Being the leader of a faith community in any capacity can be both rewarding and stressful. No matter how dedicated you are to your work, at some point, it's healthy to take a break. A sabbatical is an extended break (usually at least three months) from your regular duties so that you can rest and explore other facets of your life. It's a common practice among ministers and teachers, and it can be quite fruitful. There are many different things you can do during your sabbatical to ensure that you return refreshed to your work.
If you are planning to take the next step in your formal education, a sabbatical is a great time to get started. You can begin your program free of many of your regular pressures. This gives you the space to adapt to the rigors of intense study without worrying about whether your duties at work are sliding.
It may not be an additional degree you seek but rather the chance to learn a new skill. The local college or library likely offers continuing education courses where you can boost your knowledge about things that may be helpful in your work:
- New software
- Nonprofit accounting
- Digital marketing
- Grant writing
Volunteer in the Community
As a pastor, your days are filled with caring for those in your congregation. You may visit those who are homebound, imprisoned, hospitalized or otherwise isolated. You counsel and comfort those who are troubled or needing guidance. This doesn't leave a lot of time for reaching out to the city or world around you. A sabbatical gives you the chance to learn some of the needs of your community at large by volunteering.
Start with the groups with whom your church already partners. Contact them and ask if they need additional hands-on help. Seek out new partners who are doing work that you know your faith community would value and want to get involved with.
Catch Up on Projects
Many people have ongoing projects, whether they include unfinished work around the house, a new garden, a neglected hobby or a collaboration with someone else. A sabbatical gives you the time to devote to finishing a few of these tasks. Simplifying your life in this way can be a special kind of relaxation all on its own.
An extended break from your work is a great time to finish that book you have been slowly writing for the past few years. Your house may need painting or other updates that you can't just knock out in a few days. Use the time to install aging-in-place devices in your elderly parents' home so that they can continue to live safely where they are most comfortable. It's likely that you have a long to-do list that you just need the time to finish, and a sabbatical is a great time to cross some of those items off.
A sabbatical gives you the opportunity to explore the world around you. While an extra day off may not feel like enough time to enjoy a trip, an extended break gives you the opportunity to take that much-needed vacation. If you plan your sabbatical at the same time that your partner and children are free, you can have a relaxing break with the family. Even if this is not a possibility, a solo trip is also worth considering. Rent a cabin by a lake where you can wake to the sound of nature, or take a volunteering trip to somewhere else in the world where you can not only help out on current projects but learn skills to bring back home.
A sabbatical is a chance to restore some balance to your life. Rather than impeding your work, taking a necessary break can fortify you so that you do your job even better.