It might be surprising for those of us in ministry to hear how business employers on’s  list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For provide their employees the opportunity for sabbatical. In a number of these companies it is not just management, but the rank and file employees, who after a number of years of service, can apply and receive sabbatical (and yes, just in case you are wondering, this is in addition to their PTO/ vacation hours).  It seems the work/rest paradigm for employees, when rightly administered provides something highly attractive and beneficial for a company; qualities of faithfulness, longevity and effectiveness.  The impact is desirable as it is substantial!

Oftentimes though, within both the Church and Christian service ministries, well-crafted policies of work and rest is not always clearly articulated.  It can also be true when a sabbatical is implemented for the leader, it is not administered for the maximum benefit to all parties.  For many organizations then, the sabbatical becomes something which at a minimum can provide a much valued break from work for the leader, but it is not always as beneficial and fruitful as it could be.

When a sabbatical is not well planned or executed the experience often results in…

  • a loss of time
  • a loss of opportunity
  • a loss of vision

A loss of time that could have been enormously refreshing and restorative for the leader!

A loss of opportunity to tend to the deeper patterns of growing and transformation within the life of a leader relating to God, to others and to self – each vital and all necessary to sustain faithfulness for a lifetime.

A loss of creating a new vision for engaging life, ministry, leading others; and moving the ministry or organization forward.

A sabbatical, simply described, is an extended time of letting go of responsibilities and tasks of work for a specific and intended purpose!  The fruit of this well-purposed time benefits not just the individual but the organizations they serve.

For the Ministry Leader sabbatical provide…

  • Rest
  • Revitalizing
  • Re-visioning

Resting at a deep and soul level. Revitalizing the essential and vital capacities of a leader –  mind, body,  spirit – how each intersect with one-another and become essential for sustaining faithfulness for a lifetime. Re-visioning the work / rest paradigm practiced and then living this out in true healthiness within the places they serve.

For the Congregation a sabbatical often provides…

  • a shepherd / leader returning with greater energy and vision to serve
  • a team that has become empowered with leadership genuinely shared – sabbaticals can provide an opportunity to grow and develop others in the absence of the leader
  • a healthier culture of work/ rest within the organization that stimulates faithfulness and fruitful service in all

Successful and fruitful sabbaticals are not an accident! They occur when there is…

  1. A well-developed policy for entering and being on sabbatical.
  2. Oversight and Care: administered and tended to with purpose (intentionality)
  3. Participation within the organization is  both expected and part of a larger picture of the soul care of leadership

To read more Sabbatical Support and Policy click here

If you know someone interested in taking a sabbatical this year or have questions about…

  • understanding  how sabbatical fit into the larger category of soul care of your leadership and team
  • what kind of things to include when drafting a policy for sabbatical for ministry leaders
  • how planning a sabbatical can tend to the deeper needs of rest, revitalizing and re-visioning  in your life
  • how oversight and a sabbatical coach can be of assistance for the ministry leader during on sabbatical

Click here to contact Gracebridge Alliance

Testimonials from Ministry Leaders on Sabbatical

“We had never been through a sabbatical before, Mark brought a voice of experience, making us all more confident in the process.  While I was on sabbatical, Mark maintained regular contact, not only with me, but with my Elders and leadership team. He made a daunting process more manageable; my Sabbatical became more than an “extended vacation” as I was guided through the necessary stages of rest, revitalization, and re-visioning my life and ministry”.  Neal – Lead Pastor

 “Our church found sabbatical coaching provided by Gracebridge to be an invaluable resource during my sabbatical for supporting me as the Senior Pastor to make the most of my sabbatical and also as an important linkage between the Church Council and the Senior Pastor before, during and after the sabbatical.”  Matt – Senior Pastor

“Gracebridge Alliance knows the realities of full-time ministry.  In particular, the toll that full-time ministry can take on one’s identity and relationship with our Heavenly Father. Gracebridge Alliance  offers  to us a great reminder that my identity as a pastor is not based on the success of my church and that my Heavenly Father is not a product to be peddled.  In our times together, he has helped me identify unhealthy patterns and areas of needed rest in my life, but his approach is not top-town.  He is a fellow traveler who is well aware of the dangers and pitfalls that exists for those of us in the “business” of caring for others.  His story encourages me and pushes me toward seeking the silence and solitude that is so vital in my spiritual journey.” Tyler – Lead Pastor 



5 Tips for Planning a Successful Sabbatical

  1. Plan with plenty of time in advance of your actual sabbatical (6 – 12 months min.)
  2. Identify the chief purpose of your sabbatical
  3. Engage your leadership team in planning
  4. Develop a plan for responding to emergencies and crisis (not involving you)
  5. Find someone to be a coach or a spiritual friend to accompany you