A known leadership saying is that the mark of a good leader is when the team can function well without the leader being present. David Keck, Healthy Churches, claimed that a healthy church setting has three things that make a pastoral sabbatical possible: (a) strong lay leadership that can function independently of the pastor; (b) the financial resources to provide for pastoral leadership during the sabbatical time; and (c) a pastor who can be away from the church.
Accordingly, all leaders should train their followers to serve as if they will one day be the
one in command. Ministry flows better with a team approach. Servant-leaders do not mind rolling up their sleeves and going into the trenches with their team to serve God and impact people’s lives. Sadly, in the 21st century, some pastors actually believe that they can do ministry alone or with one other, but will not offer ministry opportunities to others. Yes, Jesus could have reached some while He was living on Earth, but He knew He could impact many by inviting twelve men to serve as His disciples (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:14-19).
John Maxwell said, “A leader who produces other leaders multiplies their influences.”
From the twelve men, thousands were added to do kingdom building. When the parishioners see that the church does not function by the pastor alone, and that others play a key role in the success of ministry, they are less likely to always expect the pastor to be at their beckon call. This allows the pastor some time for self and family. Other leaders can respond to provide the necessary pastoral care, and the parishioner will not feel slighted by the service provided.
The church’s financial resource is another major concern to a pastor. It is a known fact that parishioners’ commitment in attendance and offerings decline when the pastor is away. A few years ago, a senior pastor announced his four-month sabbatical to the church. He encouraged the parishioners to remain faithful in their generosity. He emphasized that the church’s vision and mission will continue in his absence. The church’s various local and world missions still needed to be financially supported.
When a pastor is taking sabbatical, most churches provide a stipend to those who assume leadership. The church gives an honorarium to guest preachers and continues to provide a salary to the pastor while he is on sabbatical. When it comes to church members’ faithfulness and commitment in giving, most times, it is not consistent while the pastor is actively present. Therefore, the pastor feels the need to stay present to encourage good stewardship.
However, it does a pastor well to see that the church flows smoothly, and ministry continues in his or her absence. Dale Wolyniak explained: Churches experiencing their own sabbatical alongside that of their pastor also gain perspective and understanding of their own calling as a body to be a part of the ministry team. Churches gain a new freedom from old habits of dependency, and enter into a new season of cooperation with both God and the leader or leaders He has placed among them.
In the relationship between the church and the pastor, the parishioners should be able to envision the pastor’s personal life, family, and everyday needs experienced beyond the church walls, and encourage the pastor to Sabbath often. An interviewed Lead Pastor advised pastors to educate the leadership team on the true life of a pastor and “once they grasp it, they should share it with the congregation.” This education encompasses the pastor’s needs for spiritual, self, and soul care. However, pastors serve in roles that do not necessarily encourage the fuller range of self-disclosure, partly because they feel the pressure to set examples for their congregants to follow. Personal self-disclosure flexibility is critical for the well-being of a pastor, because the imbalance in relational connections with others can lead to burnout. Pastors also struggle with self-disclosure or the willingness to discuss their own personal health and needs, because their wellness reflects the foundation of their personal and spiritual identity and is also a vocational prerequisite. As a result of non-disclosure, struggles with other people and with God can continue to undermine spiritual well-being and their relationships with others.
There are times in everyone’s life that personal problems occur. It becomes a disturbance in the flow of ministry when the leader refuses to acknowledge problems and fails to seek assistance to resolve it. Pastors who are servant-leaders establish a level of trust within their group to make known that there are some personal matters in life that need their primary focus, and encourage the team to continue to work to fulfill the church’s mission. Such transparency causes the team members to see the pastor’s humanness, bringing about a willingness to serve and do whatever is in the best interest of the pastor and the church.