God modled health for us by resting on the 7th day. (Gen. 2:2) He asks us to do the same…every week! Now, broaden this concept and apply it to the leadership of the church. The idea of a pastor taking a Sabbatical Leave every seven years isn’t necessarily a new idea. Its just not a widely accepted one. Here are some reasons I’ve personally heard over the years that
some most churches won’t honor their pastors with a Sabbatical Leave.
“We can’t justify paying you for not being in the office.” Can you justify paying your pastors an hourly wage and not a salary wage? I’m not complaining about my pay…from any church I’ve served at. But if you’re going to take this approach toward this question, please consider the average 55-80 hours the average pastor dedicates each week for 40 hours of pay. Two to three months leave every seven years doesn’t seem so extravagant.
“It’s not in the budget.” Here’s the simple truth. It’s not there because you didn’t put it there. It’s not a priority! Good grief, you have seven years to budget and plan for it a little each year. Make it happen.
“The rest of us in the secular job market don’t get one…why should you?” Honestly, this kind of attitude is cancerous to a church. Pastors’ entire lives are focused on God’s Kingdom agendas. This is not the case with corporate America.
“Who will preach on Sunday and shepherd the church.” First of all, its God’s Church….not a pastor’s! Plan ahead and find guest speakers in your own congregation, sister-congregations, etc. As for shepherding, pastors are called to train up the Church for the work of the ministry. (Eph. 4:11-13) The Church should be able to take care of itself for a short while.
The general purpose of a Sabbatical Leave is to gain much-needed rest at the soul level of the pastor. It is NOT vacation, an early exposure to retirement, or even to make time to complete a doctoral dissertation. I have only experienced two churches in 25 years that offer this to their pastors. Usually, there is a healthy variety of rest and leisure time with family, learning and growing by visiting other churches that are thriving, and personal/spiritual restoration and quiet-time with God. I am personally blessed to be serving in a church that believes in offering a Sabbatical Leave to our Lead Pastor AND the rest of the pastoral staff every 7 years.
To the Pastor who might be reading this post, if this blessing is offered to you….take it! Spend 2-3 months with God and your family. Don’t think about ministry work. Your calling and soul will be renewed and strengthened more than you know.
To the Elders Board or Leadership Team, pray and discuss this as a group of believers who have a significant level of responsibility for the health of your Lead Pastor. Ask yourselves, “Is there value in our Pastor leading our church for another seven years?” Talk to churches that have given Sabbatical Leaves to their Pastors. See how they do it, and ask about the benefits they’ve seen from it.
May your church be richly blessed with healthy leadership. What’s your response to this subject?