I’ve recently been re-reading some of Eugene Peterson’s work, and was struck by his stressing of the need for ministers to have sabbaticals. I’ve never had this written into any of my contracts in my positions as a youth minister. I’ve known a number of vicars and ministers have them, and they always seem to be a real blessing for them.
Eugene Peterson in The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Director writes on his need for a sabbatical:
“The idea for a sabbatical developed from a two-pronged stimulus: fatigue and frustration. I was tired. That’s hardly unusual in itself, but it was a tiredness that vacations weren’t fixing – a tiredness of spirit, an inner boredom. I sensed a spiritual core to my fatigue and was looking for a spiritual remedy.”
He goes on to talk about the value of a sabbatical:
“Sabbatical years are the biblically based provision for restoration. When a farmer’s field is depleted, it is given a sabbatical – after six years of planting and harvesting, it is left alone for a year so that the nutrients can build up in it. When people in ministry are depleted, they also are given a sabbatical – a time apart for the recovery of spiritual and creative energies. I have been feeling the need for just such a time of restoration for about two years. The sense that my reserves are low, that my margins of creativity are crowded, becomes more acute each week. I feel the need for some ‘desert’ time – for silence, for solitude, for prayer. One of those things I fear most as your pastor is that out of fatigue or sloth I end up going through the motions, substituting professional smoothness for personal grappling with the life of the Spirit in our life together. The demands of pastoral life are strenuous, and there is (often) no respite from them.”
Sabbaticals do seem to work – in all the people I’ve seen have one, they all seem to come back refreshed, restored, encouraged. But in the back of my mind I’m always conscious that most career paths don’t offer some form of sabbatical so should ministers have one over say nurses and teachers?
What’s in your contract? Do you get a sabbatical, and if so, how long do you get? If not, would you like a sabbatical? Leave a comment below!