I’m going to be honest up front, I’m conflicted about the churches practice of giving pastors Sabbaticals for a number of reasons. I’m ready to be convinced, but as yet I’m not convinced that sabbaticals are biblical for pastors. As far as I can see it’s the land that has a Sabbath year in all the Old Testament passages that are used to justify this practice. It is not the priests or the prophets or the king or the people but the land.
And why do we apply it to full-time paid ministers of the gospel but not to others who minister so hard alongside other work? Shouldn’t the Sunday School teacher, the elder, the deacon, the toddler group leader, enjoy a similar rest?
And practically how does a Sabbatical work in a small church with one pastor and no other full-time workers? And what does it say to our church family if pastors, as many I know of do, go to church elsewhere during a sabbatical? And why would we want to?
And finally what will the guys I know who work on the railways, or in a warehouse, make of a pastor who has 3 months off? (I know it isn’t off, it can be used productively for study or writing, but that’s how they see it). How weird is that, I think it will just be another barrier to the gospel, some weird middle class church practice, a million miles away from working class realities proving yet again church isn’t for them..
These are just a few of my issues with Sabbaticals; theological, ecclesiological, practical and evangelistic. But I wonder if my biggest issue with it is that as pastors and churches we are buying into the worldly way of binge resting. Work, work, work at a burn out pace and then collapse into a period of rest. Is it a sign that we are not enabling pastors to rest well so that their work is sustainably paced to endure and thrive and produce fruit over the long-term? Is it that as pastors we have an overactive Messiah complex so we work ourselves into the ground until we need a break? Is it that our diaries are so full that there is no time to read, take time out for long term planning, visit other places etc… In which case we need to look at our diaries.
I’d love anyones thoughts on Sabbaticals.