A pastor friend of mine recalls meeting with one of his leaders. His leader, a good friend, had noticed that my pastor friend was not operating as well as he could. “Either get back in the game,” he said, “or make a change.” A few months later, my pastor friend had resigned.
A few months later he found himself refreshed and full of energy again. He didn’t need to resign; he only needed a break.
That story’s stuck with me. I’m convinced that many pastors get to the same point and don’t know what to do. Often they end up withdrawing from ministry, or simply moving to a new church, rather than getting the break they need.
I took a sabbatical last summer. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it would do in my life. When I returned in September, to be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference. But I’ve noticed in the past year that I am in a much healthier place. When I’ve taken time off this summer, I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve also looked forward to getting back to work. That’s very different from a year ago.
If you’re a leader in a church, please consider giving your pastor a sabbatical, especially if he’s been there a long time and has never taken one. If you’re a pastor, suck it up and be honest with your leaders about your need for a break. Sabbaticals don’t cure every problem, but they may be just what many pastors need.