How can your church rejuvenate its pastor after 2020? One way that multiple SBCV churches have sought to honor their pastors and create a margin for reinvigoration is by providing a sabbatical, an intentional season of rest, for their pastors. Hampton Roads Fellowship in Newport News walked through this process with its pastor, Miguel Davilla.
Pastor Davilla recalled, “I was entering the seventh year of pastoral ministry, after first planting the church in 2013, and I was beginning to lose my joy in my calling as a pastor.” After a difficult 2019, marked by some conflict in the church and emotional burdens that continued to weigh on him, Davilla knew he needed time to rest. In the normal routine and pattern of pastoral ministry, rest does not come naturally.
To pastors feeling that they need a sabbatical, Davilla would say, “The first thing you need to do is share that with your spouse and with your fellow elders. Make sure you have their support and have them also help you design how your sabbatical needs to look and how that will be communicated to the congregation.”
The elders of Hampton Roads Fellowship rallied around their pastor. They readily expressed their gratitude for his hard work and acknowledged the need for intentional time off. With Davilla, they put together a plan for a two-month sabbatical that turned into a three-month sabbatical.
What did he do on his sabbatical? While COVID-19 restrictions limited his options, Davilla sought intentional rest by taking care of himself. He took a trip to spend some time with a close friend in Philadelphia who took time to minister to him and his soul. Pastor Davilla reflected, “It was good to get away from the normal stress here locally, and spending a week just talking over my soul and emotions was extremely helpful.” In addition to soul care, he spent time getting back into some habits of physical exercise. Pastor Davilla’s sabbatical was originally scheduled for two months, but the elders decided that three months (90 days) would be more appropriate, an extension for which Davilla remains thankful.
If you are a church leader, consider offering a sabbatical for your pastors. Pastor Davilla would advise churches, “Please support your pastors by giving them the time off they need so they can focus on their own soul and health and, as a result, that will pay dividends in benefiting the congregation for years to come. It is far easier to give a pastor a sabbatical for a few months than it is to find a new pastor after he has experienced burnout.”