• Require your full-time church workers to take a sabbatical every five to seven years.
• During their sabbaticals, church workers should completely disengage from their roles.
• Sabbaticals should be at least 12 to 15 weeks long.
• Congregations can help pay for sabbaticals by socking away about $100 a month for each full-time worker. Within five years, churches would have saved $6,000 to help pay sabbatical-related expenses, such as wages for temporary staff.
• Congregations are eligible for sabbatical grant opportunities. For more information about assistance programs, visit Wheat Ridge Ministries or the Lilly Endowment. Also see a resource from the New England Synod.
Every so often, Edgar L. Schambach Jr. felt as if he were dragging. The pastor had dedicated seven years to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Neb. During that time, illness rocked his family. Lung cancer took the life of his daughter. And his wife, Betty, the church’s director of congregational care and growth, battled breast cancer.
“I wasn’t burned out, but my batteries were depleted,” said Schambach, whose almost 30 years as a parish pastor have included calls in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio. “Some of that spark was gone, and it was harder to bear down and do well.”
Schambach and the members of Holy Trinity knew it was time for a breather. So the congregation hired a limousine last spring to whisk the couple away for a 13-week sabbatical. The goal was simple: They were to concentrate on renewal—of body, mind, heart and spirit.
“During that first week of sabbatical, it became clear how depleted we were,” Schambach said. “We needed time to reconnect with each other and our family.”
ELCA churches nationwide are paying more attention to the care and keeping of their pastors and full-time workers, such as youth directors and specialized ministry leaders. A growing number of congregations offer sabbaticals to keep their leaders invigorated.
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