Southbridge Sabbatical FAQs
WHAT IS A SABBATICAL?
A sabbatical is an extended time away from the routines of normal ministry and daily life for enrichment, rest, renewal, and personal growth.
WHERE DOES THE IDEA OF A SABBATICAL DERIVE?
The word “sabbatical” has its roots in the Biblical concept of Sabbath (“to rest” or “to cease”). Sabbath-keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. Sabbath includes elements of rest, disengagement, study, exploration, reflection, and prayer. The concept of a sabbatical is rooted in scripture starting in Genesis when God illustrates His desired rhythm of six days of hard work with one day of rest. Sabbatical is also mentioned in Leviticus 25:1-5, as God commanded the Israelites to let the land rest one year out of every seven. During the seventh year, they are allowed to eat what the land produces, but they must let it grow wild. The sabbatical year of release is also discussed in Deuteronomy 15.
WHAT IS SOUTHBRIDGE’S OFFICIAL SABBATICAL POLICY?
In 2019, the elders/leadership team at Southbridge instituted a Sabbatical Policy for the pastors of our church. This policy states that “the Lead Pastor is eligible for up to twelve weeks of sabbatical every seventh year of continuous service. All other pastors are eligible for up to eight weeks every seventh year of continuous service.”
WHY DOES SOUTHBRIDGE HAVE A SABBATICAL POLICY?
We desire to create a culture that proactively protects and cares for our pastors in hopes of increasing their longevity and effectiveness as they fulfill their calling in ministry. There are many studies and statistics that point to the adverse, long-term effects of Pastors without rest. We believe that one of the most important roles we play as elders is ensuring that our pastors are fully able to be used by God to healthily lead this church to fulfill its mission of connecting people to Jesus for life change.
A sabbatical recognizes the often depleting, 24 hours a day nature of full-time pastoral ministry, both for the individual and his family. A sabbatical fulfills the scriptural admonition in 1 Timothy 5:17 that we are to give double honor to those who labor well among us. Based on our belief that we work hard for the Lord and then rest, we believe it is wise to offer a special time of rest after an extended period of hard work.
ARE THERE STUDIES THAT SHOW THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PASTORS WHO DO NOT RECEIVE A SABBATICAL?
Unfortunately, yes. According to statistics from Barna Research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, 80% of pastors feel discouraged in their roles. 50% of pastors say they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living. 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates leave the ministry within the first five years. 70% of pastors constantly fight depression. Only 1 out of 10 pastors retire as a pastor. To see more stats, click here.
We desire to create a culture at Southbridge where these statistics don’t play out.
IS SABBATICAL CODE FOR SOMETHING IS WRONG?
Absolutely not. While you may just now be hearing about this, sabbaticals are planned and approved months in advance by the elders and pastor taking the sabbatical.
IS SABBATICAL SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE?
Yes! We know that ministry for a pastor is not simply a “Nine-to-Five” job, and pastors are on-call 24/7. Pastors celebrate in life’s joys, yet in the next minute, they will be mourning and weeping with those who are hurting. We love our pastors at Southbridge, and we celebrate how God is using them. A sabbatical aims to provide an opportunity for pastors to rest, recharge, and be renewed for the next season of ministry here at Southbridge. This will also be an encouragement for their family as they continue to pursue the Lord in all the great things He is doing in their midst.
THE CORPORATE WORLD DOESN’T OFFER A 3-MONTH HIATUS/VACATION TO EMPLOYEES. WHY DO PASTORS GET A SABBATICAL?
Great question. First, looking at the business world and pastoral ministry is like comparing apples and oranges. We know that ministry for a pastor is not simply a “Nine-to-Five” job, and pastors are on-call 24/7. Pastors celebrate in life’s joys, yet in the next minute, they will be mourning and weeping with those who are hurting. We love our pastors at Southbridge and we celebrate the ways that God is using them. We need them and after long seasons of hard, rigorous ministry that doesn’t stop, we need them to take a break for an extended period, so they can rest, recharge, and resume the responsibilities of their pastoral calling.
WHO WILL OVERSEE THE PASTOR’S RESPONSIBILITIES DURING THEIR ABSENCE?
The members of the elder team, alongside the pastoral team and staff, will ensure that responsibilities are covered during a pastor’s absence. We are thankful for such a dynamic team and gifted group of leaders that God has given to Southbridge. They all will play a crucial role in seeing that the Sabbatical is afforded without any responsibilities being missed.