Staff development opportunities and sabbaticals for our rostered ministers are encouraged as a way to boost wellness and offer spiritual renewal. The synod is here to support congregations and leaders through this process.
Why a Sabbatical?
Sabbaticals are not just an “extra vacation” for the leader of your congregation. It is a benefit, to be sure, and it is one that we hope congregations will offer for their leaders. Sabbaticals are best designed as a balance of structured learning time and time for rest and renewal. Many church staff work unusual hours — evenings, weekends, holidays — and can become disconnected from their families and social circles. Additionally, the daily work of ministry tends to take attention and energy away from deep matters that will support effective leadership. We know that leaders lead best when they have periods of renewal. This should be the guiding principle as you plan: what would provide a true sense of renewal for ministry? This will mean renewal for the congregation as well as the leader!
Planning for a Sabbatical
Our synod compensation guidelines recommend a sabbatical of six weeks to three months (with full pay) every six years of service in a call. The rostered minister is expected to return to the present call for at least one year following the sabbatical. This should be specified in the call paperwork.
Every congregation will plan for a sabbatical differently. It is important for both the leader and the congregation to plan ahead. Things that need to be considered include:
- a meaningful plan for the sabbatical
- funding (consider establishing a fund you pay into each year so that it will not be a problem when it comes time for a sabbatical; you may also consider applying for a grant)
- coverage during the leader’s absence
- reporting upon their return.
Sabbatical Support from the Synod
The synod may be able to help you with pastoral coverage during your leader’s sabbatical. First, be clear about what you need: preaching only, visitation, or full-time coverage. We do not place people in congregations for sabbatical coverage, but we can give you a list of people to contact. We also keep a list of rostered ministers interested in doing supply preaching on our website. When you are ready to discuss what coverage you will need, contact the synod office.
The synod offers small support grants to offset the cost for a congregation whose leader is taking a sabbatical. Grants of up to $1000 are available to support the sabbatical of a rostered minister, to be divided as follows:
- $500 to the congregation (designed to offset costs of supply preaching or part-time staff)
- $500 to the leader to help defray the costs of sabbatical plans
Grants are available throughout the year as funds are available. To apply, the rostered minister and congregation president need to sign off on a brief proposal outlining how the funds will be allocated. Send this proposal to Anna Marsh, executive assistant to the bishop, at email@example.com.
We know this is a modest amount of money. There are many organizations who provide resources and funds for sabbaticals, including the Louisville Institute and the Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Programs.
Staff Development Grants
Some ministry sites provide regular opportunities for staff development, while others are unable to do so because of financial limitations. In response, the synod is offering grants of up to $500 to help cover the cost of a staff development plan such as going on a retreat, attending a workshop, hiring a speaker or consultant, etc. We encourage you to think together about what would boost wellness, offer spiritual renewal, foster healthier staff dynamics, help work through transition, or otherwise build your capacity for ministry. Congregations may partner together and pool their grant funds.
To apply, send a brief proposal with an itemized budget to Anna Marsh, executive assistant to the bishop, at firstname.lastname@example.org.