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There is increasing discussion in churches about the value of sabbaticals for pastors—and for good reason. The pastoral vocation seems to be more demanding than ever. Years ago, pastors’ duties were simpler and more focused. Today, pastors are expected not only to preach the Word, visit their congregants, and teach some catechism classes but to lead dynamic churches, sustain creative evangelism programs, excel in administrative skills, plan meaningful worship, possibly manage multiple staff positions, and more. Pastors are expected to accomplish all of this during their normal work week—a week that can be 60-plus hours long. James O. Davis, president of Global Pastors Network, has stated that:
• 1,600 pastors in US churches quit or resign from their jobs every month
A sabbatical is a change or a break from the normal routine. It’s an opportunity to step back, reflect, relax, recharge, and renew. Here are some opportunities to do just that.
Located in over 100 wooded acres near Richland, Michigan, Alongside provides a peaceful setting for their ‘Renewal and Growth Retreats’ for pastors and missionaries, and their spouses. Retreats last two or three weeks and include both individual and group sessions with licensed counselors. Daily seminars aim to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, helping guests feel renewed and better equipped for their ministry. For retreat fees and other information, please visit www.alongsidecares.net.
Anapauo House: for Canadian and US pastors
Located in Coleman, Alberta near the scenic Crowsnest Pass of the Rocky Mountains, the Anapauo House offers free accommodations to pastors, ministry workers, and their families. Anapauo is a Greek word for “rest” – a fitting name, as it serves as a place of rest and refreshment for those in ministry. The house sleeps up to six people, and a minimum two-night stay is required. For more information and to complete the application form, visit www.anapauohouse.org.
Beside Still Waters: for Canadian and US pastors
Beside Still Waters offers pastors and their families a place of rest, restoration and refocus on Anna Maria Island in Florida. Accommodation is a two bedroom townhouse that is one block from the beach. There is no charge for the townhouse. For more information, visit www.beside-stillwaters.org.
Broom Tree Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Broom Tree Ministries offers five-day spiritual retreats for pastors and their spouses. The retreats are offered to pastors and spouses at no cost. It is paid for through donations from those who want to encourage and strengthen pastors. The retreats are held in two locations: Lake Geneva, WI and White Cloud, MI. For more information visit www.broomtreeministries.org.
Buffalo Ridge Hospitality & Retreat Center: for Canadian and US pastors
This retreat center is located on 200 acres of beautiful prairie in northeast Kansas. Pastors and their families can choose between a guest house, which sleeps 12, or camping. Rates are very reasonable and include both lodging and food. For more information, visit www.HisWayMinistries.org.
Casa Corridor: for Canadian and US pastors
Casa Corridor is a beautiful and serene location for pastors and their families to rest and be renewed, away from the stresses of full-time ministry. The 4 bedroom, 3 bath condo is ideally located halfway between Cabo san Lucas and San Jose del Cabo (Mexico), and it is also suited for a pastoral staff retreat. Guests will enjoy panoramic ocean views and a variety of local activities including golf, fishing, whale watching, hiking, and more. Discount pricing is available for pastors. For more information, visit www.CabosBestRentals.com.
Duke Divinity School - Study Leave for Ministry Professionals: for Canadian and US pastors
Pastors and ministry leaders are invited to spend one week of study, worship, and prayer on the campus of Duke University/Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. Participants have full access to the university and divinity libraries, along with opportunities for community worship, lectures, classis auditing, and conversations with the Divinity School staff. A $500 tuition includes meals and accommodations, but scholarships are available. For more information, visit http://www.faithandleadership.com/programs-training/open-enrollment/study-leave-for-ministry-professionals.
Eagle Mountain Lodge: for Canadian and US pastors
The Lodge sits on 40 acres near New Mexico’s highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Each suite in the lodge has a mini-kitchen. Rates for pastors and their families are based on suggested donations. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.eaglemountainlodge.com.
E.L.I.M. (Encouraging Leaders in Ministry) Retreats: for Canadian and US Pastors
ELIM Retreat Ministries offers six-day renewal retreats for pastors and ministry leaders. The time is focused on spiritual assessment and pastoral care. Two retreat locations are available in Huron City, Michigan and Eagle, Wisconsin. The retreats are free – including all meals. For information, visit www.elimretreats.org.
Fairhaven Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Fairhaven Ministries consists of 15 chalets and cottages and a lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains of East Tennessee. Pastors and spouses are able to take sabbaticals at Fairhaven for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of two months. For rates and additional information, visit www.fairhavenministries.net.
Fairhaven also has a location in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia near Vernon, BC. For more information visit www.fairhavenministries.org.
Faith Mountain: for Canadian and US pastors
Two and four bedroom cottages are situated on 250 wooded acres in the heart of West Virginia’s beautiful Mountain Lakes region. Pastors and their families are given discounted rates. For more information, visit www.faithmountain.org.
Genesee Home: for Canadian and US pastors
Genesee Home is a place where pastors and spouses can go for Sabbath rest for renewal and refreshment of their ministry and marriage. It’s located on a 1,600 acre ranch, surrounded by national forests, in Taylorsville, CA. The cost is $495 per week, however scholarships are available. For more information visit www.geneseehome.org.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Spurgeon Sabbatical: for Canadian and US Pastors
The Spurgeon Sabbatical is founded on the idea that the best way to attain new perspectives and renewal for pastoral ministry is through in-depth Bible study within a context of worship, prayer, and fellowship with other pastors. Pastors enjoy a 10-day stay at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary located in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. The cost is $600 and includes all meals and program materials (note that lodging is not included). For more information, visit www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/Spurgeon-Sabbatical.cfm.
Gull Lake Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Gull Lake (located in Hickory Corners, MI) is a non-denominational family resort and conference center which offers pastors and their spouses opportunities for rest and relaxation. Between Labor Day (September) and Memorial Day (May), pastor couples may stay for a couple of days and only pay for their meals. For more information click here. To visit the website go to www.gulllake.org.
Holden Village: for Canadian and US Pastors
Nestled in the beautiful Cascade Mountains in north central Washington, Holden Village is accessible only by boat from the town of Chelan, WA. Holden invites pastors to enjoy a free one-week sabbatical which is centered on reflection, daily worship, and relaxation. For more information, visit www.holdenvillage.org.
Kerith Retreats: for Canadian and US Pastors
Kerith Retreats offers seven-day small group retreats for married and single ministry leaders. They have two locations: Kerith Creek, situated on 66 acres in the beautiful Canadian Rockies in Alberta, as well as Kerith Pines, situated on 103 acres of rich natural landscape in Manitoba. Each centre provides a tranquil place to relax, reflect, and be renewed. Lodging and all meals are included in the attendance fee. For retreat dates and additional information, visit www.kerithretreats.ca.
King’s Fold Retreat & Renewal Centre: for Canadian and US Pastors
A variety of accommodations and activities are offered at the King’s Fold Retreat Centre, located in southwest Alberta near the town of Cochrane (about one hour from Calgary). Different retreat options are available which include personal, group, and fasting retreats (three fasting cabins sit apart from the guest lodge). Guests can enjoy rest and renewal along with home style meals, the library, the greenhouse, a walking labyrinth, and the chapel during their stay. For rates and other information, visit www.kingsfoldretreat.com.
Lantern Lane Farm: for Canadian and US Pastors
The Log House at Lantern Lane Farm sits on 17 beautiful acres of wooded and open pasture in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. It offers a unique “home away from home” feeling where pastors can experience quiet rest and restoration. Meals are not included but catering is available. For rates and additional information, visit www.lanternlanefarmtn.net.
Louisville Institute: for Canadian and US pastors
The Louisville Institute offers grants through its “Pastoral Study Project” program. Grants offer pastoral leaders the opportunity for study and personal development for ministry. Applications are due September 1st. For more information visit www.louisville-institute.org/Grants/programs/pspdetail.aspx.
Magnetawan Retreat: for Canadian and US pastors
Located 2 ½ hours north of Toronto, ON, the Magnetawan Retreat is surrounded by the Magnetawan River Provincial Park. Rustic, wood-heated cabins amidst the beautiful wilderness provide a rejuvenating retreat away from busy, technology-filled life. Rates for cabins range from $70-80 per night and include all meals. For more information, visit www.magretreat.ca.
Marah Retreat House: for Canadian and US pastors
Nestled in a private country setting in Ontario, Canada, The Marah Retreat House provides a quiet place for guided individual or group retreats. Donations are suggested for overnight accommodations and day retreats (which include some meals). Spiritual accompaniment is also available for a small fee. For more information, visit http://washedinhislove.com/marah-retreat-house/.
Mentor Pastors Network: for Canadian and US pastors
The Leadership Network’s Mentor Pastors Network (MPN) is a network of mentor pastor couples who lead regional retreat experiences. Retreats are held at a location where each participant couple has their own bedroom and bath. All meals are provided, and retreats are a minimum of three nights in length with group dinners each evening. The retreats focus more on spiritual refreshment than the teaching from the host mentor couples. Some retreats are free while others have nominal costs depending on the mentors. For more information, visit www.pastorsretreatnetwork.org.
Mountain Learning Center: for Canadian and US pastors
The Mountain Learning Center is located in June Lake, CA, beneath the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. It offers two-week retreats for pastors and spouses that provide an opportunity for reassurance, renewal, reflection and recreation. For more information visit www.pastor-care.com/home.html.
National Clergy Renewal: for US pastors
The National Clergy Renewal Program offers grant awards of up to $50,000 to Christian congregations and their pastors to design a Sabbath renewal program that benefits and energizes the pastor and the church for their shared ministry. The deadline for applications is generally in May. For more information visit www.cts.edu/about-cts/center-for-pastoral-excellence/lilly-endowment-clergy-renewal-programs.aspx.
Nehemiah Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Nehemiah Ministries offers a natural haven in Owosso, MI where ministry families can withdraw from their normal environment to rest, relax and enjoy God’s creation. For more information, visit www.nehemiahm.org.
Oasis Retreats: for Canadian and US Pastors
Situated just outside Hope, British Columbia, Camp Hope offers five-day Oasis retreats for pastors and their spouses. The program addresses the many needs of leaders in ministry while at the same time provides plenty of time for fellowship, rest, and spiritual renewal. Personal counseling sessions and ministry tools are provided by the trained leaders on staff. The cost is $1,000 for singles or $1,550 for couples. Meals and lodging are included. For additional information, visit www.oasisretreatscanada.com.
Pastors on Point
The challenges and demands of pastoral leadership can cause exhaustion, dissatisfaction, and lack of motivation among pastors. Pastors on Point provides specialized coaching and retreat experiences for pastors, helping them to rediscover their “essence” and God’s unique design for each pastor. For more information on the program, please visit www.pastorsonpoint.org or contact Norm Thomasma, Director of CRC Pastor-Church Relations, at email@example.com.
Pastors R&R: for Canadian and US Pastors and Their Families
The Pastors R&R program provides full-time married pastors and their families the use of vacation properties at no cost. Eligible pastors must be married and have a total combined income that makes it difficult or impossible to take a family vacation—income less than $65,000 (US) including all benefits/allowances. Pastors must complete an application and phone interview to be considered for the program. A minimum stay of 12 days (not including travel) at the vacation home is required. For more information and to apply, visit www.pastorsrr.com.
Pine Rest Clinician: for pastors in the Greater Grand Rapids, MI area
Hank Bosma, a Pine Rest Christian Health Mental Services(Grand Rapids, MI) outpatient clinician with years of experience, is available to meet with pastors. During the once a month meetings the pastor can process ministry issues, personal and family issues, or receive support and encouragement. There’s no charge for this service. If interested please call Hank at the Pine Rest South Clinic (616-222-3700).
Quiet Place Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
There is no charge for the accommodations at Quiet Place Ministries for pastors and their families. However, the pastor couples are required to partake in a daily four hour program. Quiet Place Ministries is located in Jackson, MI. For more information, visit www.quietplaceministries.org.
Quiet Waters Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Located just outside of Denver, CO at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Quiet Waters Ministries provides retreats that focus on holistic health and renewal. Pastors and other ministry leaders will experience spiritual, emotional, and physical rejuvenation that will strengthen them for their families and ministry. Fees do apply and financial assistance is available. For more information on retreat opportunities and related programs, visit www.qwaters.org.
Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence – Grants for Sabbath Leaves: for Canadian and US pastors
The Sabbath Leave Program provides self-directed programs of Sabbath leave for pastors. They are hosted on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Sabbatical leaves range from two weeks to three months. Scholarships are available, however matching or in-kind support from the congregation is required. For more information, visit http://www.samford.edu/rcpe/Default.aspx?id=2147495798.
San Francisco Theology Seminary – Pastor Renewal: for Canadian and US Pastors
Located only 15 minutes north of the city, the San Francisco Theological Seminary provides a quiet place for reflection, study, relaxation, and renewal. Sabbaticals last from one week to several months, and include access to many of the seminary’s resources such as counseling services, worship, and seminary courses. Furnished apartments are available for rent starting at $425 per week. For more information, visit www.sfts.edu/programs/sabbaticals.asp.
Sandy Cove Ministries: for Canadian and US Pastors
Sandy Cove offers mini sabbaticals for pastors and their spouses to connect with God and with each other. Situated on the shore of beautiful Chesapeake Bay near the town of North East, Maryland, it’s an ideal place to relax, study, pray, and get away from the busyness of life. Stays typically last Sunday night through Tuesday morning and meals are provided. Rates are $170 for singles and $220 for couples. For additional information, visit www.sandycove.org/events/mini-sabbatical-for-ministry-leaders.
SonScape Retreats: for Canadian and US Pastors
SonScape offers pastoral retreats in Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia and upstate New York. These retreats provide pastors and pastor couples a unique setting for quiet meditation, rest, and spiritual renewal. Each retreat is limited to four couples/singles with times for group interaction, private sessions with retreat leaders, and personal time with God. Scholarships are available. For rates and additional information, visit www.SonScapeRetreats.org.
The Cottage on Coronado Island: for Canadian and US Pastors
Pastors and their spouses can enjoy a one-week retreat on Coronado Island in the San Diego Bay. The cottage is available year-round and includes breakfast, lunch, and counseling sessions. For rates and additional information, visit www.coronadocottage.org.
The Lodge: for Canadian and US pastors
The Lodge offers four and five day retreats for pastor couples on an 82 acre French countryside estate in Buchanan, MI. Accommodations include a 19th century French Provincial home and two guest cottages. There is a charge for the retreats but scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.retreatatthelodge.org.
The Mandala Center: for Canadian and US Pastors
The Mandala Center is an ecumenical retreat and conference center which offers spiritual retreats for reflection and renewal. It’s situated at 7,000 feet on the Sierra Grande just west of Des Moines, New Mexico. Discounts are available for pastors and ministry leaders. For fees and additional information, visit www.mandalacenter.org.
Westwood Ministries: for Canadian and US pastors
Located in the beautiful Texas Hill country, Westwood Ministries comes alongside Christian leaders and their families to cultivate vital health, deep renewal and genuine transformation in the Kingdom of God. Pastors and their families can stay in the lodge, the inn or the RV park. For more information, visit www.westwoodministries.org.
WinShape Retreat: for Canadian and US pastors
WinShape offers four-night/five-day retreats for pastors and full-time marriage ministry leaders and their spouses. Located on 26,000 acres of rolling meadows and mountain wilderness in Rome, GA, retreats offer a quiet place to reconnect and experience refreshment and renewal. For more information and pricing, visit www.winshape.org/Retreat/2.0/
• "Drinking Again from God's Life-Giving Waters" by Jim Schlottman (published in the May 2011 issue of Compass, distributed by QuietWaters Ministries). Why should pastors take a sabbatical, and why should congregations give them one? Jim Schlottman, President and CEO of QuietWaters Ministries, provides answers to these critical questions on the importance of renewal periods for those in ministry. In response to misconceptions about sabbaticals and their significance, Jim writes, “Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking again from God’s life-giving waters, for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.” Sabbaticals not only cultivate pastor renewal, but also renewal in the pastor’s family and congregation. To read more from Jim on the necessity of sabbaticals and suggestions for planning one, click here.
• "Finding Creative Ways of Renewal" by Lis Van Harten (published in the Fall 2012 issue of the APCE Advocate). For pastors and educators, renewal is vital to help combat the drain of an overfull, often stressful workload. Ways of finding renewal will vary greatly from person to person. Many pastors have experienced the joy of renewal through peer groups, in which pastors enjoy studying books, attending conferences together, sharing experiences, and engaging in a variety of other group activities. Renewal can also come through unintentional means, and sometimes it is the “simple act of people getting together to share life [that] brings renewal.” To read the full article, click here.
• "Sabbatical" (title of May 2012 issue of Compass, distributed by QuietWaters Ministries). In this special edition of Compass, QuietWaters President Jim Schlottman encourages pastors to take sabbaticals and urges ministry leaders to make funding those sabbaticals a greater priority. In his article “Plan that Overdue Sabbatical”, Dale Matthews notes that while many denominations support pastoral sabbaticals (one for every six to seven years of service), the reality remains that most pastors never get one. Reasons include: not enough funding, lack of priority, and sabbatical misconceptions (those who see sabbaticals as ‘vacations’). Some pastors serve a church for five to seven years and then take a call elsewhere, thus forfeiting any sabbatical they may have ‘earned’ at their previous church. Working through the reasons can be challenging however, the profound benefits of sabbaticals are clear. As Matthews writes, “A sabbatical is a time of renewal and re-creation for the pastor and the church, and it will reap benefits for years to come.” To read the entire Compass issue on sabbaticals, click here.
• "Sabbatical Helps Getting from One's Element to One's Essence" by Phil Thorne (posted March 1, 2011 on churchexecutive.com). Following a three-month sabbatical, part of which was with Pastors on Point ministry, Pastor Phil Thorne shares from his personal experience how sabbaticals can provide renewal and strength for pastors amidst the challenges of parish ministry. Through time spent hiking, fishing, and “soaking up the majesty of the landscape” in the Colorado wilderness, he discovered the need to guard his center of life – an intimate relationship with God – out of which flows all aspects of life, church, and leadership. Phil now practices regular Sabbath, and encourages both his staff and other pastors to do the same. To read more of Phil’s story, click here.
• "The Dark Side of a Sabbatical" by Mark Miller-McLemore (published in the December 2010 issue of Faith & Leadership). An increasing number of pastors are adopting the practice of sabbaticals, which can be a great time of refreshment and growth for pastors and their congregations. However, as three congregations illustrate, there is a ‘dark side’ – or potential dangers – that can arise in pastoral sabbaticals. Whether it’s wrongful assumptions about sabbatical intentions, resentment from the congregation, or emotional tension between pastors and lay leaders, sabbaticals have the potential to create unexpected problems. To read some helpful tips on how to avoid sabbatical hazards, click here.
• Bullock, Richard and Richard Bruesehoff. Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning. Alban Institute, 2000
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