Developing a Sabbatical Policy
The word "sabbatical" is derived from "Sabbath," and is an extended ceasing of ministry work. Sabbaticals provide a minister with space for prayer, rest, study, and decision-making. And, when implemented with wisdom and intention, create an opportunity to develop greater self-awareness, spiritual depth, and a renewed energy and zeal for ministry work.
Why a sabbatical policy?
Once a church has decided to implement proactive, healthy sabbaticals for their ministry staff, it is extremely useful to have a sabbatical policy. The following are reasons why this is beneficial:
Formulating a policy provides the opportunity for the ministry staff, eldership, board, leadership, etc. to proactively discuss what a sabbatical can be, and for what purposes it is beneficial.
A policy formulation process moves the discussion from personal opinions (staff and non-staff) surrounding sabbaticals, toward an educated, research-based process to draw conclusions regarding sabbatical principles and their implementation in the local church.
A policy helps facilitate a proactive culture of minister health, replacing countless hours of reactionary discussions regarding an individual minister’s current “need”, etc.
A policy can flush out details regarding frequency, length, finances, and accountability surrounding the sabbatical.
A policy can then be presented to the church with confidence, having been spiritually processed, thoroughly discussed, and concluded upon. Then, when it is time for a minister to take a sabbatical, the church will have been previously “foretold.” They will have confidence in the process, and security that their spiritual leaders are not “in trouble.” Those who may have questions or struggle with a sabbatical can then be directed to appropriate avenues to help resolve their questions.
A policy can greatly reduce the fear, shame, guilt, and hesitancy ministers and their families can feel in advocating for their own well-being. A policy’s presence communicates that it is not a “personal” issue, but a principled one, rooted in Biblical wisdom and carefully executed. This greatly enhances the minister’s ability to receive what they should on a sabbatical, especially for those more “accused” or from “workaholic” type backgrounds.
A policy can be shared in an interview process to demonstrate the leadership’s commitment to creating an environment of health for ministers and their families.
A policy can be revised as sabbaticals are practiced and wisdom is gained surrounding this practice.