Tag Archives: solitude

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 4

Part 4 of 4Read Part 1 first

How effective are sabbaticals for pastors?

That depends upon three factors:

  1. Are the pastor & church committed to God’s perspective of Sabbath rest? Some pastors will have to be convinced that they need a sabbatical, especially those who are extreme people-pleasers and Type A’s who push themselves and everyone around them. They need to be loved enough to be held accountable by those who love them.
  2. Are the pastor & church properly prepared? Unless BOTH pastor and church prepare and plan, the sabbatical will not be effective. It could even be a waste of time, money, and resources. The pastor must prepare. The fellowship must prepare.
    1. Pre-sabbatical planning
    2. Post-sabbatical celebration

Because preparation differs for church and pastor, I have split them in two documents which will be available shortly. The titles are “A Sabbatical Primer for the Church” and “A Sabbatical Primer for the Pastor.” Church or pastor can download them from the Maranatha Conference website: MCACC.net [http://mcacc.net/]

3. Are the pastor & church in agreement about the terms?

A. Is the length of time adequate for replenishment and refreshment?

B. Will everyone involved help the pastor to not be in the loop while on sabbatical? Calling in to see how the recent board meeting went is NOT being faithful to the trust of the church. Nor is informing the pastor that Mr. Jones decided to quit because the pastor went on sabbatical. Other leadership (local, conference, or regional) can be called upon and can handle church issues in the pastor’s absence.


The problem facing churches and pastors in the 21st Century is complex and widespread, but the solution is simple. If you read and act upon the content of this article, it will positively impact you for increased Kingdom effectiveness and spiritual longevity. By caring for the shepherds, you care for yourselves. Healthy pastors lead healthy churches. By embracing the value of “Sabbath,” both pastors and churches will fulfill their callings, honor Christ, and leave a legacy worthy of God.

Related Reading:

This is the end of a 4 part series. Please share the series with others.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 3

Part 3 of 4Read Part 1 first

What can we do to stem the tide?

–understand the nature of ministry

Ministry is like no other job on the face of the planet. Why? Because it’s not a job! It’s a vocation–a calling. God gives to the church gifts of men (Eph. 4.11ff). These people-gifts who hold offices in the body of Christ carry weights like no other vocation. Period.

What kinds of consideration and compensation should a person receive who:

  • Is on call 24/7.
  • Is the front line for personal tragedy
  • Sees the worst and best of life. Has to bury a child in the morning and be joyful with the newlyweds in the afternoon.
  • Has to study and prepare teaching and messages to equip God’s people
  • Has to protect his family and flock from the spiritual attacks of a supernatural being set upon destroying and ravishing men, women, and children.
  • Walk point against that enemy himself

–demonstrate Appreciation

One solution proposed by Focus on the Family is a congregation’s annual participation in Clergy Appreciation Month, and a habit of affirmation throughout the year.

Pasted from <http://www.parsonage.org/faq/A000000541.cfm>

We just came through annual Pastor Appreciation Month—October. What did you or your church do to demonstrate how much you value the life and love of your pastor(s)? Showing your love in a tangible way honors Christ and your pastoral leaders.

–a Sabbatical

A sabbatical can be the missing link for your church and your pastor. God meant for us to rest from our labor. The sabbatical is not just for church leaders anymore, but it certainly should be practiced by our churches and leaders.

Many resources abound in our age of books, internet, and information. These suggestions may prove helpful:

  • Simply Google “sabbatical” and see what you come up with.
  • Assign someone from the church to thoroughly research what’s available. Beginning with this issue of The Witness, begin to read about how a sabbatical might just meet the needs of your church and leaders.
  • Read some of the suggested materials found at the end of this article
  • Go to the Maranatha Website/Blog and see what you can find there. We’re always adding sabbatical resources.

–a policy of refueling.

“Come Away: Jesus Calls His Sent Ones to Time Alone With Him.”

Even Jesus recognized this and retired often to places in the wilderness or to fishing with friends. He valued and modeled rest and solitude.

Churches can realize that pastors need time to refuel and replenish. Then develop a policy. Answer questions like:

  • How often should we send our pastor on sabbatical? [some say every 5 years, others every 7]
  • How long should a sabbatical be? [in most cases, 3-6 months is sufficient. Any may be time away, but is NOT a sabbatical]
  • What resources will we contribute? What other resources are available?
  • What are our plans for our pastoral staff as they near retirement age? What is that age to be in our church and culture? Is retirement mandatory at our church or is it indefinite? Are we willing to lighten the load of aging pastors rather than relegate them to an old age home (assuming they can afford one)
  • What would honor Jesus in the way we honor our leadership?

–release pastors to fulfill Christ’s expectations, not ours.

The pastor is God’s called, anointed gift to equip the church. Forget this, and you can forget Kingdom effectiveness. You may have a thriving, huge church, but it has no authority or lasting Kingdom fruit unless Jesus has assigned the leaders. The pastor/elder is not an employee of an organization–easily replaceable by calling the seminary or bible college. Where would the church have gone to get a Paul or a Barnabus? What would the job description and pay have been? Who would have evaluated their ministries? Who would have presumed to give them their marching orders and told them what was expected of them? Ridiculous! Yet the church (as an organization) has lost its moorings and has the wrong-headed notion that the Pastor is the manager of the company.

Perhaps requiring pastors to fulfill our varied and often misinformed expectations instead of Christ’s is another reason so many churches are failing and closing across all denominations and among other associations.

Part 4 of 4 in a couple of days.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastor – 2

Part 2 of 4Read Part 1 first

How many pastors are leaving the ministry annually?

Info from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups [reported at http://djchuang.com] found:

  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America. [emphasis mine]
  • 7,000 churches close each year in America.

Reported from <http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/>

90% of the minister’s report they feel inadequately trained to meet the demands of the ministry, 70% report having a lower self-image now than when they first started and 50% of the ministers will not even last 5 years!

Pasted from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

These figures are staggering. Perhaps one or two or twenty pastors may have neglected their spiritual life in order to be there for everyone else. Or perhaps they have misplaced priorities, but 1,500 a month!?  Fifty percent of ministers will not make it past 5 years? WOW!

What are the blockbuster-issues affecting pastors today?

I believe that the following factors contribute directly or indirectly to the statistics which we’ve just read.

–a decline in respect and appreciation.

According to one survey, the occupation of pastor ranks near the bottom of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman.”

Reported from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

Some congregations view their pastors as hired employees or hired hands. Such a view is simply unbiblical and dishonoring to Christ, who gives pastors to the church.

As one source said, “the congregation wrongly believes that it is the pastor’s job to evangelize the community and pull the strays back in.”

Reported from <http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/>

In reality, according to Ephesians, pastors hold one of the five-fold offices in the church. Theirs is a calling, a vocation, and they are not expendable. They are gifts to the Bride from Jesus himself. They are to be honored and valued.

–long hours and “battle fatigue” leading to exhaustion

Some in the church believe that a leader walking in the Holy Spirit, and in dependence upon Jesus, will never tire or be worn out. Of course this view is short-sighted and ill-informed. But these super-spiritual church members apply simplistic answers to complex conditions.  Then they err again by plucking biblical verses out of context without taking into account the whole counsel of Scripture.

They really have no idea the intensity of spiritual warfare and burden many pastoral couples labor under. Some pastoral leaders don’t even recognize the source of their distress.

Focus on the Family’s resident Pastor’s pastor, H.B. London, said recently:

“Many well-meaning Christians in their congregations ignored the signs of “battle fatigue.” Instead, congregations overwhelmed my pastor friends with unrealistic expectations, negative criticism and misplaced anger. Some congregations even assumed the perfect pastor was “out there,” so their fallible pastor was terminated.”


Is termination a valid choice for our war-weary troops on the battle front in Afghanistan or Iraq? Those who have withstood the frontal assaults in battle are moved for a time to the rear to recover and retool before redeploying again to the front. Why would we expose those who watch over our souls to years of intense ministry without much more than a few weeks of vacation a year? School teachers get the entire summer off annually. Pastors, elders, and other spiritual leaders operating in modern culture are under so much more than their predecessors of earlier times. But even in those earlier times, spiritual fatigue and exhaustion took its toll.

Jesus knew what it was to be weary. The Apostle Paul understood the weight of ministry and spiritual concern–compassion fatigue is real. Exhaustion is the body responding to the load of spiritual warfare and pastoral care. God constructed our bodies for a slower pace than modern life dishes out.

–low pay

Have you ever considered whether you could go through years of preparation for ministry, years of schooling and graduate studies (if a M.Div. is required for ordination as it is in most denominations) and survive on what the average local church pays its pastor?

It is estimated that about 75% of all ministers live close to the poverty level. . . Many expect the pastor and his/her family to have a higher set of standards than they [themselves] do and unfortunately, having [sic]to “live by faith” more in providing for their provision.

Reported from <http://pastoralcareinc.com/MR/Books/EBooks.php>

Pastors are intentionally and unintentionally kept poor. Very few at the same level of education, experience, and responsibility would work for what the pastor receives. And once the pastor’s effectiveness has been drained, the church simply replaces the pastoral family without much more thought, never mind a substantial severance package. Some church goers feel that the pastor who buys into the modern ideas of 401K’s, severance packages, and housing allowances is unspiritual. These folks argue that the early apostles and Jesus didn’t have any of these things so why should their pastor? But how many of them hold that same standard for themselves?

Perhaps we reap in our lives spiritually what we sow into our leaders’ lives financially (cf. 1 Cor. 9:14; Gal. 6.6; 1 Tim. 5.17-18; esp. Lk. 6:38). Greediness is never applauded by God. Nor is it one of his attributes. Generosity and a giving spirit is what He demonstrates and expects from us, especially toward those men and women whom God has given to the churches. We are never rewarded for keeping our leaders poor.

Part 3 of 4 in a couple of days.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastors

Part 1 of 4

Has anyone noticed the toll that modern ministry is taking on our pastors? Pastoral fatigue and burn out is costing the church more than money; it’s costing lives. More pastors and leaders are leaving ministry today than in the history of the Christian Church. I know because I almost became one of the statistics.

About two years ago, I began to experience depression for no particular reason. I felt discouraged, defeated, depressed, and doubtful things could get much better. I began to withdraw from people. Small tasks seemed huge. Everything took so much mental and physical energy that I didn’t know how I could continue in the ministry.

Follow that with a TIA (mini-stroke). Add to that my wife’s cancer. Then imagine the church beginning to decline. If anything negative could happen, it did.

Fortunately, at the recommendation of my doctor and in response to my health needs church elders granted me a 6-month Sabbatical.

My story has a happy ending. Our sabbatical did great things for Marcy and me. We returned to ministry refreshed, re-inspired, ready to serve as though we had just begun ministry. I recovered the strength and stamina to re-enter with new priorities in place and a replenished store of serotonin.

Read carefully the following text:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29–31, ESV)

The Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah said that even the youths and young men will be weary and fall. How much more the older men and women? Notice the answer? They who WAIT upon the Lord. Linger with the Lord. Take time to be with Him. They shall renew, mount up, run, and walk unhindered. That’s the kind of pastor or leader I would want to lead me, to model life for me.

Most churches don’t have any idea what’s happening to their pastors as years of people-ministry and spiritual warfare take their toll. So when their shepherds “burn out,” many churches simply replace the pastor with another pastor and before long find that he too needs replacing. Is that God’s plan for those gifted people He gives to the body of Christ to build it up? Is that the future He has ordained for churches—a constant stream of committees on the search to replace tired and hurt servants?

Let’s take a closer look in Part 2.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

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