Sabbatical Resources

May 17, 2010 | Blog, Pastoring

The countdown is on. I’m starting a sabbatical in just two weeks. I can’t wait.

I wish that I had known about some resources a little earlier. I thought I should pass them on. Learn from my mistakes.

For pastors in the United States, the Lily Foundation provides grants of up to $45,000. It’s definitely worth looking into. Even if you’re not in the States, their application guidelines (PDF) are worth reading. The question on the front cover is a good one: “What will make your heart sing?”

The Louisville Institute provides sabbatical grants of up to $15,000. It’s open to pastors in the United States and Canada. It’s really nice to see that Canadian pastors are eligible for this one!

For both of these, take note of the deadlines. I learned about the Louisville Institute two weeks after their deadline last year, and it’s a hard deadline.

There are lots of places that provide places for pastors to spend some time away. Here’s one:

Founded in 1997, Pastors Retreat Network offers five-day retreats to pastors and pastor couples. Our programs balance solitude and community time. Scripture reading and meditation are at the heart of the experience.

I’ve heard good things about them. You only need five days, so you can take advantage of one of these even if you don’t have much time.

One of the best articles I’ve read on sabbaticals is “Sabbatical is not Study Leave” by Eugene Peterson. It’s from the Winter 1988 edition of Leadership Journal. Here’s a sample:

If the life of faith is reduced to a church program or into jargon, the gospel is betrayed and the spirit dulled. Yet churches make little provision for renewal of spirit in those they set as overseers for the renewal of their spirits.

The omission impoverishes the church’s spiritual vitality. Pastors enter their ordained work centered in prayer and alive to grace; after ten, twelve, thirteen years they find they simply don’t have the energy for a life of prayer, of spirit. One after another and year after year, they abandon the terms of their ordination and settle for running churches.

Peterson argues that universities stole the idea of sabbaticals from churches. Churches stole the idea back, but turned them into study leaves. Peterson says that this is a mistake:

The all-but-universal practice is for pastors to go to universities and seminaries for these bastard sabbaticals and take academic courses. They return to their congregations with starched and in-fashion ideas, but their spirits as baggy as ever.

If we are going to take sabbaticals, let them be real sabbaticals: a willed passivity in order to be restored to alert receptivity to spirit-prayer, silence, solitude, worship…The original intent of sabbath is a time to be silent and listen to God, not attend lectures; a time to be in solitude and be with God, not “interact” with fatigued peers. If help is to be given to the pastor in midcourse, it is not going to come by infusion of intellect but by renewal of spirit.

If you know of any other good resources, leave me a note in the comments.


  1. Martha

    Hey Darryl, Sounds Great! congratulations on this super opportunity. The United Church has recently ‘beefed up’ information online for Sabbatical Resources. A lot of it is process and policy related, but there is some interesting ‘reports’ on sabbaticals that might be interesting to the ‘non-UC’ in your viewing audience. (or; search ‘sabbatical’) One of the more accessible versions is a blog my (now) boss Alan wrote during his sabbatical.So, what are You doing?

  2. Darryl

    Thanks, Martha. Do you have Alan’s blog address?I keep scaling back my plans. We’ll be doing some travel and I’ll be doing a lot of reading. I have some meetings set up with a mentor who’s going to guide me through the process.

  3. Mark Hollywood

    Sundar Krishnan is one of the few men I know that takes a regular sabbatical. Ever connect with him in Rexdale? Sorry that I don’t have anything in print of his, and my memory isn’t clear on all of the things I heard him say in conversation. Enjoy your time…may it refresh your soul.

  4. Darryl

    Hi Mark:Yes, Sunder has been a great resource. I’ve benefited a lot from his experience in this area.Great to hear from you!


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