Ministry Sabbatical Planning Tutorial - Congregation

The following questions may be a helpful guide in developing a sabbatical plan and then communicating it to the congregation: 

  • What are the issues or challenges that could bring health and hope to the congregation during this three month period?
  • What are the resources available to facilitate any process work that is done? 
  • Do the people in our church understand the concept of sabbatical?  
  • What can we do to help them with an understanding? (It can take up to two years for proper preparation of the membership) 
  • Are the leaders of our congregation supportive of the concept of ministry sabbatical? 
  • Is there sufficient trust in our relationship to have a sabbatical?
  • Is there an understanding that sabbatical time will provide the opportunity for health and growth for the congregation as well as the ministry leader? 
  • Is there a policy in place for sabbaticals for all the ministry leaders here? (A policy is a first step.) 
  • Is there a plan in place to make provisions for ongoing ministry during the ministry leader’s absence? 
    • Pastoral care 
    • Administrative oversight 
    • Supervision of staff 
    • Management of programs 
    • Pulpit supply 
  • Should we create a committee or task force to help manage the sabbatical planning? 
  • Would we benefit from teams that would manage areas of ministry in the ministry leader's absence? 
  • Are there other trusted people available to fill in for the ministry leader during the sabbatical time? 
  • What will the sabbatical cost? (Normally the ministry leader's full salary and benefits are paid during the sabbatical time. Car allowance/mileage may or may not be included) 
  • What additional costs will there be to the church? 
  • What additional costs will the ministry leader experience during the sabbatical?  
  • What personal or professional issues does the ministry leader hope to address during the sabbatical? 
  • What issues should the congregation be addressing during this time? 
  • As the time for sabbatical comes closer would it be possible to plan a special blessing or liturgy to mark the event? 
  • Is there a re-entry plan in place prior to the sabbatical beginning?  
  • How will the ministry leader report on the sabbatical experience? 
  • Whom does the ministry leader need to spend intentional time reconnecting with when returning? 
  • What roles will need to be re-negotiated? 
  • What expectations will need to be addressed? 
  • Would the ministry leader benefit from a coach as the sabbatical plan is developed? 
  • Would the congregation benefit from coaching to develop a sabbatical policy and plan? 
  • Will the ministry leader be able to maintain a “complete absence” from the congregation even when remaining in town? 
  • How will emergency situations be handled? 
  • Will there be any restrictions placed on the ministry leader following the sabbatical?  
  • What should the ministry leader be doing intentionally to prepare staff, leaders, and members for the sabbatical? 
  • How do we see this sabbatical helping the congregation with renewal? 
  • How can a sabbatical help in maintaining long term relationships with professional church ministry leaders? 
  • What will be different for the ministry leader and the congregation during the sabbatical time? 
  • What will remain the same for the ministry leader and for the congregation? 
  • What ethical issues should be discussed prior to the sabbatical? (e.g. Is it appropriate to use sabbatical time to explore or pursue other jobs or calls? Is it appropriate for the church to review its relationship with the ministry leader who is gone?)