Many pastors feel overworked and overwhelmed by the demands of their church, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Church Leadership Development (churchleadership.org, 2016). The survey also found that most pastors work over 50 hours each week, some reporting up to 75 hours a week. In light of their results, the organization recommended that pastors take several weeks off each year with periodic sabbaticals. Life Community Church in Hilliard, Ohio, came to the same conclusion and began providing a sabbatical rest for its ministry staff. As a result, they have discovered that staff members return with a renewed passion for ministry, benefitting the entire church, too.
Life Community Church (LCC) launched weekly services in 1997, the same year that Dan Burmeister joined them as the worship pastor. By 2004, LCC had moved into a permanent facility and continued to grow. Looking back, he reflects about those early years of ministry, “After doing ministry for a long time, you realize that it’s good to step away for awhile, to get away from the day-to-day ministry and rest. You don’t realize that you need a renewal.” Since most LCC staff had been with the church from the beginning, around the twelfth year, the leadership began to consider a sabbatical for them. To date, four staff have taken a sabbatical at LCC including the children’s pastor who is on a sabbatical this summer.
LCC offers a sabbatical to ministry staff who have served there at least 12 years. The sabbatical typically begins in June and ends in August with full pay. The church also comes together and provides additional finances to bless the staff person. Dan, who is now the lead pastor, went on a sabbatical several years ago. During his time off from ministry duties, he rested and spent time with his family. He also used the time to seek God’s direction for his life and ministry. On Sunday, he visited different churches, gathering new ideas for ministry.
The church also experienced benefits from Dan’s sabbatical. In his absence, other team members stepped in to fill his responsibilities, developing their own leadership skills. When he returned, he brought a renewed passion for ministry and new ideas for worship. He reflects on the need for a sabbatical in church ministry, “The sabbatical is an investment not only in your church but also in the churches where they (the staff) will invest in the future. We want our people to be in ministry for the long haul.”