Your pastor probably needs a sabbatical. The fact is, your congregation probably needs a sabbatical, too.
Community events, performances and games of the church’s children, preparing weekly worship services, heart-to-hearts about difficult subjects – there’s no way on earth that fits neatly into a 9-to-5 job just five days a week. Even when they’re not on the clock, the weight of their ministry follows them home. In a job defined by stress, a sabbatical is crucial to keeping pastors healthy and energized for a career in ministry. Wise congregations make sure sabbaticals are built into pastoral calls and that pastors answer that call on time.
But a pastor’s sabbatical doesn’t mean congregational life and evolution screeches to a halt. On the contrary, a sabbatical provides an opportunity for a congregation to refocus, to evaluate what really matters in congregational life and what can be discarded, and to consider how the pastor’s work can be even better with lessons learned from the timeout in week-to-week pastoral duties.
Robert C. Saler wrote Planning Sabbaticals: A Guide for Congregations and Their Pastors to help everybody make the most of a sabbatical. The associate dean and Research Professor of Religion and Culture at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Saler also directs the Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal Programs, the largest funder of clergy sabbaticals in the country. The book draws from two decades of working with pastors and congregations as the prepare for, immerse in, and emerge from those breaks.
While there are resources available to help pastors think about how to construct a sabbatical, Planning Sabbaticals is the first resource that approaches the entire experience holistically, including the congregation, start to finish.
“My hope is that Planning Sabbaticals shifts the talk of clergy sabbaticals away from being focused on the pastor,” says Saler, “looking at the bigger picture and seeing the holistic congregational framework and how the framework and how the entire community can benefit from the pastor’s renewal time.”
A short and approachable book, Planning Sabbaticals was designed to facilitate the entire process: the pastor and congregation dreaming together about a sabbatical’s potential opportunities, planning the nuts-and-bolts of continuing the congregation’s ministry and operations, and incorporating the lessons learned from the time apart.
The Lilly Foundation’s annual sabbatical grant application process is open through April 1, 2020. If you or your congregation are considering applying for a clergy sabbatical grant, order Planning Sabbaticals now to make the most of the sacred space of sabbatical.
- Brad Lyons, President and Publisher