Sabbatical Leave at Coastal

As a part of Coastal’s overall commitment to our staff, all full-time pastoral staff members are offered sabbatical leave during key junctures in their ministries. 

What does “Sabbatical” mean?

A key spiritual principle taught throughout scripture is the rhythm of working, and then ceasing for a time from our work. God himself modeled this for us. Genesis 2:2-3 says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” 

The Hebrew word for rest is “Shabbat”, which simply means to stop or cease. Since God modeled rest (Shabbat) for us, it should come as no surprise that God’s people were commanded to follow his example and rest (Shabbat) as well. “Remember the Sabbath (Shabbat) day by keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8).” The rhythm of working and resting is a divinely modeled and commanded principle. 

Why Sabbatical leave?

Woven throughout the fabric of congregational life are its pastors. They are always on-call and are asked to perform their duties among a dizzying array of requests and expectations. On top of that, they carry the spiritual and emotional burden of leading a large number of people, and walking with them through the highs and lows of life. Over time, the demands can wear down the best pastors. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, and requires a balance of intelligence, love, humility, compassion, and endurance. Most importantly, it demands that pastors remain in touch with the source of their life and strength. Like all people of faith, good pastors need moments to renew and refresh their energies and enthusiasm to avoid burnout. 

Today the concept of a sabbatical is widely recognized as a necessity for allowing pastors the opportunity to take an extended break from ministry duties for renewal and refreshment. It’s beneficial to the pastors within a church, as well as to the congregation. Why? Two reasons: 

  1. Sabbaticals increase longevity – Studies show that a pastor’s greatest season of effectiveness occurs after 10 years of full-time service within the same congregation. Therefore one of the greatest investments a church can make is to invest in a pastor’s long-term personal growth and renewal.

  2. Sabbaticals retain pastors, reducing cost – It’s expensive to replace a pastoral staff member. The time it takes to search for a candidate, cover responsibilities in their absence, fly candidates in and out for interviews, cover moving expenses, etc., all weigh heavily on a congregation’s budget. Strategically providing sabbatical time for renewal saves the church from losing both momentum and money over the long haul.

What does Sabbatical leave look like?

Coastal’s sabbatical leave policy includes the following details: 

After completing seven years of full-time service at Coastal, a full time pastor may submit a written proposal to their Staff Leader for a sabbatical. Four months prior to the start date of your proposed sabbatical, they must submit a written proposal of how their time will be spent. The proposal should include following items during their time away:

  • Some kind of learning experience (ex. conferences, meeting with a mentor, etc.).

  • Deliberate time for reflection (in many cases with a counselor)

  • Time set aside to rest (including a vacation experience with family)

Once the proposal has been accepted they will be granted time off with pay. This will not be counted against their allotted vacation time.

During the sabbatical experience, the pastor will make provisions to completely disengage from their pastoral duties: plan to have everything covered, put their cell phone down… to have another staff member answer e-mails, worship at another church, etc.

After they get back from sabbatical, they will meet with the Leadership Team to reflect upon what insights were gleaned during the sabbatical experience and to celebrate what God has been doing in their life.