Sample Congregational Sabbatical Policy

Adopted by Synod Council action May 22, 2000

Sabbatical/Extended Study Leave Policy

(from Pr. Steven Erickson, Trinity, Mount Morris)

The ELCA Churchwide assembly in Philadelphia, August 1997, adopted a Strategy Statement “life-long learning and Development for Faithful leaders”. This statement addresses Continuing Education and recommends planning for extended study for a minimum of one to three months every three to five years in the present call.

The goals and framework for the extended study and renewal period are provided in detail in the statement. The purpose of the sabbatical leave is to provide time for a pastor to enrich professional competence and/or to gain perspective on ministry through advanced study, travel, special project, mission, retreat, or other planned activities for renewal. This provides the pastor with a break from the day-to-day pressures of shepherding the congregation. Additionally, such a break provides the pastor a significant opportunity for spiritual renewal essential for the pastor’s spiritual growth and revitalization of the ministry to the congregation. Thus, sabbaticals are beneficial for both parish and pastor. Advent Lutheran Church shall provide a Sabbatical Extended Study leave Policy as stated herein and shall include this policy as a part of the Call.

  1. Eligibility The pastor is eligible for the Sabbatical Extended Study leave after serving as pastor full time for five (5) years; the pastor will ordinarily be eligible thereafter every five (5) years.
  2. Length of Sabbatical/Extended Study Leave The length of the leave should be a minimum of one month, with a suggested time frame of one to three months, depending on the nature of the sabbatical experience and the specific needs of the congregation. The amount of time allowed and funds budgeted annually for continuing education continues, except in the year of the Sabbatical, when they are applied to the Sabbatical. Sabbatical leave is not to be considered “vacation time”.
  3. Finances
    • Salary, housing, and benefits shall continue during the leave period.
    • Sabbatical leave expenses shall be reimbursed, as possible, upon presentation of itemized billing.
    • An Extended Study leave Fund shall be established as a regular item in the congregation budget. The sum of $100 per month shall be budgeted for this purpose to be accumulated from year to year. These funds are to be used to provide for professional services in the congregation during the pastor’s absence and/or to reimburse applicable sabbatical expenses incurred by the pastor on leave.
    • Matching funds or grants may be available from fraternal organizations, the Synod, or the ELCA. The pastor and congregation should explore the possibility of additional funding through support from organizations such as Thrivent.
  4. Procedure
    • The pastor and the Mutual Ministry Committee shall prepare a Sabbatical/Extended Study leave Plan for submission to the Church Council at least six months prior to the proposed date for the leave to begin. The Plan shall include the following:
      • Time, length, and purpose planned for the leave and possible outcomes.
      • Suggestions for interim ministry during the leave period.
    • After review of the Plan and discussion by the Council, the Council shall act to approve, modify, or reject the Plan. If approved, the Council shall submit the Plan to the congregation for action at the next regularly scheduled congregation meeting or, if timing necessitates, a special congregation meeting called to act on the Plan.
    • Within two months after the end of the leave period, the pastor shall submit a written Report and Evaluation of the leave outcome to the Council and to the congregation.
    • The Mutual Ministry Committee shall be responsible to follow up on outcomes and actions resulting from the Report and Evaluation of the leave with periodic reports to the Council and congregation, as appropriate.
    • The Plan shall include a commitment by the pastor to continue service at Advent Lutheran Church for at least one year after the leave period according to the wishes of the congregation.