Our Sabbatical Support Services provide information on minister sabbaticals. To see an overview of how we can support you and your congregation, see our Sabbatical Support Services brochure.
Feel free to contact Diane Pletcher, Field Employment Services Coordinator at Unity Worldwide Ministries if you need clarity or have further questions: DPletcher@unity.org or 816.434.6866.
Some questions that often come up:
- What is a sabbatical?
- What are the benefits to the minister?
- What are the benefits to the ministry?
- Who will pay for the sabbatical?
- Who will oversee the ministry during the minister's sabbatical?
- What is the congregation's role during the sabbatical?
What is a sabbatical?
The word sabbatical has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath (to rest or to cease). Sabbath keeping is setting aside time for spiritual renewal. Sabbatical leave is a time for ministers to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and return refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. It is not a time for routine work.
Sabbatical is much more than a vacation from meetings, budgets, sermons, and people in need. It is a time for a minister to receive spiritual nourishment and to deepen a relationship with God, self, and family. In short, a sabbatical is a time of spiritual growth.
Who will oversee the church during the minister's sabbatical?
A sabbatical minister will serve temporarily as the senior minister. He/she will oversee all the responsibilities currently handled by the senior minister. The board, staff, and volunteers will continue to serve in their roles as leaders in the ministry. They will work with the sabbatical minister.
"I have truly been blessed in the last 12 years to take 2 three-month sabbaticals at Unity Minneapolis. I have come back rested, renewed, with tremendous energy and new ideas. I believe it would be very challenging to be in a ministry for 12 years without the sabbaticals. And I am grateful that my community planned for it financially as well as coverage for me." ~ Rev. Pat Williamson, Unity Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN
Why do ministers go on sabbatical?
It is true the very nature of being an effective minister involves continual spiritual growth. Such growth does not happen automatically however; it takes intentional work. Trying to do this while meeting the needs of other people is nearly impossible.
Without sabbaticals, there is a strong chance the minister will, over time, burn out. It has been documented that people in helping professions (like ministry) tend to burn out the fastest in part, at least, because the constant intimate involvement with the emotional weight of other people's lives can be draining.
Moreover, ministers are rarely afforded the luxury of having two consecutive days off every week like most laypeople enjoy. Many ministers, in fact, are reluctant to take vacation time - so strong is their commitment to service. Sabbaticals, then, make sense.
Statistics show that across denominations, fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches. Fifty percent of ministers' marriages will end in divorce. Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. Seventy percent fight depression.
Given these statistics, there can be no lingering doubt about the importance of sabbaticals.
- The temporary break of a sabbatical is important for those who are committed to ministry for the long haul.
- Helps a minister avoid burn out.
- Gives time for a minister to provide family support and prioritization.
- Inspires a minister to higher levels of ministry.
- Helps facilitate spiritual rejuvenation.
- Congregations report that when their ministers come back from sabbatical, they are more productive. They bring fresh ideas and new spiritual energy back from their time of renewal.
What can the congregation do to support the minister while he/she is on sabbatical?
- Hold their minister in prayer as she/he reflects, renews, and restores.
- Continue coming to church to support the speakers, the programs, the community and, most of all, their own spiritual growth.
- Honor the time of rest and renewal for the minister by not calling or emailing them.
Sabbatical Support Team
Staff - Diane Pletcher
Chair - Sophia Falke
The purpose of this team is to support both active Unity ministers and Unity ministries by providing sabbatical ministers and materials.