Sabbatical leave is becoming an important tool in the support and growth of pastors. If carefully designed and prepared for it can be an opportunity for both pastor and congregation to be spiritually renewed and energized for years. Some denominations routinely place language in calls or contracts specifying the availability of a sabbatical leave after a specified length of service.
However, a haphazard or poorly planned sabbatical can be a very negative experience for both pastor and congregation. In some jurisdictions, more than half of pastors leave their congregation within six months of returning from a sabbatical leave. Pastors may return from an energizing sabbatical to find a congregation exhausted and frustrated from a period without the usual pastoral leadership. The sabbatical leave may uncover frustrations in the pastor-parish relationship that weren’t evident during the normal ebb and flow of daily operations. Financial resources for both pastor and congregation may be stressed by the demands of the sabbatical experience. Factions may arise during the sabbatical time and gain power to negatively impact the pastor-parish relationship. Sometimes, a fresh sense of call for pastor or congregation emerges during the sabbatical time. While these possibilities cannot be eliminated, careful planning can mitigate the power of these occurrences to degrade the sabbatical experience.
The consultants at Sand Bur Consulting are aware that several factors influence the success of a sabbatical leave. These factors include:
Sand Bur Consulting is prepared to work with both pastor and congregation to design, prepare for, and follow-up on a successful sabbatical leave. We are especially experienced in helping small membership congregations find effective ways to design and finance a sabbatical leave for their pastor or other spiritual leader.
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