3 Reasons Your Pastor Needs A Sabbatical


It’s no secret that rest is important. You know how you feel when you haven’t slept well or when you push yourself too far physically - unfocused, uninspired, and probably not very fun to be around. Parents set bedtimes for their children because they know how important it is for development. We have weekends to take a break from work and be better employees Monday through Friday. Even the earth itself has a rhythm of work and rest. Everyone has a favorite season, but we all understand the importance of each one of them. As Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Being consistently under-rested and overworked is a long-term stressor, which can lead to burnout. Research shows that burnout has serious negative mental health effects and also makes it harder for people to deal with stressors in the future, creating a vicious cycle. We’ve all seen the massive consequences this kind of situation can have on church leaders, church staffs, and congregations when left unchecked. There are too many victims of ministry burnout.

In addition to regular periods of rest - weekly and monthly - sabbaticals are a great practice that Pastors can utilize to help them avoid burnout and to be more effective leaders.

Here are three resons your Pastor needs a sabbatical: 

1. For Physical Rest

Pastors are often on the go from early in the morning until late at night. From helping to get their kids ready for school in the morning, to staff meetings and sermon prep during the day, to committee meetings in the evenings, Pastors often don’t have much downtime in their regular schedules. Factor in emergency trips to the hospital to be at a congregant’s bedside or calls to take care of some kind of situation at church, and there’s a good chance your Pastor is plain old tired. A sabbatical provides an extended period of physical rest for your Pastor.

2. For Mental & Creative Rejuvenation

Have you ever been stuck on a problem, only to walk away from it for a day and then wake up with the perfect solution? Giving your mind a break from actively focusing on that problem was all you needed. A sabbatical can help your Pastor become inspired again, whether that’s for sermon series ideas or casting new vision for your church. Having time to brainstorm, to think freely and without the immediate pressure of the task or challenge at hand, and to experience a different setting can be very stimulating and inspiring for your pastor.

3. For Replenishment

Not only is a sabbatical a time for rest, but it is also a time to replenish. In the same way that farmers rotate crops and also leave fields fallow to rebalance and restore nutrients to the soil, so a sabbatical can be a time for a Pastor to rebuild his or her own “nutrients” by reading and studying more extensively, spending time with other Pastors to learn from them, and to think and dream creatively in unstructured time.

If you don't already have a process or policy for allowing your Pastors to take sabbaticals, your church should make it a huge priority to do so. If not, there's a big chance your leaders will get burnout and your staff and congregation will suffer the consequences.