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Does Your Church Have a Sabbatical Leave Policy?

The role of pastor is extremely stressful. In effect, he/she is never off duty. This long-term stress takes a toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. Churches that want to keep their pastor for many years must provide him/her with a season of rest. I recommend that all full-time pastors and staff receive a three-month paid sabbatical every six or seven years.

The Battle Wounded …

Consider the following statistics[i]:

  • 23 percent of pastors have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25 percent of pastors don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal issue.
  • 45 percent of pastors say that they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence.
  • 56 percent of pastors’ spouses say that they have no close friends.
  • 70 percent don’t have any close friends.
  • 75 percent report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation.
  • 80 percent say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94 percent feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

Time for Some R & R …

Universities and colleges have given professors sabbaticals for many years. Originally modeled on the biblical cycle of work and rest, professors receive a sabbatical for research, writing, travel and rest every seven years.

Many churches today find that by providing a regular sabbatical for their pastors, they are able to keep them for a longer period of time. And, as I mentioned in an earlier article here, there is a direct relationship between pastoral longevity and church growth.

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Charles Arn is Visiting Professor of Outreach at the new Wesley Seminary (Marion, IN). He has written twelve books in the field of congregational health and growth, including What Every Pastor Should Know (2013) and Side Door (2013).