This past October I was blessed to have a Sabbatical. In our denomination our district encourages churches to give pastors a 4-6 week sabbatical every 5 years. I took 5 weeks for my sabbatical. Through that experience and the advice of others I learned a few things that helped make my sabbatical a time of relaxation, renewal, learning, and growth. I am aware that many of you may not be in situations where taking a sabbatical is an option. I would encourage you to consider applying some of these to other times away to relax.
1) Before you depart on your sabbatical equip your volunteers who are running the ministry in your absence to succeed.
This not only helps the ministry, but I found that it really helped me not to worry about the ministry while I was away.
2) Do not treat this like an extended vacation. It’s much deeper than that, and take that seriously.
3) Take the first 2-3 days as a personal prayer retreat of some type.
This really helped me get rid of all the baggage and distractions from ministry. I got this idea from my senior pastor. He usually goes backpacking and hunting in the mountains for 3 days. If I tried to do that I would have been found dead somewhere. So, instead I rented a rustic cabin at a state park. The picture in this post is the cabin I stayed in. During those 3 days I did a bunch of reading, hiking, praying, and writing. I can’t overstate how beneficial this personal retreat was for my state of mind for the rest of my sabbatical.
4) Do not take calls, texts, or any other form of communication from your church.
For my sabbatical I had one person as my contact at our church. He was the only one that I would answer phone calls or texts from. Everyone knew that if they needed to get a hold of me they had to go through him. Make sure that you pick someone who knows what is important for you to know right away and what can wait. My contact was amazing at this, and he only texted me 4 times the entire month I was away. That really helped me to be truly “away”.
5) Experience life.
I had to work really hard on this. Turn off that critiquing voice, and don’t do your usual thinking about ways that you could use something for your ministry. Let God just work on YOU during this time. Just BE!
6) Get out into nature as much as you can.
7) Start a prayer journal.
8) Have one project to do, but don’t stress about actually getting it done.
9) Visit other ministries.
When else as a pastor do you have time to visit other churches?
10) Do things that feed your soul.
11) When you get back make sure that you let your church know how much you appreciated this time away.
These are just a few things I found to help me during my sabbatical. What are some other things that have helped you during your sabbatical or other times away?