How to Take a Sabbatical

Have you ever considered taking a sabbatical?  Ministers usually have a list of excuses that stop them in their tracks. With proper planning and support from your church, family and friends, the excuses can fade away. 

In 46 years of ministry, I was privileged to take a six-week sabbatical and had submitted the request for my second one. I let too many things stand in my way and derail the process.  Shame on me!!

A sabbatical should be carefully thought out and planned with your church leadership. This process could take six months to a year. Policies outlining the church’s expectations should be available. Timing with regard to the church and your family calendar, outlining your goals, and financing and budgeting must all align.

During the process I learned I had over planned for the education/learning aspect.  I attempted to do too much to expand my ministry skills and horizon. Looking back on how God blessed my time away, I realize that my alone time with the Lord, proper rest, and family time were the best and most important part of my weeks away.

Having talked with many pastors/staff members about sabbaticals, virtually every one of them told me taking a sabbatical on a regular basis, every five to seven years, allowed them great times of study, rest and family time and produced longevity in their ministry.  

In preparing for a sabbatical, I have found it helpful to think and plan in terms of “buckets”:

Bucket 1: Rest/Relaxation/Recreation – What might refresh and energize me physically and emotionally?

Bucket 2: Family – What can we do that will engage my family at deeper levels?

Bucket 3: Spiritual – What must I do that will replenish me spiritually?

Bucket 4: Self-Development – What can aid me to excel professionally?

Bucket 5: Missional – What will be my missional contribution/expression?

These five buckets can and probably should overlap at times. Consider planning in that order. The tendency is to cram too much into a sabbatical because we focus too heavily on self-development or missional elements. The root word of “sabbatical” is “sabbath” which means “rest.” Most often that is what we need most in our amped up lives.

Paraphrasing Josh Kingcade: a sabbatical is not just a reward for your hard work, it is an investment in your future ministry in your church. So, I will close by saying: don’t miss the opportunity to invest wisely.

Bob Gladney – Retired Executive Pastor