Planning for a sabbatical can be an intimidating process.  Bivocationals have numerous challenges which a fully-funded pastor will not have.  Primarily this is because the church may see fit to give their pastor a well-deserved break, but their secular job may cast a dim eye on such an enterprise.  Consequently, the plan must encompass the necessity for the bivocational to continue working in their secular job while being absent from their home church.  Here are a few thoughts for you to consider.

Absence from your local church does not mean absence from worship.  Be sure to include plans for worship somewhere.  You may want to connect with the pastor and let him know you are there for a limited time and on sabbatical, or maybe you’d just like to remain in the background.  Each of these has advantages, but going to worship is not an optional activity.

Rest and relaxation are an essential part of a sabbatical.  That is what is meant by ‘renewal’ and ‘recreation’.  A study worth doing would be to look into what those words mean in this context.  I have one friend, a long-time minister who has taken two sabbaticals, and each was based mostly on this thought.  In his case it was hunting, fishing and riding his motorcycle on a long trip.

Plan on using some time for ministry projects you don’t have time for normally.  Some ‘starter’ thoughts might be attending various churches in the area to compare worship styles and ministry opportunities, finishing a manuscript or helping a friend with a project.  You could plan out the coming year in sermons. One of my avowed projects should I be able to have a sabbatical soon is to help write guidelines for my District for this very topic, Bivocational sabbaticals.

Plan at least one personal spiritual retreat.  Use the time to pray and seek the face of God.  You can do this solo, or take your spouse or a friend along, but make sure the purpose of the retreat is clear.

Combine your sabbatical time with your secular vacation time to plan something special.  For instance, my wife and I have long desired to make a trip to Europe.  By combining a sabbatical and my secular vacation time we could do this more easily.  We could also use the time as a way to explore the spiritual temperature and culture of wherever it is we go, coming back enriched and refreshed.

Write down the various ideas that you come up with and share them with a mentor, your church board or District/Denominational leadership.  Ask them for ideas.  And in the process, you might be able to give them a few ideas, too!


“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8)


Sometimes it is so easy to forget what we h(Source: right close to hand. Maybe being close makes you takes things for granted, maybe you get used to something and don’t even think about it. Like a New Yorker who has never bothered to visit the Statue of Liberty or a Bostonian who has never gone to see the USS Constitution. Sometimes maybe we are even intimidated by what other people think of what THEY have. I have a cousin who visited from Texas when he was about 12 years old. When we asked him what he thought about New England, he said (in that annoying way Texans can have), “I’m absolutely amazed…we drove across three states in one day. In Texas we couldn’t get from one end of the county to the other in one day!”

So when you start talking about things like National or State Parks, and how big they are or how many attractions are there, you might think of a place like Yellowstone, or the Great Smoky Mountains. HUGE places with large expanses of wilderness. Places that loom large in our minds.

This last week I spent some time in a place fairly close to us in Vermont, in upstate New York in the Adirondack Park. Small pickings compared to the western parks, right? You want the truth? The Adirondack Park is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark. It is larger in land area than the state of Vermont (9,400 sq-miles versus 9,250 sq-miles), covering 6.1 million acres. It is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined! There are more than 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of streams and rivers. Many areas within the park are devoid of settlements and distant from usable roads. The park includes over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of hiking trails; these trails comprise the largest trail system in the nation. (source:

Yes, sometimes it is easy to forget what you have when you are so close to it. Don’t we do that in our spiritual life, too? We forget who and what we are in Jesus Christ. We forget the Kingdom of Heaven is not just for when we die, but it lives within every believer! We have a vast power contained within us, with the Holy Spirit giving light and life. But we forget, and our light is hidden under a basket, so to speak. I am convinced that our quality of life is thereby infinitely diminished.

I went back to our family’s home-away-from-home this last week, Inlet, New York in the Adirondack Park, and re-discovered what I had lost. I found myself longing for the woods, the waterways and the life that is there. I even longed for the smell of the forest. And I find myself longing for the life of the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth. It is not far, it is close. But I have hidden it away.

It is time to find it again. Would you join me?

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ ”
Matthew 10:6-8 (NIV)

(This post was originally published by Ray Mann at ‘The View From Vermont’ on 7/22/2011

sabbaticalI was recently talking with someone on our District and the subject of Sabbaticals came up.  In our denomination it is suggested a pastor should take a Sabbatical once for each seven years in ministry.  So far I think I have ‘earned’ three Sabbaticals by that measure and have never taken one!  Why might this be, you ask?  Because being a bivocational minister means even if I take a break from ministry for a period of time I will still have to contend with a secular job and responsibilities.  The face of ministry is changing, and so is the concept of the Sabbatical. We still face some issues, though.  First, we have to contend with so-called ‘ministry burnout’.  The pressure of having to manage a local church, plan and execute worship services and other programs for years on end with little or no break wears on pastors, and they find there is a need to draw away from local ministry for a time.  This can be for formal study or for a time of reflection, prayer and meditation.  Second, in our faith tradition and many others, there is a mandate for continuing education.  So how do we deal with these issues when we have a secular job to deal with in addition to ministry?

Mini-retreats over a weekend or during a mid-week break can be a help (I work at a public school, so we have some of these kinds of times).  Schedule a few days away while pulpit supply is brought in to handle your worship service if needed.  Prepare your Board ahead of time so they will know this is happening. Our District maintains a campground which includes a year-round Inn.  This is available at no charge for pastors who need to take some time away.  There are several interdenominational venues which provide pastors with the same kind of opportunity.  Seek these out and take one or two mini-retreats a year.    I knew one person who would take a few days and book into a motel off-season on the coast of Maine.  Another benefit of mini-retreats is that it allows your congregation to hear someone else speak other than you.

Look into educational opportunities delivered online.  Some of these can be very reasonable in cost and can be done with a flexible schedule.  In the Church of the Nazarene we have classes available at a pastoral discount through Nazarene Bible College, as well as other continuing education courses.  Several years ago I earned a certificate in Church Administration through our ‘Continuing Lay Training’ (CLT) curriculum.  These are generally meant for laymen, but it was very useful for me. All it cost was the price of the textbooks.

Being a bivocational pastor means that you might have some extra things to deal with, but it does not mean that you cannot have your needs met.  If you have to, work with your ecclesiastical superiors and clergy colleagues to come up with creative ways to keep your sanity.  You won’t regret it.