read Ministerial Sabbaticals (Pt.2).