The Importance of a Sabbatical

sabbaticalOne great tool for pastoral effectiveness and longevity is taking a sabbatical.  When well-designed, the refreshment and learning a pastor can do will enrich the congregation for years to come.  Here’s one pastor’s reflection on his sabbatical experience;  from Brian Horrobin, Pastor at Wallaceburg First Baptist. 

One Pastor’s Sabbatical Experience: Lessons Learned

I enjoyed a refreshing time away on sabbatical in 2014 (May 12-July 29) and learned many lessons along the way. Here are five of those lessons:

  1. It is neither a vacation nor a stress leave.
    Our board did a great job of educating the congregation prior to the sabbatical with announcements, a special meeting, and a power point presentation, but there were still some who thought I was getting the ride of my life, and others who thought I was feeling burned out and needed the time away. The great thing for me was to have this leave BEFORE I got burned out!
  2. Some people seem to have more emergencies.
    I found that I had to have my wife screen calls and run interference for me at the house, and I also had to actually “get out of town” a few times in order to avoid pastoral issues that would not let up. Despite having another pastor in my pulpit and church leaders available for people, nonetheless, some felt they absolutely had to see the pastor. I wrestled a little with guilt but held my ground and let our leaders handle it.
  3. I slept, read my Bible, and prayed a lot.
    Okay, so you can’t really measure these items on a nice flow chart or performance review, but I must say, nothing can compare with spending lots and lots of unhindered time alone with the Lord in prayer and in His Word. It is restful to the soul, and the extra sleep helped to recharge the body. As far as I’m concerned, this was an essential component for the time away and occupied some part of each day, some more than others.
  4. I attended as many different churches as possible.
    I purposely endeavoured to get out of my comfort zone and expose myself to a broad spectrum of worship experiences across the Body of Christ. I wasn’t disappointed! I relished these opportunities to spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ and get out of my own pastoral rut. Each experience was a blessing and enhanced my time of soul restoration.
  5. I took advantage of an open heaven.
    With the persistent pressure of meetings, counselling, and appointments off the radar for 11 weeks, I found that God’s voice was as clear to me as it ever was. With very little effort I received sermon series after sermon series for upcoming services — for the next three and a half years! I also did some other writing that I generally have no time to do during the course of a normal ministry schedule. It was glorious!

Take time for Sabbath!

Brian Horrobin
First Baptist Church,
Wallaceburg, ON

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