TAC Encourages Churches and Pastors to Embrace the Sabbatical Opportunity

Date Posted: 2/25/2016

“One of the greatest gifts for my life as one who serves God is observing the sabbath. Celebrating sabbath is the best way I know to learn the sense of our call - the way in which God's Kingdom reclaims us, revitalizes us, and renews us so that it can reign through us. Before we can engage in the practice of our call, we need to be captured afresh by grace, carried by it, and cared for.” 
? Marva J. Dawn, The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World

Ministers who receive the gift of a sabbatical can, as author Marva Dawn states, be “captured afresh by grace.” In the Texas Annual Conference, there are provisions for pastors to take some time apart after 6 years of full time service. (Book of Discipline 351.3) The short-term sabbatical leave (up to four months) allows time for the pastor to be renewed in their calling. Attention is given to spiritual renewal and/or study of worship and ministry. Not only is the pastor being cared for during this time of sabbatical, but also the congregation. A trained and efficient intentional interim is appointed to care for the members and community during the time of the pastor’s absence.

In the later part of 2015, Dr. James Roy went to his Staff Parish Relations Committee and requested a sabbatical. The group, led by Mr. Alfonso Charles, overwhelming approved, as well as the North District Superintendent Rev. William Taylor.

With their support, the next step was the appointment of Rev. Dan Hoke to serve as the intentional interim ministry. Rev. Hoke concentrated on worship, preaching at both services each Sunday. He also led staff meetings, attended ministry team meetings and led the study group on Psalms that Pastor Roy had started. Rev. Hoke states, “In short, I had a fantastic time! I found the staff and the laity committees were eager and active to make an interim transition seamless through the daily ministry tasks and plans. I am honored to serve as an interim pastor at the Bishop’s appointment. As a retired elder, it is an effective way for me to stay current and active in preaching, teaching, and pastoral care in a concentrated way.”

Rev. Bonnie Osteen, the Director of Intentional Interim Ministry spoke with Dr. James, after he had returned to his appointment at Longview First UMC. He shared with her how very pleased he was to have had this opportunity and that it made a huge difference in his spiritual leadership. Having time to care for his family and for himself gave him a new perspective as he returned to the congregation and to God’s calling in his life.

Ministers who are prayerfully considering taking a sabbatical may speak to their district superintendent or Rev. Osteen for more information. See information on the application process. When the request and eligibility has been approved, an interim will be appointed. The salary of the sabbatical pastor will continue to be paid by the church, while the interim’s salary is paid by the Texas Conference. This avoids any burden on the congregation or pastor.

Rev. Osteen states, “Our intentional interims take part in a nationally accepted training program of three phases which equip them to be effective in areas of pastoral care, conflict management, grief, system assessment and more, in a fast paced appointment. They are prepared to lovingly care for these congregations as the pastors take some “sabbath” time. I encourage pastors and congregations to receive this gift, hopefully before a pastor’s energy level has reached depletion. Although there may be some apprehension in the beginning, at the end of the interim appointment, the discovery is the rewards are great!”