Planning a Sabbatical


It is recommended that congregations consider the sabbatical time for their ministry leader as a time of health and hope for the congregation and its lay leaders. Thoughtful planning is important for achieving a positive experience for the ministry leader and the congregation.

Ministry Leader Sabbatical Planning

Ministry sabbaticals are normally three months of renewal leave often taken at one time. Roy Oswald, a senior consultant with The Alban Institute, recommends that those in ministry would benefit from a sabbatical every 4 to 7 years.  

Sabbatical plans are very different and unique, reflecting the needs and personality of the ministry leader. They are times for individual rest, spiritual renewal, new relationships, and intellectual growth. There also may be time for family and travel. The bottom line is that it is a time “to not do what you normally do.”  

The Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America suggests three key elements be included in Ministry Sabbaticals: 

• A time for personal relaxation. 

• A time to pursue personal interests. 

• A time of renewal around things that will directly benefit the congregation.

Congregation Sabbatical Planning

Congregation planning should be done by the same team or task force that is assisting in the sabbatical planning for the ministry leader. Budgeting for increased expenses will be necessary. Setting aside a small portion over several years can reduce the financial impact during the sabbatical year. The congregation sabbatical focus could be connected to the focus of the pastor’s sabbatical but it also could focus on special congregational needs or interests.  

Ministry leaders and congregations can have significant fears related to the concept of a ministry sabbatical. Discussing and addressing these fears is critical to sabbatical success. Members may fear “What will become of us if our pastor is gone for three months?” Professional workers may fear another person filling their leadership role. The congregation sabbatical planning should address these fears.  

Coaching is available to assist you in making the congregational sabbatical a priority and to help in the planning so the time will be used well to support congregational health and hope. Contact one of our coaches for confidential coaching assistance:

                    Rev. Tim Fangmeier: Email -          Phone - 704.641.5811

                    Rev. Art Umbach: Email -            Phone - 804.512.0723