Hayward Wesleyan Church Pastoral Sabbatical Policy

Several pastors and leaders of local congregations have asked if I could post our Sabbatical Policy at Hayward Wesleyan Church.  We explored many different sabbatical policies, and landed on the best one we could find as outlined in "Ministerial Sabbaticals" by Richard Shockey.  We drew largely from this document, tweaking it to fit our context, and adding bits and pieces from a hodgepodge of other resources: 

 Pastoral Sabbatical Policy

When a minister serves a congregation for seven years or longer, it is time for a sabbatical. An extended time away for the purpose of study, enrichment, vision casting, travel, rest, prayer and/or visiting different cultures provides the needed respite that is pivotal in helping assure continued healthy leadership. Congregations  may be strengthened by offering a pastor or an associate a sabbatical—time to briefly step away from the cyclical, unending demands of daily parish life.

A sabbatical is not a vacation. Rather it is a time for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking anew from God's life-giving waters, and for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.

Genesis and Leviticus speak of "Sabbath time" in terms of days, years, and land usage. Since the Sabbath is recognized as a distinctive time in creation—as a gift of rest for both renewal and hope—Scripture infers that regular, periodic rejuvenation is vital in all areas of life. The Old Testament writers directed a time period for the soil to remain untilled so that it could replenish itself. Just like the soil, humans need a season to lie fallow for revitalization of the body, mind, and soul. 

Pastors, associates, and ministry leaders are called to the work of ministry as servants of the church. Because of the spiritual dimension of leadership and the emotional energy required by the task, ministers often get into a "give and give and give, but never receive" treadmill. When there is little relief from the constant pressure of Sunday morning deadlines, committee meetings, counseling sessions, visitation schedules, community commitments, and a host of other day-to-day encounters, a leader might scream, "Stop the world.  I want to get off." Greg Asimakoupoulos discovered in his weariness, "Much of my depression was actually my body's muffled cry for rest. "

A sabbatical allows the minister to get off the treadmill in exchange for a battery recharge of vision and hope. It creates an opportunity for the minister to:
  • recapture a sense of vision,
  • be nurtured in faith and skills,
  • become introspective,
  • rekindle spiritual passion,
  • refocus priorities,
  • review the ministerial journey, and
  • reflect on the call of God for life and ministry.
A sabbatical feeds the body, mind, and soul resulting in renewed, refreshed, and revitalized energy to function as a shepherd and servant leader. Several clergy persons have expressed "ah-ha" moments as a result of the sabbatical journey. Often, the sabbatical extends the pastor's tenure with a congregation. When the minister returns with a renewed vision, the congregation often opens a new, exciting chapter in congregational ministry.

Members of the pastoral staff serve in a unique position in their full-time ministry. The demands of pastoral ministry are great and often draining physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Despite the use of accumulated vacation time, pastors often find themselves stressed and spiritually depleted over the years.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining strong, effective, and long-term pastoral leadership, it is the desire of Hayward Wesleyan Church to provide a time of personal and spiritual refreshment and professional growth for the pastors.

Sabbatical Policy

  1. The term "sabbatical" means the pastor is relieved of all routine and emergency duties during the time granted.  Prior to the sabbatical the pastoral and church leadership will develop a plan for covering the pastor's duties during the absence. Sabbatical is separate and distinct from accrued vacation. No vacation time should be used within 4 weeks before or after sabbatical.
  2. All pastoral staff shall be eligible for sabbatical upon completion of seven years of service at Hayward Wesleyan Church. Eligibility will be reached following the staff member's anniversary date.
  3. A sabbatical is not an entitlement, but a gift from the congregation.  A request for sabbatical leave may be denied by the board for any reason.
  4. Eight weeks of sabbatical leave shall be allowed after each seven-year period of full time pastoral employment at Hayward Wesleyan Church.
  5. Scheduling shall be based on seniority at Hayward Wesleyan Church. No two pastors may be on sabbatical at the same time. Leave should be taken within one year of eligibility, unless other arrangements are approved by the board.
  6. The entire sabbatical must be taken at one time, Sabbatical leave for less than eight weeks may be approved, but the unused portion may not be taken at another time or used in any other way.
  7. The senior pastor shall submit a sabbatical proposal in writing to the Church Board outlining how the time will be used. Other pastoral staff shall first present a written request to the senior pastor following the same guidelines. The request shall then be presented to the Church Board for final approval.
  8. The proposal should include the following: 
    • type of ministry-related activity planned for sabbatical;
    • other plans for physical rest, personal recreation, family responsibilities, intellectual stimulation, and spiritual renewal;
    • strategy for coverage during the sabbatical
  9. A written report shall be presented to the Church Board at the conclusion of the sabbatical. It should include how the time was invested and what benefits were realized. 
  10. The pastor's full wages and benefits shall continue during the sabbatical. No compensation shall be given for unused sabbatical time. 
  11. The Church Board shall address exceptions to the above policy on a case-by-case basis.


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