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One of the greatest things a church can do for its' pastor.
This is from Southbridge Fellowship, Raleigh, NC.
More churches should adapt this policy.
What is a “sabbatical”?
A sabbatical is an extended time away from the routines of normal ministry and daily life for enrichment, rest, renewal, and personal growth.
Where does the idea of a Sabbatical derive?
The word “sabbatical” has its roots in the Biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath-keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbath includes elements of rest, disengagement, study, exploration, reflection, and prayer. The concept of a sabbatical is rooted in scripture starting in Genesis when God illustrates His desired rhythm of six days hard work, with one day of rest. Sabbatical is also mentioned in Leviticus 25:1-5, as God commanded the Israelites to let the land rest one year out of every seven. During the seventh year, they are allowed to eat what the land produces, but they must let it grow wild. The sabbatical year of release is also discussed in Deuteronomy 15.
What is Southbridge’s official Sabbatical Policy?
In 2019, the Elders / Leadership Team at Southbridge instituted a Sabbatical Policy for the pastors of our church. This policy states that, "the Lead Pastor is eligible for up to twelve weeks of sabbatical every seventh year of continuous service. All other pastors are eligible for up to eight weeks every seventh year of continuous service.”
Why does Southbridge have a Sabbatical Policy?
Our desire is to create a culture that proactively protects and cares for our pastors in hopes of increasing their longevity and effectiveness as they fulfill their calling in ministry.There are many studies and statistics that point to the negative, long-term effects of Pastors without rest. We believe that one of the most important roles we play as elders is ensuring that our pastors are fully able to be used by God to healthily lead this church to fulfill its mission of connecting people to Jesus for life change.
A sabbatical recognizes the often depleting, 24 hours a day nature of full-time pastoral ministry, both on the individual and his family. A sabbatical fulfills the scriptural admonition in I Timothy 5:17 that we are to give double honor to those who labor well among us. Based on our belief that we work hard for the Lord and then rest, we believe it is wise to offer a special time of rest after an extended period of hard work.
Do studies that show the negative effects of pastors who do not have a Sabbatical?
Unfortunately, yes. According to statistics from Barna Research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, 80% of pastors feel discouraged in their roles. 50% of pastors say they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living. 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates leave the ministry within the first 5 years. 70% of pastors constantly fight depression. Only 1 out of 10 pastors retire as a pastor.
We desire to create a culture at Southbridge where these statistics don’t play out.
Is the “Sabbatical” code for “something is wrong”?
Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, things are going well at the church. While you may just now be hearing about this, Pastor Scott will be taking a well-deserved Sabbatical this summer. He was previously approved and scheduled to take a sabbatical during the summer of 2020, but due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the pandemic and culture, he and the Elders / Leadership Team thought it best to postpone until a later time. Now, after fifteen years of service to Southbridge, since planting the church in 2006, the Elders / Leadership Team have approved Pastor Scott’s request to take his sabbatical this summer.
Is the “Sabbatical” something to celebrate?
ABSOLUTELY! We are celebrating Pastor Scott’s calling and leadership here at Southbridge as Lead Pastor. We know that ministry for a pastor is not simply a “Nine-to-Five” job and pastors are on-call 24/7. Pastors celebrate in life’s joys and yet in the next minute, will be mourning and weeping with those who are hurting. We love our pastors at Southbridge and we celebrate the ways that God is using them. We celebrate the opportunity to provide a sabbatical for Pastor Scott as it points to how the Lord has used him thus far and will continue to do so. This sabbatical aims to provide an opportunity for Pastor Scott to rest, recharge, and be renewed for the next season of ministry here at Southbridge. This will also be an encouragement for his family as well as they continue to pursue the Lord in all the great things He is doing in their midst.