Sabbatical Leave

Another section of the Staff Policy Manual

The Executive Pastor Is An HR ManagerAs a part of YOUR CHURCH’s overall commitment to staff personal development, all full-time pastoral staff members are offered sabbatical leave during key junctures in their ministries.

A key spiritual principle taught throughout scripture is the rhythm of working, and then ceasing for a time from our work. God himself modeled this for us. Genesis 2:2-3 states, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” The Hebrew word for “rest” is “Shabbat,” which simply means “to stop or cease.”

Since God modeled rest (“Shabbat”) for us, it should come as no surprise that God’s people were commanded to follow his example and rest (“Shabbat”) as well.  “Remember the Sabbath (Shabbat) day by keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8).” The rhythm of working and resting is a divinely modeled and commanded principle.

Throughout church history Christians have recognized the need not only to rest on a weekly basis from their own labors, but to also provide rest (“Shabbat”) for their church leaders as a way to invest in their lives and increase their ministerial productivity and longevity.

Woven throughout the fabric of congregational life are its pastors – spiritual guides, scholars, counselors, preachers, administrators, confidants, teachers, pastoral visitors, and friends. Pastors perform their duties among a dizzying array of requests and unrealistic expectations. Congregations are not always easy places, and the responsibilities can sometimes wear down the best pastors. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, but requires a balance of intelligence, love, humility, compassion, and endurance. Most importantly, it demands that pastors remain in touch with the source of their life and strength. Like all people of faith, good pastors need moments to renew and refresh their energies and enthusiasm to avoid burnout.

Today the concept of a sabbatical is widely recognized as a necessity for allowing busy and worn down pastors the opportunity to take an extended break for renewal and refreshment. It’s beneficial to the pastors within a church, as well as to the congregation. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Sabbaticals increase longevity – Studies show that a pastor’s greatest season of effectiveness occurs after 10 years of full-time service within the same congregation. Therefore one of the greatest investments a church can make is to invest in a pastor’s long-term personal growth and renewal.
  2. Sabbaticals retain pastors, reducing cost – It’s expensive to replace a pastoral staff member. The time it takes to search for a candidate, cover responsibilities in their absence, fly candidates in and out for interviews, cover moving expenses, etc., all weigh heavily on a congregation’s budget. Strategically providing sabbatical time for renewal saves the church from losing both momentum and money over the long haul.

YOUR CHURCH’s sabbatical leave policy includes the following details:

  • After completing seven years of full-time service at the church, a pastor who is in good standing with the congregation will submit a proposal to the Senior Pastor for sabbatical leave.
  • A successful sabbatical proposal will include a detailed outline of how they will accomplish the following three items during their time away: (1) a vacation experience for the pastor’s family (2) three sessions of counseling for the pastor with a licensed Christian counselor and (3) some kind of learning experience (ex. conferences, meeting with a ministry mentor, etc.). The pastor is encouraged to be creative and design an experience which will truly be exciting and refreshing.
  • Once the proposal has been accepted the pastor will be granted one month off with pay. In addition, he or she will be given a stipend equal to one month’s salary to pay for the sabbatical experience.
  • The sabbatical stipend will appear on the pastor’s W-2, and as such is subject to taxation. Pastors taking a sabbatical should consult their tax advisor for appropriate steps to compensate for how that will affect their taxes.
  • Upon return from the sabbatical the pastor will meet with the Senior Pastor to reflect upon what insights were gleaned during the sabbatical experience and to celebrate what God has been doing in that pastor’s life.
  • During the sabbatical experience the pastor will be encouraged to make provisions to completely disengage for their pastoral duties (ex. turning off cell phones, having another staff member answer e-mails, worshipping at another church, etc.).
  • Pastors who faithfully and sacrificially serve at the church beyond the seven year mark will be available to submit proposals for additional sabbatical leave in the following increments:

Years of Service*

Sabbatical Duration

Stipend Amount


1 Month

1 Month’s Salary


1 Month

1 Month’s Salary


1.5 Months

1.5 Month’s Salary


1.5 Months

1.5 Month’s Salary


2 Months

2 Month’s Salary


2 Months

2 Month’s Salary

* For the purpose of calculating years of service, only full-time service will be considered.

Previous or Next Section
Return to Table of Contents

Related Posts:

Staff Policy Manual
The Management System – Form, Fit, And Function
The “New” Management System
The Real Purpose Of “Systems”

  • Kevin M. Stone

    Hi Emanuele!

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • Emanuele

    There is some great stuff from Pete Scazzero on Sabbatical and the process. We have this in our manual as well and our senior pastor took Sabbatical last year for three months and it was so fruitful to him and the body. What we found was it took a while for the individuals in Sabbatical to “rest” from their work and then move into a time of hearing from God and being still before Him. We also found that it gave other leaders an opportunity to step in and lead.