The Sabbath In Sabbatical

“Remember the Sabbath (day) to keep it holy.”  (Exodus 20:8)

Most people probably think of “the Sabbath” as one day of the week—”the Sabbath day.”

But the biblical idea of a “Sabbath” in not limited to just a day.

A ministry sabbatical is a pastor and a congregation keeping God’s commandment.  Clergy (who often have to work on “the Sabbath day”) aren’t excluded from this commandment.

Life has changed, but God’s commandment haven’t.

In a parsonage where we lived, the kitchen walls were painted a bright yellow–the color chosen by the previous residents.  A year after we moved to this community, we asked “the parsonage committee” if they would buy paint to paint the walls a different color.  One of the committee members expressed incredulity.  She said, “But we can’t do that.  My kitchen walls need to be painted.”

I read a similar response in a recent letter to the editor in a church magazine.  A church member spoke up against giving pastors sabbaticals because, “No one is giving me a sabbatical.”

A sabbatical is not a paid vacation.  It is a collection of days for rest and renewal that your pastor should take.  Pastors and church members need to think of the ministry sabbatical as a “responsibility.”  Pastor should take a sabbatical.  Churches should take steps to encourage their pastor to take a sabbatical.

Many churches acknowledge this responsibility by adopting a sabbatical policy that outlines why, how often, and how long a clergy sabbatical should be taken.  But the terms of congregational sabbatical policies vary.

Many churches stipulate that a pastor should take a two-month sabbatical after every four years of service in their church.  How many Sundays does your pastor work each year?  How many Sabbath days has he or she accumulated in a four year period?

Not everyone comes up with the same line of reasoning for determining their sabbatical policy.  Nor does every congregation come up with the same terms for their minister’s sabbatical.

The point to keep in mind is that God didn’t command us to micro-manage the Sabbath.  God simply commands us to “remember” to take time for the Sabbath—and keep it holy.

Photo: Rest by Moyan_Brenn is licensed under CC by 2.0.