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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.