What Does “Sabbatical” Mean for Joy Reigns?

By Jen Mabe, in News

The word “Sabbatical” draws from the Sabbath concept in scripture. The idea is a part of all our lives, on a small scale, as we use our weekends to do a different kind of work and to renew and prepare ourselves to plunge back into our Monday thru Friday lives. It’s a period of renewal before getting on with the business at hand. Sabbaticals are important to help ensure growth and renewal for the pastor, and thus also the ongoing health of the entire church and congregation.

It’s not a vacation from “being a pastor”; it’s a time for devotional, theological, pastoral, and personal reflection and renewal. It’s an intentional, planned time of doing, not escaping.

Various studies have given us some important statistics that support the need for pastoral sabbaticals, and the ELCA recommends them for each Pastor. Here are just a few of the statistics:

  • An ELCA study of active pastors a few years ago found 69% were overweight; 64% had high blood pressure; 13% were taking anti-depressants (a higher rate than the population at large, at the time of the study);
  • In general: 33% of ministers report burnout within their first 5 years; 52% say they/their spouses believe being in ministry is hazardous to their family’s health and well-being; 90% work more than 50 hours per week.

It’s for these and other reasons that a sabbatical is part of Pastor Sara’s contract.

Out of many possible questions congregations can have, a couple of initial ones have likely already occurred to you. They’re pretty basic and are probably typical of all of us:

What will Sundays be like? Who will I call in an emergency? What will we do “without a pastor”?

Please know—we will not be without a pastoral presence!

In faithful covenant with the Bishop and Clergy, as well as in faithful covenant with each other and with God, we can trust that we will never be alone.

Even though we’re very early in the process (the Sabbatical period won’t begin until 2019), we know this: The pastoral needs of Joy Reigns will be met fully and professionally, with love, care, and intentionality. Our congregational council, Pr. Sara, and this Sabbatical Team, along with the Synod, will see to it that resources are identified and plans made…we believe this may include some combination of both nearby and/or various retired clergy, as well as lay assistance. Joy Reigns—all of you—all of US—will be well cared for.

How are costs covered? Can we afford it?

We are applying for a Lily Grant, and so costs to Joy Reigns should be minimal if any at all. The grant will not only cover most of the costs, it will also provide up to $15K to the congregation to defray the cost of pastoral coverage. (We will continue to maintain Pr. Sara’s contracted compensation package, but that’s, of course, part of our ongoing expenses with or without the sabbatical.)

So in summary, we don’t believe Joy Reigns’ costs should increase, but we will need to welcome other pastoral care and coverage during the sabbatical period.

This is very early in the process—the grant application is due this April, but it will be a number of months before we know if the application has been approved—and the sabbatical won’t begin until Fall 2019.

As we move through the grant application and the planning processes, you’ll have questions. You’re encouraged to contact any member of the Council or the Sabbatical Team who are Monica Bramelish, Mike Walker and John Williams, as well as Pastor Sara, to share your questions.

As plans proceed, we’ll keep you informed! A successful sabbatical is a joint effort between all of us and results in healthy pastoral leadership and a healthy congregation.