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The concept of sabbatical is rooted in the biblical concept of “Sabbath” which God modeled (Genesis 2:1-4a) and commanded (Exodus 20:8-11). In Leviticus 25:1-7, the Lord says that after the sixth year the people were not supposed to sow the fields or harvest a crop. The land was allowed to rest, and therefore, so were the people. Sabbaticals have often been used in church and academia to provide a time of rest, recovery, renewal and re-education for the individual staff member. We believe that our pastoral staff should model God’s design for Sabbath rest. We believe that a time of sabbatical is important both in the sharpening and renewal of the pastor and for the health and strength of Hillside.
The sabbatical is for the pursuit of activities approved by Hillside’s Local Board of Administration. The intent of a sabbatical is to further the ministry objectives of Hillside, to enhance the personal ministry of the pastor, and to provide for physical, spiritual and relational renewal and refreshment. (It is understood that not all these intents will necessarily be fulfilled equally.) The pastor is to rest, develop, reflect and refresh.
A sabbatical may be granted to full-time Hillside pastors, whether they are ordained clergy or un-ordained. A sabbatical may be approved after the completion of the first seven years of full-time ministry at Hillside. After the initial sabbatical, the years in between sabbaticals are not automatically set. They can be anywhere from five to seven years. Fellowship or internship years are not counted as part of the total years of service. Divergence from the stated eligible time of “after the completion of the first seven years of full-time ministry at Hillside” must be approved by the LBA. This could occur due to special circumstances in the pastor’s life, or if Hillside’s situation makes it unwise to approve a sabbatical at the normally scheduled time.
The LBA should recommend pastors for sabbatical when they reach seven years of full time employment at Hillside and repeating as determined after every five to seven years of employment following during their tenure at Hillside. The sabbatical is planned with the agreement of the District Superintendent. The qualifying pastor may approach the LBA for application for Sabbatical if not first approached by the LBA. Length of the sabbatical leave may vary. A length of two to four months not including exit or re-entry transition ought to be given serious consideration by both parties. During a sabbatical, salary and benefits shall continue to be paid as during normal service. The pastor is allowed up to 5% of their financial package for sabbatical expenses with submission of receipts to the Hillside treasurer. These funds may be used for any activity supporting the LBA approved sabbatical plan as submitted by the pastor. Provision for sabbatical leaves shall be included in the pastor's call to the ministry.
A sabbatical is not recommended:
When significant conflict is present between pastor and the congregation. Time away will not rectify any self-defeating patterns of behavior that are causing the conflict. Handle the conflict using other resources such as mediators, District Coaches etc.
When the timing is detrimental to the congregations’ current context. Do not slavishly adhere to the policy’s schedule for sabbaticals. Rather, talk honestly with each other as to the needs, goals and context of Hillside to determine the most acceptable time for the pastor to be away.
When it creates a serious financial burden to Hillside. Other paths may be available for assistance such as postponing it for another time so Hillside can work up to the finances required, or by requesting financial assistance from the District Office.
A sabbatical might be recommended at an unscheduled time due to a pastor’s personal circumstances.
The submitting pastor will present a letter requesting a sabbatical along with a sabbatical plan to the LBA at least six months prior to the proposed sabbatical. The plan must include estimated expenses. The Senior Pastor and a group appointed within/by the LBA will work together with the submitting pastor to determine a timeframe best suitable for the sabbatical. Approval of a sabbatical plan is at the discretion of the LBA.
Pastor’s Sabbatical Plan
Pastor must submit his/her sabbatical plan for LBA approval. The plan must:
Be submitted at least six months prior to the proposed sabbatical date.
Include written discourse illustrating the Pastor has discerned God’s timing to take the sabbatical.
Include a plan and timeline illustrating how the sabbatical will meet the defined purpose objectives of
• Rest (Physical, Mental, and Spiritual)
• Educational Experience (Development)
• Reflection / Visioneering
Include a description of the desired sabbatical activities, a statement of how these activities will benefit the staff member and/or Hillside.
Include an estimate of expenses for sabbatical activities.
Describe how the pastor’s ministry will be carried out during the sabbatical including church, community and district obligations. State if a church representative will be needed to fulfill these any of these obligations during the time of sabbatical.
The LBA will review and respond to the submitting Pastor no later than four months in advanced of the Sabbatical date. LBA and Lead Pastor will communicate to the Congregation that a sabbatical has been approved and will be taken.
A sabbatical may be approved for up to two to four months. A two month minimum is recommended. There will be a two week exit transition and two week re-entry transition time. The sabbatical leave (two to four months) does not include the exit or re-entry transition periods. Paid sabbatical time is in addition to paid vacation time for the year in which the sabbatical is taken. It is preferred that the weeks be taken consecutively in order to maximize the benefits of the sabbatical. If possible, the sabbatical should be scheduled at a time that will minimize the disruptive effect on the normal operation of Hillside (i.e. summer may be preferable). Unless approved by the LBA, no two staff members shall take a sabbatical within the same fiscal year. If staff members’ sabbatical plans conflict, priority shall be given to the most senior staff member in terms of length of service.
During the sabbatical, regular salary and full benefits will be paid. Appropriate provision shall be made in Hillside’s annual budget to ensure that funds are available to provide for sabbatical expenses. A Pastoral Sabbatical line item in the church annual budget is to provide: 1) for expenses incurred by Hillside for continuing activities that are included in the pastor’s duties; 2) for a pastoral sabbatical allowance for expenses related to the pastor’s sabbatical activities. This allowance can equal up to 5% of the pastor’s financial package.
Upon returning, the pastor will make a written or oral report to the LBA recapping how the time was spent and the value of the sabbatical within 30 days after re-entry.
Employee and Church Agreement
The employee who chooses to take a Sabbatical leave under this policy agrees to the following terms. Because the Sabbatical leave is unlike an ordinary paid vacation in that its purpose is expressly for the future benefit of the employing church as well as for the present and future benefit of the employee, the employee agrees that as far as it depends on them, they will continue in full-time service to Hillside for at least one year from the date of their return from Sabbatical leave.
Hillside agrees that the pastor will continue to be employed at Hillside Wesleyan Church after the sabbatical leave. Hillside agrees that it will honor the leave of the employee and agrees not to contact them with church business except as agreed upon in the sabbatical plan or in case of emergency.
The LBA and the Lead Pastor are to allocate sabbatical provision to pastors objectively and consistently. To this end, a plan is to be made indicating when sabbatical is scheduled for all pastors. This plan is to be reviewed and approved by LBA, prior to implementation. This document is to be used by the LBA and pastors for planning and preparing for future sabbaticals. It will be an evolving document which is to be made current when there are pastoral changes.
Hillside Wesleyan Church Pastoral Sabbatical Policy