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Blog: What is a Sabbatical Worth?

What is a Sabbatical Worth?

God-pleasing work is good.  And rest is good.  All kinds of rest.  Lots of kinds of rest.  Re-creative moments you can have along life’s way.  For me, playing with bits of broken stained glass (It’s okay, I am doing the breaking, and only occasionally get little cuts on my fingers!) is a form of rest.  Playing an instrument. Or just playing.  Reading for fun. Using one’s brain in a way that you don’t have to at your job.  Rest makes you better.


There are many good reasons for a daily rest.  One, we call sleep, brings physiological benefits.  Taking breaks from your desk helps you think clearly.  Some studies have shown daily exercise increases brain power.


And there are very good reasons to have a day once a week where the pattern of work and worry gets totally disrupted.  So that you can repair, and so that you can prepare.


What sets a sabbatical apart is the volume of it.  The magnitude.  Typically measured in months, not hours.  And not just going home for the night before trudging back in the morning, but allowing God to reset your thinking, your habit, your environment; to re-set you to a life-setting that’s better than before.


Sabbaticals are for learning, reconnecting, recharging, studying, engaging, exploring, worshiping and playing in ways that just cannot happen within a long weekend, a 2-week road trip, or a 10-day cruise.  A vacation (Another good thing!) is to rest and refreshment as a sabbatical is to relearning and re-examining life.  Think of sabbaticals as the deep end of the resting pool.


For some, to take a sabbatical is either impractical or just unnecessary.  But take it from me, someone who “got their smile back” from a 90 day sabbatical, it was a very significant pivot point in my ministry life.  I did spend the first days truly doing as little as possible.  (You know how you finally feel like you’re truly resting well about 2 days before the vacation is over?) But the bulk of the three months was used to travel and explore, to reunite with family and savor those relationships, to read and discern and learn.  As the re-entry to “regular time” approached, God inserted one more gift, the days surrounding a loved one’s death, to be by her bedside at the end.  A sabbatical provides unique opportunities, both planned and unplanned.


I cannot claim to be significantly different as a result of my sabbatical experience.  I am still me.  There are still days my work frustrates and confuses me.  That blessed summer, however, gave me an open window to look through and into my future, into the remaining days of ministry that God allows, with greater confidence and hope than ever before.  It started and re-started in me a deeper future-oriented perspective that helps me through the occasional confusing day or week that I experience from time to time.


If you’ve ever thought about taking a sabbatical my best recommendations go like this:  + Consider it.  With a group.  +  Don’t let the cost deter you.  Where there is a will there is a way.

  • Plan ahead.  (Maybe 18 months!)
  • Use the gifts God has placed in members of your congregation to guide you, cajole you, and bless you as you consider this possibility.  Including others’ ideas enriches your time spent “away.”  It also releases them from their “need” for you and your time when they know why you are doing this!
  • Craft a theme.  Forecast outcomes.
  • Communicate and discover ways to share your experience with people you work with and minister to.
  • Be amazed at how God blesses this “rest,” ultimately, for His purposes.
  • And rest.  It’s good!


by Jeffrey Marquardt