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When we hear the word “sabbatical,” our cultural context pulls us toward the academic world and brings up images of college professors traveling to far off lands to sit in dusty libraries doing research for their next book. But in the world of ministry, sabbatical brings up a very different picture, one of release, rest, reflect, realignment, and re-entry. We call these the 5-R’s and they serve as solid bench marks on which to establish a sabbatical plan. But we often come back to two questions: Why and How? The “why” is simple: You need it. With the demands of family and ministry pressing in 24/7/365, and the constant state of tension between the two, an extended time to disconnect from ministry is necessary for survival. It allows for a step back and a good look, both outward at the landscape and inward at the heartscape while asking deep questions and providing sufficient time for reflection. As to the how of a sabbatical, here are a few things to consider:

  • Priority: Make sabbatical a priority in your planning for the next year. If you don’t, life and ministry will push it off the calendar.
  • Planning: Start early and bring all the players to the table, including your spouse. Give yourself one month to plan for each week of sabbatical. This will allow for the scheduling of counseling, conferences, classes, retreats, and travel well in advance. This will also allow you time to effectively communicate with the church body and address any fears and questions they may have.
  • Length: We recommend no less than 8 wks. and prefer to see 12 wks. in most cases. This allows the mind a week at the beginning and end to disconnect and reengage thinking about ministry.
  • Timing: While there is no “perfect” time to take a sabbatical, there are better times, usually during natural lulls in the ministry calendar. This may depend on your role in the church, but many land in the summer months, from May to August.
  • Goals: Start with a simple question: What do you want to look like at the end of the sabbatical? A balanced plan will have each of the following, but your specific needs will dictate the overall direction:
 Rest: Physical and Emotional.

Relationships: God, Family, Friends.

Reflection: Internal Processing.

Recreation: Have some Fun!

Retooling: Increase the Skill-set.

Research: Dig deep in to heart issues.

And please remember, you are not in this alone. NCD Pastoral Care is here to walk with you through your sabbatical from start to finish. Just give us a call.

In Christ,
Kelley Johnson NCD Pastoral Care