youth worker, youth ministry

Proposing A Sabbatical

By Doug Franklin September 2, 2010

Two days ago I wrote about the importance of taking a sabbatical every few years if you are in ministry. Many churches have sabbaticals built into their church constitution, so this idea is not foreign for them. This is a huge blessing to pastors in ministry because the process of taking a sabbatical is not an uphill battle. But, unfortunately, this is not always the case in many churches. Too many churches in fact. For many in ministry, sabbaticals are only a dream, and one that will never come to fruition.

But for those of you whose church does not already support a paid sabbatical for pastors in ministry, my senior pastor friend who recently returned from a 3 month sabbatical (first for him ever) had some words of advice for proposing a sabbatical to your church.

1. Research is Key

My senior pastor friend had the advantage of living in a very academic community, so the idea of sabbaticals was not foreign to many in his congregation. His church however had never supported them before, so he still needed to provide them with convincing arguments (outside of his own) for the value of sabbaticals. Any article, especially from newspapers or Christian magazines (Leadership Journal for example) that lay the case for pastors taking time off from the ministry to recharge is very important to supply your elder board with. Check out writings by H.B. London on sabbaticals and even look at a recent article in the New York Times (Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html?_r=1)

2. Communicate Your Desire to Stay Long Term

Truth is, no one wants to give you 3 months paid leave if you’re just going to hit the road after you get back. You need to both have put in multiple years at your current church AND intend to stay at your church for years to come. My friend clearly communicated his desire to stay at his current church until he retired. The more your elder board and church knows you are committed to them, the more committed to helping you they’ll be. Within this, you also need to clearly communicate the long term effects of what constant work in the ministry can do to a person. Facilitating funerals, weddings, late night calls and conversations, time away from family, and tons of personal stress can tear you down. Time to refuel will sustain you for the long term.

3. Present Your Plan and Get Help

Your church needs to know you are taking this very seriously, so you need to clearly present your plan and do it several years in advance. No big decision happens quickly in a church, so know that one, two, or even five years is not a long time to wait. Expect to wait a little for your sabbatical to happen, which means you should start planning it NOW. Also, get  together a small team of about four people who can help you plan a sabbatical that will fulfill you personally and within ministry. The more you surround yourself with people you and the church trusts, the better your chances of getting your sabbatical approved.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll write a little more about specific approaches to the plan for your sabbatical.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More