Suggested Guidelines for Ordained Clergy Sabbatical

NIS Ministerial Support October 17, 2007 – Revision #2 Pr. Bob Hansen


Sabbaticals have been recommended by the Bishop’s Office to sustain clergy health and renewal through a break in routine. These guidelines are offered in order that congregations and clergy may follow a helpful path in Sabbatical planning.

Getting started with Advanced Planning

  1. When establishing a call agreement between the church and their new pastor it is important to include sabbatical planning
  2. Sabbaticals can be placed on the calendar for the 7th year of the call.
  3. The 3 month allotment of time is best taken June-August of that 7th year.
  4. Monies can be placed in trust to cover the leave time of the pastor.
    • This fund is contributed to on a monthly basis for the 7 years before the Sabbatical. Then it can be an ongoing! fund for the future.
    • Interim pastor for the whole three months including visitation.
    • It is best to come to an agreement with the interim pastor for the total coverage cost so that there are no surprises.
    • Budgeting must include the normal pastor’s salary which continues unhampered during the 3 months.
    • Please include all health and pension benefits in budget planning.
  5. Deposits of salary increments is recommended into the bank of the pastors choosing. Direct deposit or permission for deposit which is a signed agreement between the church treasurer, bank official and pastor.

Help in Financing

  1. A church may apply for partial or total coverage for their pastor’s sabbatical through major endowment corporations such as:
    • The Lilly Foundation or the Wheatridge Foundation: current information and application can be found on the Internet.
    • Please allow two years for the application, especially for the Lilly Grant. i) They are detailed and comprehensive.
      • The pastor is even asked to fill out a proposal form. iii) There are a limited number of grants available.
      • When a lack of information is evident the church may still have time to meet submission deadlines if the application is early.
    • There are the possibilities of securing funds through endowment organizations in the Synod from churches who have laid aside huge memorials for this purpose.

Help in Planning a Sabbatical

  1. The pastor is not required to use the Sabbatical as another ministry such a missionary work, writing papers, working for the Synod.
  2. The time off is primarily for rest and renewal. If the pastor chooses to do a special ministry task it is recommended that it be done in a minimal time period and low stress.
  3. The Sabbatical needs to be honored by the congregation and the pastor. That means no funerals, no marriages, no baptisms, no counseling and limited contact with the pastor during this three months. This provides the possibility a clear and fresh perspective upon return.
  4. Pastors are encouraged to talk with others who have had a successful Sabbatical planning experience. Contact the Synod office and neighboring Synod offices for names to call.

Benefits of the Sabbatical


  1. Adds to holistic health and renewal
  2. Can lead to long term calls and pastors not leaving the ministry too soon.
  3. The Sabbatical leads to new perspectives, clearer vision for a pastor’s leadership and spiritual renewal.


  1. Sabbatical offerings can enrich the call process because this is a great benefit to be worked toward.
  2. The call process is typically long and most congregations find it stabilizing to have long term pastorates over short term.
  3. The sabbatical is a contribution to the whole church and the welfare of the pastor who is called by God to serve the wider church as well as the individual one called to.