During the month of April, I did something I haven’t done since Middle School. I had a whole month off with no work responsibilities. I had a one month sabbatical.

Where I serve at West Ridge Church, we take staff health very seriously. So much so that our Pastors and Directors are given a 1 month sabbatical after serving for 5 years, and a 2 month sabbatical after 10 years. This paid time away is provided for spiritual refreshment and professional growth. It’s a reset button so desperately needed for a life in ministry.

So on April 1st, I removed my email and calendar from my phone and computer and kicked off a month like I had never experienced before. During the month, I:

  • Spent a weekend with my wife exploring Savannah, GA
  • Soaked up all the extra time with my 16 month old son, Ethan
  • Did a whole bunch of yard work…
  • Went to New York for the first time, attended the filming of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and saw the incredible sights of a city that energizes and inspires me
  • Spoke at a communications conference in San Antonio
  • Retreated to the mountains for a few days of quiet time, writing, and dreaming for the season ahead

I’ve walked away from this month feeling rested and energized for the season ahead of me. I’m so thankful for our Senior Pastor and Elders who have set a tone for staff healthiness.

If you’re a senior church leader, I think you should consider doing this for your staff. Here’s why:

It will give your staff time to rest and recharge from the physical, spiritual and emotional grind of ministry.

When you’re in the midst of daily ministry, it’s easy to lose sight of the toll it takes on you. Having a regular rhythm for rest and sabbatical is critical to fighting burnout.

It will require your leaders to build sustainable teams and systems that aren’t built solely around them.

The mark of a leader is defined by what happens when you’re gone. This sabbatical rhythm is a reminder to build healthy and sustainable teams that are built with the foundation of a solid team, not just a person. It’s a powerful exercise for leaders to have to build a plan for being away for a month!

It will give the staff and team around them a chance to step up and fill in the gap. 

What a great way to show your staff that you have their back and that you’re all on the same team. Leaders: you can strategically use this time to give your team some leadership opportunities, develop them, and discover what is healthy and what needs work once you get back.

It provides space to rethink and reimagine how they can be more effective in their role.

Perspective can change everything. It can be incredibly challenging to get solid perspective when you’re always trying to keep your head above water preparing for the next Sunday. A sabbatical can help create space to move out of survival mode and rethink what you need to start, stop and continue in your work and your life.

What’s next?

Are you a part of senior leadership in your church? I would challenge you to consider making this a part of what you do as a staff. Your team will thank you. Let me know if you have any questions about this process with a comment or email at phil@philbowdle.com.

Are you not a part of senior leadership in your church, but think this is something they should consider? send them this link: http://philbowdle.com/sabbatical 😏

 

 

  • Matt

    Thank you for taking the time to share this Phil. I’m about to begin a month of sabbatical after 8 years and appreciate your perspective and advice. Looking forward to resetting and gearing up for the next season of life!

  • Carrie Evans

    Hey Phil,

    Is there any communication from West Ridge when a lead/teaching pastor takes a sabbatical?

    Thanks!

    Carrie

    • Hey Carrie! We have when it’s been a two month sabbatical, but we don’t typically communicate any one month sabbaticals. Since we have a teaching team, it’s not unusual for anyone to be off the stage for a few weeks. That said, if someone asks or it comes up, we just communicate that they’re on sabbatical at this time and when they’re coming back.

      • Carrie Evans

        Thanks, Phil!

  • Dale Best

    Awesome post!

    Random question … but I’m interested in knowing what you learn from attending the Tonight Show? What from that experience translates to church communications and creative arts?