The most important thing to do … and you can do this in conversation with your various teams at church … is to decide what the missional goal of the sabbatical is. Frequently I find clergy unclear about this, and later they or the church discover the sabbatical was really just a healing or relaxation time to recover from the burdens of ministry.
Here are my four missional goals for sabbaticals … you can pursue them individually or together.
1) Heartburst: Take a sabbatical in order to immerse yourself in the diversity of the mission field … go deep into prayer and scripture … and look for the “Macedonian” who will be next micro-culture you lead the church to reach for Christ. Tip: Don’t go to a retreat center, campground, or backpacking in the mountains.
2) Attitude Conversion: Take a sabbatical in order to confront your sin, transform your hopelessness, overcome your prejudice, and rekindle the flame of your calling. Tip: Don’t go to denominationally sponsored events.
3) Skills Acquisition: Take a sabbatical in order to learn new, mission-driven skills for worship, mentoring, small groups, faith formation, or whatever. Tip: Don’t go to a seminary.
4) Network Building: Take a sabbatical in order to find partners in mission compatible with your congregational DNA, in order to set up sharing strategies for resources, leadership, prayer, and mission. Tip: Don’t limit yourself to the church.
From one of our listservs.
I can’t speak to the clergy couple angle of a sabbatical. I haven’t taken a
sabbatical personally (yet), but I know the Alban Institute has a book about
clergy sabbaticals that gives a brief rationale and some initial steps to
consider. there’s some fairly decent other material by doing a web search,
including the policies of some denominations about sabbaticals.
An especially key element is preparing well in advance, giving yourselves
time to work out the plan and logistics, and giving the congregation enough
time to come to terms with the potential benefits for THEM in your absence,
as well as for you. So the material I’ve read said take at least a year or
two of preparation, or maybe start the discussion about a congregational
policy about sabbaticals BEFORE you are ready to start talking specifics.
One aspect of a clergy sabbatical IS supposed to be about rest — not only
spiritual renewal, or learning, or growing, but about intensive REST.
Family time can be a key component of a sabbatical. Travel, or learning on
an educational campus — or attending EBA seminars — might all be part of a
sabbatical as well.
it’s not primarily about avoiding burnout. It’s not about taking a
sabbatical because you’ve been working so hard for so long and you ‘deserve’
it. It’s about your own values and priorities as Christ leads you. It’s
about his call to ‘come away’ for a season.
Check out the Lily Foundations grants for clergy sabbatical.
some of their descriptions of other programs offer some helpful ideas.
Also, they will provide up to $45k to fund the sabbatical.