Clergy Renewal

The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning


A. Richard Bullock and Richard J. Bruesehoff

The Alban Institute, 2000, 89 pp.


ISBN 1-56699-223-0

BulCler 03-2-12



“I have come to think that the recovery of the Sabbath is the most crucial and most demanding covenant command (spiritual discipline) now to be faced in the technological society.”  Walter Brueggemann, from the back cover.


Clergy Renewal is a practical book to prepare both the pastor and the congregation for an effective sabbatical. 


“The very nature of being an effective pastor involves continual spiritual growth.  Spiritual depth does not happen by accident; it takes hard, intentional work.  Basically, it is a lifelong process….”  “Trying to do this while working between forty-five and fifty-five hours each week is nearly impossible.”  (Foreword, Roy Oswald)


A sabbatical is a time for rest, renewal, and new hope.  It provides energizing renewal.  It should nourish the soul and rebuild the body.  It should help us to step off the treadmill long enough to change old habits.  It is a time to relearn and rehearse that critical capacity to reflect.  It is a time to lie fallow, a time to receive rather than give, to get input rather than give output, to carefully nurture and cultivate our lives.  A sabbatical is about a pilgrimage with Jesus toward God.  (4-9)


“A sabbatical policy should define who is eligible to receive renewal leave, when a sabbatical leave may be taken, the length of leave allowed, the salary and benefits that will be paid during the leave, how much can accrue to cover educational costs, and how the congregation will cover the cost of staff replacement.  The policy should also outline a sabbatical planning process and be explicit about commitments following the sabbatical.”  (12)


Take the sabbatical when you can take vacation time before and afterwards so you can shift gears, unwind beforehand, and take several days for reentry.  (14)


Questions to ask for focusing the sabbatical: (16)


Maintaining flexibility and a sense of expectancy seems to be the key.  Don’t use the sabbatical to do more of what you already do!  (18)


Some divide the time into blocks, e.g.: (19)


Sabbatical renewal leave typically includes time for rest, travel, prayer, study, renewing relationships, worship, and living in different cultures. (19)


At the beginning of planning let yourself dream.  Write on a piece of paper: Sabbatical Dream?  When?  Where?  With whom?  How long?  Cost and funding?  (19)


Travel is one of the keys.  It disconnects us from home and gives us new perspectives.  What is the trip, journey, or pilgrimage that you have always wanted to take?  (22-23)


The heart of the sabbatical is time and space for renewal.  (26)


A consultant who helps you plan might ask:


The following questions might be helpful for review afterwards:


Plan for you reentry.  Don’t immediately jump back into the job.  Go light on scheduling during the first week back.  Prepare for a range of emotions.  Expect the deepest and most significant learning to become evident over time.  (54)


“Be intentional, but allow yourself enough freedom to change directions of let go of an old dream if a new vision emerges.”  (62)


Set out with enthusiasm and expectation.  (65)


Appendix B.  Sample Sabbatical Policies

A bibliography of sabbatical literature is included.