Sabbaticals – A Growing Benefit for the Harried Pastor?

“Where could Elmer find a profession with a better social position than the ministry -thousands listening to him -invited to banquets and everything. So much easier than -Well, not exactly easier; all ministers worked arduously -great sacrifices -constant demands on their sympathy -heroic struggle against vice -but same time, elegant and superior work, surrounded by books, high thoughts, and the finest ladies in the city or country as the case might be. And cheaper professional training than law. With scholarships and outside preaching, Elmer could get through the three years of Mizpah Theological Seminary on almost nothing a year. What other plans had he for a career? Nothing definite? Why, looked like divine intervention; certainly did; let’s call it settled. Perhaps he could get Elmer a scholarship the very first year.”

Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis

“Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

Back in the halcyon days of my life as a member of Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert (Now rebranded as Center Church), I had willingly submitted myself to the youthful senior pastor who was only a few years removed from the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastor’s College. (I bought the Sovereign Grace Ministries interpretation of Hebrews 13:17). This “college” was an intensive tenth-month indoctrination into the ways of Sovereign Grace Ministries and was held at Covenant Life Church, the epicenter of the denomination. C.J. Mahaney, the onetime senior pastor of CLC called the church “the happiest place on earth.” That was prior to Mahaney anointing the youthful Joshua Harris the senior pastor, freeing up Mahaney to pursue greater revenue streams. A few years later the sexual abuse scandal within Sovereign Grace Ministries story broke and C.J. Mahaney didn’t find Covenant Life Church to be his happy place after all. He fled for a short time to Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church and then determined that Louisville, KY was in dire need of another Baptist Church so he took his cadre of Kool-Aid swilling loyalists there to “plant” a new franchise.

While attending Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert I also participated in Care Groups, Alpha Ministries, the Welcome Team, patrolled the parking lot during church services, helped set up for occasional week-end conferences and clean up after the conference was over, helped several of those I was “doing life with” move to new residences and worked full time (oftentimes overtime) as an air traffic controller at Phoenix TRACON. I did this with a good heart, as unto the Lord. Years later I read on SGM Survivors website that Sovereign Grace pastors didn’t work quite as hard as us rock-throwing peasants.  For example, when pastors had their weekly “date night” (strongly pushed by pastors to help build a healthy marriage) they got off work early that day. When there was a weekend conference at our church the pastors took off time in the middle of the week since they were “on the clock” while at the conference. (I imagine they did the same when they participated in the evening Alpha course.)   I must admit I lost a bit of my joy when I read about this. I doubt I am the only individual who feels this way. Many people I knew at Sovereign Grace worked just as hard as I did at earning a living and donated many hours of service to the church. While I don’t know specifics as to the salaries and vacation time these pastors received, I believe it was very generous.

All this leads me to the subject of today’s blog – sabbaticals for pastors. This seems to be an item that the professional clergy class in the Evangelical world is really pushing these days. While I don’t deny that many pastors work hard, some of them are even in the Sovereign Grace Churches denomination, I frankly don’t understand the felt need of lengthy sabbaticals. To be perfectly honest I feel it is an attempt to carve out additional vacation time.  You will see below that the professional clergy class has anticipated my complaint and responded by saying that their vacation time is generally spent with family and they need extra time to read deeply, study a subject of particular interest, recharge their batteries, etc.  I guess taking a vacation to a beach with a stack of books doesn’t count!

I get a distinct feeling that the professional clergy class with whom I am familiar are a bunch of pampered, prima donnas who consider themselves intellectually superior to those in their churches. Do they not think that those of us who have secular jobs also are intellectually curious people who love to read, learn and grow?  We are. We work hard, we look forward to vacations and we spend what little free time we have pursuing things that interest us. If I could convince an employer into giving me an extra three-month paid vacation every three years in addition to my normal vacation I would gladly accept the benefit. But it’s not going to happen. I guess I could have been a school teacher, but while I hold teachers in high regard, it is a job I am not cut out for.

Let me add that I cannot recall a single pastor I knew in my early years who had a sabbatical, and I attended churches of all sizes and denominations. Sabbaticals seem to be a fairly recent thing for pastors. I would guess they are a product of mega-churches and prosperity. While the material I have read and listened to advocate for sabbaticals for pastors of smaller churches, acknowledging that these pastors actually work harder than pastors at churches that employ a large staff, I doubt many of these pastors actually get a sabbatical.

Now I want to let you listen to 9Marks and The Gospel Coalition pastors discuss sabbaticals, after which I will present you with an interesting case of a former pastor of mine who is on a sabbatical.

 

You can listen to the 9Marks podcast here. I recommend fast-forwarding to the 5-minute mark to skip over all the introductory chatter.  At Capitol Hill Baptist Church staff pastors must submit a form for approval of their sabbatical to senior pastor Mark Dever. Included is the purpose of the sabbatical, or how the staff pastor intends to spend the time, along with a requested time period for the sabbatical. Dever may suggest a different area of focus for the staff pastor and the specific time period needs to be worked out, but he always approves the request.

It was recently brought to my attention that John Folmar, senior pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai, has taken a six-month sabbatical.  While on the sabbatical Folmar obtained employment as an interim pastor for Sunset Canyon Baptist Church, This church is not a 9Marks church nor does it have any ties to Sovereign Grace Churches.

If you listen to all the proponents of sabbaticals for pastors they stress that the purpose of a sabbatical is to get a break from the daily grind and responsibilities of daily pastoral duties. It is a time of refreshment, a time to get a break from preparing a weekly sermon so you can read or study various theological topics of interest. Nowhere did I find it recommended that a pastor take a paid sabbatical so he could work another job as a pastor and draw a second income. I talked to a friend of mine who I knew from my days in Dubai and he was surprised to learn that Folmar was doing this. He said the congregation was told the sabbatical was to deal with some family issues and he figured that perhaps Folmar’s elderly father was in poor health and in need of care.

I asked a friend of mine who is a pastor if he thought Folmar obtaining employment as a pastor while on a sabbatical was ethical. His response was that the elders of UCCD were aware of the situation and had approved it.  Left unsaid is the fact that Folmar’s elder board is comprised of yes-men that would likely approve whatever he requested, but that doesn’t make it ethical.


The phantom job interview

“It was the first sabbatical the small, blue-collar church had considered, so a reassuring part of the sabbatical policy was a provision that the pastor would stay at the church for at least one year after the sabbatical’s end. The pastor accepted the terms gladly, since he had no desire to leave.

His sabbatical was a delight of exploration, reading, worship in other places and styles, healthy activity, and prayer and reflection on where his ministry at the church would lead. It was also interrupted by a job offer extended to his wife. Though neither felt called to make a move, the wife decided it was good to take a look, and the potential employer flew the minister husband to the new location for a day as well. The visit confirmed that they were not interested.

As is often the case in church circles, however, word got around (was it from their 3-year-old?). Someone heard that the pastor was using his sabbatical to find a new job. Two lay leaders called a meeting, and the pastor tried to explain. But the damage was done, and leaders felt betrayed. The feelings of mistrust lasted for more than a year, until a consultant advised the congregation: “Let it go.”


Do you know what would impress me? I would like to see a pastor take a sabbatical and get a respite from the grind of his job by helping build homes with Habitat For Humanity, or some other type of service-oriented work.  Let me know if you have ever heard of that happening. I am also interested in hearing your thoughts on sabbaticals.

“East Side Of Town”
by Lucinda Williams

You think you got problems
You don’t know the half of it.
I hear you talk about your millions and your politics
You wanna cross the poverty line
You wanna have a look around
Why you don’t come find me – on the east side of town

You think you’re Mr. Do-good
You know what you’re talking ’bout
When you find yourself in my neighborhood
You can’t wait to get the hell out
You wanna see what it means to suffer
You wanna know what it means to be down
So why don’t you come over to the east side of town

You think your dogs are mean
You ain’t seen nothin’ yet
I’ll show you things you’ve never seen
And you wish you could forget
You wanna see how the other half lives
You wanna see how we get around
Why don’t you come visit me on the east side of town

You got your ideas and your visions
And you say you sympathize
You look but you don’t listen
There’s no empathy in your eyes
You make deals and promises
And everybody bows down
Now you wanna come shake my hand
On the east side of town

So why you don’t come find me
On the east side of town
Why don’t you come over
To the east side of town
Why don’t you come visit me
On the east side of town

Comments

Sabbaticals – A Growing Benefit for the Harried Pastor? — 145 Comments

  1. I am OK with sabbatical for pastors.
    The elected board of our American Baptist church voted for our pastor to have a 90 day sabbatical. He earned it with 20+ years of service. While he is highly qualified with a legit. doctorate, I have also painted walls and scrubbed floors alongside him. He organized replacement teachers and programs in his absence, as well as provided his plans during the sabbatical.
    Alas, just a few weeks before it was to start the Covid-19 pandemic hit and he opted to cancel. Hopefully in a few months he can get his due sabbatical.

  2. Thank you. For ages I’ve been wishing someone would discuss this issue. The painter, the HVAC installer, the R.N., and the realtor all work long hours and don’t get a paid sabbatical. Why do pastors? Pastors get celebrity status for no good reason. People smirked when we learned our pastor was found on part of his sabbatical visiting a tourist attraction strangely close to the new pastorate he ended up at a year later. Amazing how these things happen. Providence, right?
    Todd, would you address tithing sometime? It’s another unBiblical requirement. Cheerful giving, yes. Using the word tithing and using the OT to urge it is wrong IMO.

  3. About 20 years ago, our EFCA pastor went on sabbatical…. He came back a Piper-ite. Everything changed at the church, and we left a couple of years later, disgusted with the glory talk and how everything had been dismantled, including our thriving youth group.

    When a pastor at a later church spoke of going on “sabbatical,” Hubby felt a bit leery.

  4. Godith: Todd, would you address tithing sometime? It’s another unBiblical requirement. Cheerful giving, yes. Using the word tithing and using the OT to urge it is wrong IMO.

    I agree with you on tithing and perhaps I will write about it someday. I remember whenever John Folmar was questioned about his view of tithing his reply would be “10% is a good starting point.”

  5. I have mixed feelings about this.

    The closest analogy I can think of is school teachers, who have a two-month “sabbatical” every summer. My dad was a teacher, and I worked for a while as support staff at a college. Like pastoring, there are a lot of “invisible” hours that go into the job, and work is frequently taken home. (For example, I had minor surgery as a pre-teen; my dad literally brought papers to grade as he sat in the waiting room. And Mom often drove on road trips so Dad could do grading in the car.)

    High caliber teachers use a good chunk of that “sabbatical” in professional development and prep work for the upcoming year (along with R&R). I would imagine that high caliber pastors would do the same.

    One of the reasons I opted to become support staff was because I knew I could leave work at the office at the end of the day. But won’t lie. When the end of spring semester rolled around and the faculty blithely said, “See you in August,” I was more than a little wistful, knowing I’d have been working the whole time they were gone.

  6. Remember Mark Dever twittering near-daily snapshots of a row of townhouses being erected in the church parking lot? New digs for all his interns.

    Well the five townhouses are done, and Dever twittered that they will also be used to host select 9Marksist pastors:

    https://twitter.com/MarkDever/status/1240076543285768193

    Dever: they’re also for “friends doing sabbaticals”.

  7. University professors in tenure track/tenured positions in good universities usually get sabbaticals; however, they are meant to be working in a specific way during them

    The purpose of the sabbatical leave program is to free faculty members from their normal University duties, enabling them to pursue their scholarly interests full-time and maintain their professional standing so that they may return to their posts with renewed vigor, perspective, and insight.

    I note at my local university, if you are earning outside income during the leave, your sabbatical pay by the university will at most only ensure your total income equals your usual pay (at least if I’m reading the handbook correctly).
    As far as pastors, different denominations do different things. Unitarian Universalists expect ministers to take sabbaticals (one month per year of full time service and the usual length is about 5-7 months). There is also financial support to congregations for whom this would be a burden. It also seems to be a bit of the congregation taking a sabbatical from the minister. As one congregation’s info states: “Also,this sabbatical offers the staff and the congregation the opportunity to work together in a time of experimentation and discovery”. Also the separation seems quite complete during the time of the sabbatical; the minister is not informed about what is going on at the church (barring major disaster or death in the congregation). Both sides seem to report once the sabbatical is over. A quick search also shows that the Missouri Synod recommends sabbaticals for ministers.

  8. Ava Aaronson:
    Nyssa The Hobbit: pastor went on sabbatical…. He came back a Piper-ite

    Pasteur pipette.

    Should a Piper-ite Pasteur’s wife submit to his sabbatical for a season? (Chuckles) Oh My!
    In my case, Noel basically forced me to take a sabbatical. I had been perusing and pursuing a plethora of pride, you see. If I hadn’t just taken a little break already and actually spent a little (no wisecracks please) quality time with her, she threatened to stop the tea delivery up to my third-floor study— permanently!

  9. “Do you know what would impress me? I would like to see a pastor take a sabbatical and get a respite from the grind of his job by helping build homes with Habitat For Humanity, or some other type of service-oriented work. Let me know if you have ever heard of that happening.”

    I recall hearing that Xerox offered as much as a year at one point for employees to do just that, and some reportedly did service work overseas.

  10. In my denomination, a seventh-year sabbatical is customary – and customarily used for its intended purpose, usually to advance their study, pursue a theological project, reinforce their credentials. The current rector of my church also notes that it frequently results in a job change a year or two later – many beneficiaries of the practice discover it’s time to move on. On one occasion, sadly, the rector used his sabbatical to foment a schism resulting in a strong church becoming two very much weaker ones.

  11. In the Anglican church likewise (as per d4vid) a sabbatical of about 7 weeks every 7 years (or roughly that, I’m not sure of the exact rules) is normal. I certainly don’t begrudge it to Anglican ministers as over here in the UK the rules of payment and the culture are different (no massive conference circuit, for example, and pay is very much fixed). The most recent man I knew of having a sabbatical spent two weeks of it learning advanced Hebrew.

  12. If the pastor is actually shepherding the sheep, then I think a sabbatical is necessary at times. Having been a pastor and now a therapist, I can say that walking with people through their problems, struggles, heartbreak, pain, illnesses, crises, etc. is harder on a person in some ways than your typical non-church professions.

    Of course, many pastors are sadly not really shepherding their sheep. I’ve also met few (if any) pastors that weren’t codependent workaholics. Perhaps there would be less need for sabbaticals if emotional health was considered when hiring a new pastor. Can this even happen when so many leaders in churches are also workaholics? For example, elders who work 80+ hours a week and hardly see their families are going to hire pastors that are willing to do the same!

  13. Godith:
    Todd, would you address tithing sometime? It’s another unBiblical requirement. Cheerful giving, yes. Using the word tithing and using the OT to urge it is wrong IMO.

    I wish he would too. Even as an ordained minister, I never was convinced that tithing 10% was a NT command. I went toe to toe with one of my early mentors about this and his final comment after a lengthy theological discussion was: “But what would churches do for money?” To me that’s at the heart of this teaching… Fear. The sheep are exhorted to have faith and give ’till it hurts, but church leaders don’t have faith that the HS will move to stir people to give. Or maybe they’re not willing to consider that the Lord doesn’t want them to keep maintaining a huge church machine that requires a huge amount of money to keep growing.

    Whatever the case, it angers me that so many churches bind people’s consciences about tithing by using a hermeneutic that they often criticize other groups for using in forming their “unbiblical” doctrines.

  14. There’s a large and megachurch bias in most articles addressing church issues, and yet the vast majority of churches are small. In my denomination the average church is single clergy staff, under 100 in attendance. After a period of faithful service, 5 years or more, a planned sabbatical would be appropriate and beneficial to church, pastor, and pastor’s family. The length could be as short as several consecutive Sundays, a month or so.

    Me? In several decades of pastoring I never had a sabbatical. Never asked for one…but I would ask for one today.

  15. “I frankly don’t understand the felt need of lengthy sabbaticals. To be perfectly honest I feel it is an attempt to carve out additional vacation time … they stress that the purpose of a sabbatical is to get a break from the daily grind and responsibilities of daily pastoral duties”

    Local SBC-YRR church planters and takeover con artists don’t need sabbaticals … they need to minister to the flock! They don’t visit the homes of their members (nor know the names of most of them) … they don’t pray with the sick in hospitals .. they don’t visit nursing homes … they don’t preach funerals. But they find plenty of time to tweet their lives away in local coffee shops with the dudebros. Their “daily grind” revolves around coffee grinds. Sabbaticals (aka vacations)?! NO! Do your job as a pastor first!!

    “It is a time of refreshment, a time to get a break from preparing a weekly sermon so you can read or study various theological topics of interest.”

    The young reformers in my area get plenty of refreshment at the coffee shops! Sermon prep? Nah, they borrow sermons from each other. All they need is a gift of gab to deliver it. God help us if they have more time to spend reading and studying Piper, Dever, et al.!!

  16. Nyssa The Hobbit: About 20 years ago, our EFCA pastor went on sabbatical…. He came back a Piper-ite … Everything changed at the church …

    Same thing happened at a once-traditional (non-Calvinist) SBC church in my area. After already extensive time away to obtain his doctorate (indoctrination) at an SBC seminary, the church granted him a lengthy sabbatical to be refreshed and study. They are now reeling from the changes to belief and practice after his return. Beware of pastors who use what they learned during sabbaticals to “reform” local churches.

    (Note: as Loren Haas noted upstream, I have known devoted Christian leaders who have worked long and hard in genuinely ministering to folks; they serve the Lord with blood, sweat and tears. Those few dear souls deserve time away, but they are a threatened and endangered species in the American church. Not every “pastor” deserves a sabbatical pass … they haven’t earned it.)

  17. Pastor John: If I hadn’t just taken a little break

    Little break?!! Pastor John, as I remember you went on an 8-month sabbatical! I suppose you needed that much time, however, after working so diligently to help launch the New Calvinist movement. Most Wartburgers are truly ungrateful for what you have done. (no chuckle here)

  18. Max: gift of gab

    If this is what is perceived to be a gift/work of the Holy Spirit, what amounts to planting and building a church, then we have a spiritual mirage, where anything goes. Manipulation, intimidation, domination is not love and never a work of God. The foundation of what a church is built upon is, in the end, who the participants, with leadership, are. James 1.27, in the literal sense, is actions not words.

    For a Christian, there is no sabbatical in the life of following Jesus. Jesus fasted in the desert and went away from the crowds to pray, but was never on sabbatical.

  19. 1 Go, labor on: spend and be spent,
    your joy to do the Father’s will;
    it is the way the Master went;
    should not the servant tread it still?

    2 Go, labor on: ’tis not for naught;
    your earthly loss is heav’nly gain;
    men heed you, love you, praise you not;
    the Master praises– what are men?

    3 Go, labor on: enough while here
    if he should praise you, if he deign
    your willing heart to mark and cheer;
    no toil for him shall be in vain.

    4 Go, labor on while it is day:
    the world’s dark night is hast’ning on.
    Speed, speed your work, cast sloth away;
    it is not thus that souls are won.

    5 Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray;
    be wise the erring soul to win;
    go forth into the world’s highway,
    compel the wand’rer to come in.

    6 Toil on, and in your toil rejoice;
    for toil comes rest, for exile home;
    soon shall you hear the Bridegroom’s voice,
    the midnight peal, “Behold, I come.”
    (Horatius Bonar, Free Church Minister)

  20. Ava Aaronson: a spiritual mirage

    There is a corner of the American church which is built around leaders with a touch of charisma, a gift of gab, and bag of gimmicks … where delusion and illusion is modus operandi.

  21. Max: Little break

    Fact: More than one religious leader has been caught in nefarious activities while on break & on the payroll, sometimes these very activities bankrolled by their ministry supporters. Massages in Thailand, computer searches with photos, transitions from coffee shops to hotel rooms.

    Fact: Workers need breaks and down time.

    Fact: The image of happily married with family is no proof of righteous living.

  22. Max: a corner of the American church

    Feature or bug?
    That is the question.

    If in a designated group/org, it’s a feature, then they are a cult, if even a personality cult. That’s what paying members are supporting.

  23. Max: Most Wartburgers are truly ungrateful for what you have done.

    Oh Max! You’re just a hater…. Stop Calvanista Hate! I once explained to my BFF Ceej how it wasn’t just the 8 month sabbatical what saved my marriage. It was… wait for it… Corporate Worship! thewartburgwatch.com/2017/01/04/john-pipers-recent-confession-corporate-worship-saved-his-marriage/
    Speaking of Corporate Worship inspires me to quote from one of the most inane things I ever said. But that would derail the conversation and make it all about me. What’s a hedonist to do?

  24. Pastor John: Oh Max! You’re just a hater…. Stop Calvanista Hate!

    I love the real Body of Christ too much to let up now, Pastor John! I don’t “hate” anybody … but sound the alarm about deceivers who have come through the hole in the wall.

  25. I work for a missions agency and we have encouraged sabbaticals for all of our workers. But they are quite focused. Before one of our missionaries goes on sabbatical, they have to build a detailed sabbatical plan and a small team is put around them to hold them to it through regular checkins, etc. My last sabbatical was 3 months and my family traveled to a large church community associated with our organization in Asia and I focused on honing my strengths coaching skills through coaching all of that churches teams. It was still quite busy (it ended up being 40+ people spread between 8ish teams) but in a very different way than normal (we were based in Eastern Africa at the time). Rest was a part (I was encouraged to work 3 or 4 days instead of 5 to 6 a week) but the focus was on continuing education in focused way on something that would build directly into my day to day work once the sabbatical was over.

    I’d also add that research has been done into the stress levels of those in mission/ministry (here’s a start: https://blogs.ethnos360.org/brian-pruett/2012/03/23/just-how-stressed-are-missionaries-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/). One potential solution is to encourage rest and sabbatical rhythms. (I would though argue that we need to rethink much of the way we do mission/ministry work to not create some of these problems.)

  26. Ava Aaronson: The image of happily married with family is no proof of righteous living.

    I’ve known more than one preacher’s kid who hated taking those family photos for the church website. They knew the real story about Daddy … and hoped he took his “sabbaticals” alone.

  27. I think that sabbaticals can be a really good thing if they are used for the right purposes, among which I would include self-reflection. It is hard to self-examine when you already overtaxed with routine duties.

    And perhaps what is sauce for goose is also sauce for gander.

    Laity could take sabbaticals from their home congregations to explore theological and ecclesiological alternatives. It would help to avoid group-think and disdain of other threads in the “tapestry” that is the christian movement through history.

    I suppose that theological and ecclesiological siloing has benefits for the existing church structures, so aspirations like this are unrealistic.

  28. Samuel Conner: Laity could take sabbaticals from their home congregations to explore theological and ecclesiological alternatives.

    Yeah, in other words: looking for another church! I suspect the largest growing segment of the American church are the “Dones” … done with an unspiritual church, member contracts, authoritarian rulers, theological heresy, big screens, fog machines, skinny jeans, etc. … but not done with Jesus.

  29. It’s interesting to read the variety of perspectives on this topic.

    Catholic priests can request a sabbatical for a rest – especially if they have health issues – or for a purpose. For example, a Mexican priest in our diocese went to visit his family in southern Mexico and ran into an opportunity to learn about a native, non-Spanish-speaking, people group that has begun immigrating to our area.

    He requested and was granted the rest of the year to remain in Mexico, study the language, and build connections between church officials and laity in Mexico and those in the U.S.

  30. Perhaps Folmar was hired at Sunset Canyon as “part-time interim pastor” so that one of the more permanent pastors at Sunset Canyon could take a sabbatical, where HE then goes out and gets hired in a “part-time interim pastor” position elsewhere so someone else from THAT church can take a sabbatical….

    Sounds like good money.

  31. Our pastor just had his first sabbatical in 17 years and for us it was a good thing for our pastor and our church. Our pastor used his time wisely to spend time with the Lord and came back refreshed and many of our members got to step up and speak in his absence.
    It was good to see how well we did without him there and just reaffirmed that we are developing leaders. ( he is a great pastor) and not everything is dependent upon him.

  32. Max,

    Question: What professions deserves a sabbatical and what profession does not. Doctors and nurses do not have sabbaticals. In fact, for some, they would have to give up there job with benefits.

    Take a look at the people who collect our trash. It is backbreaking work and not pleasant in many respects.I know one who has done it for 20 years. Should they get *sabbaticals?”

    What about military grunts serving in foreign lands under great duress. Their idea of a sabbatical is being transferred back to the States to work at a different job.

    I’m going to say something that will get me into trouble. Why is the work of pastors more deserving of sabbaticals than any other profession?

    In one of my old churches, the pastor (the senior pastor who dumped the work on others) got a sabbatical for three-six months every 5 years.

    I like my pastors and have no trouble with them getting a sabbatical although I don’t think my pastors take one. And they are finer pastors then my former Baptist church whose pastor complained about being tired while getting a sabbatical on a regular basis.

    I do not agree that they should get one and other professions should not get one. Nurses worked under difficult circumstances with COVID. Tell me why they shouldn’t get a sabbatical.

  33. ChuckP: Our pastor used his time wisely to spend time with the Lord

    I want to push a bit on this. Are you saying that a pastor can’t sped time with the Lord on a daily basis and be refreshed? If this is the case, the rest of us are screwed since sabbaticals are not a given for most.

    Again, I’m trying to get to the core reasons for sabbaticals which are given usually for pastors and a few in academia to pursue their research.

  34. Samuel Conner: Laity could take sabbaticals from their home congregations to explore theological and ecclesiological alternatives. It

    Now this is just plain meddling. 🙂

  35. From Wilhelm’s article up top:

    “I get a distinct feeling that the professional clergy class with whom I am familiar are a bunch of pampered, prima donnas who consider themselves intellectually superior to those in their churches.”

    I know an 11 year old girl I tutored in algebra and geometry who can think rings around any one of those guys.

  36. M Jones,

    I would not say that you were on a sabbatical. My one pastor defined a sabbatical as taking cruises, etc. When it was found that a bunch of boys in our church were molested, he refused to come back from his *sabbatical.* The quote of what he said went something like this ” I don’t come back for my sabbatical even if the church is burning down.”

    I have soured a bit on the sabbatical thing.

  37. Muff Potter: “I get a distinct feeling that the professional clergy class with whom I am familiar are a bunch of pampered, prima donnas who consider themselves intellectually superior to those in their churches.”

    Love that quote, Muff. Some have to get away to think up which direction that church should go in for the next year. My former pastor failed, big time.

  38. Ava Aaronson: Fact: Workers need breaks and down time.

    Yes indeed, and part of this discussion is about scarcity. If most adults (in the US) got adequate vacation time and respite, this discussion would be very different. “I never get a break, so nobody deserves a break” is an unfortunate stance, if understandable.

    Most pastors I’ve known work very long hours for their congregations. Pastors signed up to do a very difficult job, but they get hungry and tired too. A lot of church members think that pastors have superpowers. This can contribute to burnout.

    Therapists maintain boundaries as part of their profession. Although therapists take emergency calls, they also have office hours, and people pay in increments of time. Pastors have to accept calls at all hours, even if duties are shared. They also don’t charge for their time, leading some people not to value its worth and scarcity.

  39. HereIStand: If the pastor is actually shepherding the sheep, then I think a sabbatical is necessary at times. Having been a pastor and now a therapist, I can say that walking with people through their problems, struggles, heartbreak, pain, illnesses, crises, etc. is harder on a person in some ways than your typical non-church professions.

    Have you ever spoken with nurses, doctors, social workers, EMTs, firefighters? I think they could give a pastor a run for his money when it comes to walking people through stuff.

    Last night, around 1AM my husband was counseling a patient (he is oncall this week.) on how to reduce anxiety, etc .

  40. Todd Wilhelm,

    You mentioned patrolling the parking lot during church services. What was the stated purpose of that? How did the stated purpose compare with your actual experiences?

  41. Ava Aaronson: Fact: The image of happily married with family is no proof of righteous living.

    I would argue the opposite.
    When dad and mom stay together through thick and thin to nurture the hatchlings, to me it really is ‘righteous’ living.
    What could be more ‘right’ than doing the right thing?

  42. Dee, you took the words right out of my mouth. I have a kid who is a paramedic and even before covid they are so short handed he cannot get a full week off at a time. Just 10 days to be spread out over the year, one day at a time. Some say yeah but he works a shift and then is off 2 days. Not really. In good times he would probably need to sleep the first day, and every other week one of those days is “on call” meaning likely have to work. But during covid causing quarantines they are so short handed he does good to enter his home 2 times a week. For 24 hours of trying to recover from the exhaustion.

    When he gets a sabbatical, then I might agree with pastors getting them. Not before. And yep, if my garbage service takes a sabbatical, who hauls my garbage? Or the people that keep the electricity and natural gas coming to our homes?

    Ordinary people work just as hard as pastors in my not so humble opinion. Shoot, even new moms with babies and toddlers could use a sabbatical, are on call 24/7, and expected to suck it up and function.

    I can see it now: the last kiddo starts preschool so mom and dad depart for a few months or year of fun and games? With pay? And someone else raising their children?

  43. dee,

    I used to have a doctor who called me around 11 pm or midnight to go over test results in detail. Took me awhile to realize that this was when Doc got home. I was getting the test results the day they were available, instead of having to book (and potentially even pay for) a follow-on appointment.

  44. dee,

    Yes, he was working, just not at his regular job of assistant pastor at one of our majority Spanish-speaking parishes. I don’t know him personally, but all the Hispanic clergy I know are terrific.

    Language study is one of the most obvious reasons a priest would ask for or be strongly offered a sabbatical.

  45. dee: I’m going to say something that will get me into trouble. Why is the work of pastors more deserving of sabbaticals than any other profession?

    Because they’re GAWD’s Speshul Pets, that’s why.
    “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!”

    Wasn’t Clericalism (placing Priests above all others) one of the Reformers’ big beefs about Romish Popery?

  46. Benny S: Sounds like good money.

    And if those were Megas, the money comes in in buckets.
    “TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! OR GAWD WILL HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE!”

  47. Nyssa The Hobbit: About 20 years ago, our EFCA pastor went on sabbatical…. He came back a Piper-ite.

    Complete with the Drama Queening and Madonna “Vogue” hands?

  48. William,

    You are probably correct w/r to bias… There have been cases of abuse in smaller churches discussed on TWW, it does “seem” that most of abuse is at the bigger churches..

  49. dee: Again, I’m trying to get to the core reasons for sabbaticals which are given usually for pastors and a few in academia to pursue their research.

    dee: Now this is just plain meddling.

    meddling with a purpose. I think sabbaticals are useful to allow a person to think about a problem (“problem” in the academic sense — a question that is worth answering) that merits attention but that cannot be addressed in the ordinary course of the person’s work because of the routine demands of that work.

    I have the impression that in academic settings, there is also interest in “cross-pollination”; a senior professor might take a sabbatical at another institution in order to more readily interact with his peers there (this is less a consideration in the present day, with the ease and low cost of electronic communication and document sharing).

    ——

    The trouble-making remark about laity taking sabbaticals at other churches was not entirely tongue-in-cheek. It’s worth exposing oneself to other parts of the Church that are within reach. The “we’ve got it right (or more nearly right than everyone else) and there’s no need to know anything about other groups” posture that is common in my observation (of an admittedly limited slice of US evangelicalism is IMO unhealthy. It would be better to adopt an attitude like what NT Wright has publicly affirmed — (from memory) “I’m confident that 2/3 of what I’ve written is correct. The problem is that I’m not sure which 1/3 is not correct.” IMO there’s a lot to be said for laity learning more about the entire church. It would induce a humility that might make it harder for authoritarian leaders to take over.

  50. I am barely aware of what a 9Mark Church is, and based on what I’ve read here about them, I don’t want to know more.
    That said, I think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
    Sabbaticals for many pastors are a much needed respite from the stresses of ministry, stresses such as meeting or not meeting because of Covid, wearing masks or not wearing them, dealing with half-crazy conspiracy theorists, dealing with antagonists if not out and out “clergy killers,” and endless (often anonymous) complaints about worship music, sermon length, and ignoring the complainer’s particular hobby horse political issue(s).
    Most evangelical churches are set up in such a way that a pastors ends up having hundreds of bosses, some of whom may not even be members of the church!
    My wife and I run a small retreat for pastors, missionaries and their spouses where these folks can come away and spend quality quiet time with the Lord. For many of our guests, it’s the first time in they’ve ever done anything like this. That comment, we think, is telling. Catholics get the importance of retreats and evangelicals do not. A sabbatical should at least partially be a retreat for rest, prayer, study and self-examination.
    The latter–self-examination–is huge. I suspect, though, for the churches you write about, self-examination would not and maybe could not be a priority!
    By the way, thanks for your work. Blessings to you

  51. Todd Wilhelm: Godith: Todd, would you address tithing sometime? It’s another unBiblical requirement. Cheerful giving, yes. Using the word tithing and using the OT to urge it is wrong IMO.

    I agree with you on tithing and perhaps I will write about it someday.

    This is actually something that I should do sometime. The logic behind is so very broken and the N.T. does not use the term the way churches do today. What the Bible has to say about giving is very different than that. It is not a difficult topic to prepare on. When I was young I heard my first teaching on it at an AOG church that preached that anyone who does not do it receives a serious curse for it. So I could even prepare this now but I do not know that much of anyone would bother reading it…

  52. ChuckP: Our pastor used his time wisely to spend time with the Lord

    I want to push a bit on this. Are you saying that a pastor can’t sped time with the Lord on a daily basis and be refreshed? If this is the case, the rest of us are screwed since sabbaticals are not a given for most

    Hi Dee, don’t mind the pushback , just finished a biography on Corrie Ten Boom and Watchman Née, if they can find peace and strength in prison then sure any of us can, including my pastor and any other church leader.

    I don’t think any pastor necessarily needs or should demand a sabbatical in his or her contract. My pastor came and asked our board which we as a congregation voted on ( yes , we had to agree to it) and there was only one no vote. Many pastors do have a hard job and I give him credit for maybe being smart enough to avoid burnout. He is a great pastor, loved by many and really is a humble guy. I don’t want to get into pastor bashing as I don’t consider the NEO-CAL guys the norm for who I respect and know as pastors in my life. These guys are outliers to me. There are good and bad pastors like doctors and nurses and police officers and teachers. If you love your pastor, have a relationship with him, then if he comes and asks for a little time off why wouldn’t you give it to him? You haven’t walked in his shoes have you? There is a big difference in asking versus expecting. My wife wanted to quit work for a bit and when she mentioned it and we discussed it , it was easy to say yes, of course, I love and care for her well-being.

    Some other thoughts about what people have said above

    1. I am ex military, Army and Navy, military people are eligible for 30 days of leave the moment you join, more than most civilians get and until recently you could retire after 20 years of service with a good chunk of your salary. It was and is hard work but we also got good down time after deployments and missions. I know some police and fireman can retire with decent pensions after 25 or 30 years. My brother retired at 39 as an E-7 and has had a whole other career which will offer him a very good retirement at 66. Every job you choose has a trade off.

    I think we are sometimes comparing apple to oranges here.

    Dee, I have been a full time nurse for 41 years and have worked as a staff floor nurse, ICU, ER , nurse practitioner and 25 years as a CRNA. I have worked through the 1980’s AIDS crisis and the present Covid crisis too. I think nurses, doctors, police and others should get a paid sabbatical but the “ system” won’t let them and because of that all those professions have high rates of suicides, alcoholism, divorce and mental health issues. Heck, we can’t even get parental leave for mother’s of newborns which has shown to be extremely helpful to mother and child in European countries. It is the way it is until some change is made, maybe someday sabbaticals will be the norm. . Dee, like me probably has come across burned out nurses who are struggling and angry at everybody and everything. I have tried to help them like they have helped me to see their options like maybe getting a less stressful nursing job. . I remember one nurse who wanted to go part time and we talked and when she came back she told me she couldn’t because of her husbands $60,000 truck payment, darn, get rid of the his truck.

    Finally, life is about choices. I make great money ( I am very thankful) but a friend just left our anesthesia group Friday to make about $40,000 more. He will work more and have more call though ( the trade off) than I. He will also loose 2 weeks of vacation that I have but he told me the money was more important then the time.
    I know my job is very stressful so I have to be responsible for me. I don’t work much OT either at my job, I drive a 15 year old car and live in a modest home. that relieves stress on me and my family though I get snide comments now and then from others about my lifestyle which used to bother me but I just let it go and don’t feel it necessary to defend myself. ( May I say that part of that also stems from my time in the Navy where I saw horrible poverty unlike anything in the US, if left a mark on me). It is choice that I made to help prevent stress and burnout.
    We get medical students at our facility and I always love to ask them what specialty they want to go in, zero for surgery ( long hours and low reimbursement) . Thank goodness for medical students that choose the tough specialties that require difficult hours but I understand why they don’t want to do it. ( by the way, doctors are working harder than ever but their incomes are dropping due to managed care contracts and no most don’t make a ton of money, I actually make close to what a lot of family doctors make hence they shortage of approximately 20,000 family doctors in America so love and appreciate your doctor he or she is a precious community resource!!)

    A friend used to tell me that “ every donkey thinks it’s load is the heaviest “ and I think that is true on this topic. You can’t compare fully a doctor’s , nurses , teachers, etc with other professions, each is different.
    Pastors should not feel entitled to a sabbatical but I see nothing wrong with asking ( and letting your people vote on it, you’ll see how much they love you, if your a jerk maybe the vote will be a resounding no!) Thoughts?

  53. I work for a financial institution. I am required to schedule at least one full week off once a year. The thought is that if there’s been shenanigans, they will show up in that week off.

    But sabbaticals? Are you kidding? It’s hard to get 16 or 17 days off in a row to take a trip to Japan. (Or anywhere else. I really want to go to Iceland and see the volcano.) And yeah, I could take a leave of absence but they’re not going to hold my job and I’m not going to get paid either.

    I’d like a sabbatical!

  54. dee: Have you ever spoken with nurses, doctors, social workers, EMTs, firefighters? I think they could give a pastor a run for his money when it comes to walking people through stuff.

    Last night, around 1AM my husband was counseling a patient (he is oncall this week.) on how to reduce anxiety, etc .

    Well, I never said only pastors should be given extended breaks! I think people in the professions you listed are great candidates for having regular extended breaks to decompress and process the stress and impact of their jobs.

    I am saying that care needs to be taken in making general negative statements about how hard pastors work based on these high profile celebrity pastors. Most pastors have congregations around 100 people and serve as the pastor, preacher, office manager, maintenance person, worship leader, etc. all in one. It is a high pressure, demanding job, which is partly why so many marriages fail, addictions creep in, affairs occur, and burn out is so common. Resilient Ministry by Burns, Chapman, and Guthrie is an excellent resource that explores this.

    There are plenty of demanding, high stress, high pressure professions, but I don’t think someone can understand how being a minister also falls into this category and even poses unique challenges if they have never been one.

  55. Kolya,

    I knew a vicar who spent his sabbatical with a family member who was at a fashionable YWAM outpost (and had the inmates to our parish afterwards, with bewildering effects). The context was that he was not bishop appointed because one of those “societies” had the “living”. He was also into Bethelism, which I learned to especially not be into (I am no cessationist). His sermons were good if you could wrench them from the direction he implied, and his money handling was alright. His good lady was always super friendly with everybody. He fostered a deceiving bad amplifying ethos among the audio volunteers: after the regulation 50 minutes of excruciating din (destroying our pianist’s beautiful playing) he always said “that was anointed wasn’t it” and I thought, was I supposed to heckle or what (I knew a man who took audio volunteering seriously and he will be shattered).

    At the time I blamed the congregation equally for his burnout. Congregation members have told me they are on a steep learning curve, and no doubt the bishop (quietly) and all those “societies” (quietly) are also (but I fear those “societies” will fall off it). Real life situations are always deucedly complicated. People that run to mania have to let others work far more closely with them (rather than for them). The big shots who get critiqued on TWW adopt unconvinced body language to unsuccessfully mask it.

  56. A few thoughts
    1. A proper sabbatical is not a vacation but instead time to improve the ability to do one’s vocation by for instance education (both formal and self-study). This btw could include acting as a short term pastor elsewhere ideally in a congregation quite different in circumstances from the current one (e.g., one from a well-to-do community to one where many are living paycheck to paycheck or vice versa; or rural/urban, US/non-US). It may well include some vacationing.
    2. There should be a properly thought out plan agreed to by both the congregation and the pastor
    3. This should not be an opportunity to have two incomes for a period of time. The home congregation should pay only what is needed to ensure no loss of income or benefits during the sabbatical. If the pastor is being paid for work, the home congregation should be paying less.
    4. There should be an agreement that the pastor not leave their current position for one year after the sabbatical has ended (barring unfortunate circumstances).
    5. Americans as a whole don’t get enough vacation.

    BTW Doctors and nurses can apply for sabbatical leave in the UK National Health Service “Sabbatical leave provides a facility where an employee can undergo specialist training/further education or seek work experience that enhances their skill/knowledge base.” However it is considered an unpaid leave with a few exceptions.

  57. Lowlandseer,

    Thank you Lowlandseer for flagging up this steadiness – a goal for me as pew sitter as much as for any official minister.

    Jerome,

    Note how he dangles being ghost written for in front of them like a carrot – you too can have several to your name every year.

  58. Muff Potter,

    Hi Muff, true, good point but my comment noted “image” as with RZ or with that guy at the camp that White was claiming was undetected as a predator due to his wonderful wife. Image. Cover.

    Transparency is so good. About work, about sabbaticals, about money, and even about relationships.

  59. dee,

    “I’m going to say something that will get me into trouble. Why is the work of pastors more deserving of sabbaticals than any other profession?”
    ++++++++++++

    because an institutionally cultivated sense of entitlement and persecution complex says so.

    let’s go sit in the corner together. i have some jelly beans.

    (

  60. elastigirl,

    Off topic but oh well as they say.
    I watched Wonder Woman 1984 (Gal Gadot).
    Loved it!
    It teaches morals and wisdom.
    A rarity these days from the usual Hollywood fare.

  61. Muff Potter,

    Wonder Woman!!

    i had to compose music for it for a class i’m taking (not that it ever had a chance of being incorporated into the real deal) — i spent a lot of time watching silent scenes. haven’t seen the actual film, though – but i will!

    i’m still hooked on Justice League animation — i am so inspired when she flies headfirst into danger with all her might and softly says “Hera help me!” as she winds up her arm for a big POW.

    We all can do the same as we fly into overwhelming moments of all kinds (substituting deities).

  62. elastigirl: because an institutionally cultivated sense of entitlement and persecution complex says so.

    let’s go sit in the corner together. i have some jelly beans.

    This jelly bean corner may just become a popular place with those who see what you have so well-stated.

  63. Todd Wilhelm,

    OT: Watched your video. Brings back the memory of watching that whole thing unfold. Tears and anger.

    That event and situation are indescribable. No words for it. Right in plain sight. Obviously something was/is very, very wrong.

  64. Now, in true business school fashion, let me take a different position. The average pastor’s salary is pretty low. So how does a church makeup for their low salary? One possible way is to have a sabbatical. This works well since auxiliary staff or church elders can fill in the pulpit meaning that the church should not be out of money

    My daughter is a pediatric critical care nurse. She is paid vey well but she doesn’t get a sabbatical. In fact cobbling together time for her wedding has been a challenge. However, if she needed months off, she could quit her job, take a few months off, and quickly find another job due to her experience. However, for her the tossup is she would be low man in terms of longevity and have to work holidays.

    So I would have no trouble if one of my current pastors took a sabbatical although I’ve not heard anything that such a thing is in the works.

  65. dee: cobbling together time for her wedding has been a challenge. However, if she needed months off, she could quit her job, take a few months off, and quickly find another job due to her experience. However, for her the tossup is she would be low man in terms of longevity and have to work holidays.

    American employers’ bad policies can lead to a choice between exhaustion and decreased lifelong earnings.

    Women who give birth and/or stay home for awhile with the children are financially punished and often relegated to the “mommy track,” for people deemed unserious about their careers.

    Then there are the employers who don’t give any sick leave, because people might take advantage. I worked in a place that gave new hires five days per year of paid time off, which I could use to take a vacation or stay home with the flu.

    That was at least better than employers who fire people for calling in sick.

  66. Friend: American employers’ bad policies can lead to a choice between exhaustion and decreased lifelong earnings.

    They couldn’t care less, there’s plenty more bodies where they got the ones they wore out fast. And that’s all that’s important, find creative ways to minimize cost and maximize profit margins, with labor being nothing more than another commodity that’s gotta be purchased.

  67. There are so many factors at play here including what is defined as “sabbatical”.

    I think we are talking about pastors who abuse the concept. When a megachurch pastor pulling in mega bucks goes ‘sabbatical’ on a world cruise is compared to a church pastor who may go on leave to go a mission or even take a degree or write a book is different.

    The take away message I have is maybe a church should have a sabbatical policy agreed on by the elected board of the church. Or at the very least any board considering a sabbatical should understand exactly what it’s about, how services are going to be maintained & how this benefits all involved.

    Not so much regard to who is entitled or not by career or whatever.

    Full disclosure. I don’t qualify for sabbaticals, but can apply for education leave and we have a generous leave package. I can also apply for secondment to projects which can benefit both myself and my company.

    Optimally every job should be a “calling”. Circumstances notwithstanding (I have had to work at jobs I would not consider my calling) if you have gone into any job for the wrong reasons then all the sabbaticals in the world won’t make a difference. I’ve worked in healthcare a long time & and seen many doctor & nurse who did it for the money. They are usually “uncare bears”. Probably the same for pastors.

  68. Muff Potter,

    Joni Mitchell captured it best I think when she wrote:
    We are stardust (billion year old carbon)
    We are golden (caught in the Devil’s bargain)…

  69. Friend,

    Friend: You mentioned patrolling the parking lot during church services. What was the stated purpose of that? How did the stated purpose compare with your actual experiences?

    I don’t recall any officially written or stated purpose, but my understanding is we were to walk around the parking lot to discourage anyone who may want to break into cars while the church service was taking place.

  70. Ava Aaronson: No words for it. Right in plain sight. Obviously something was/is very, very wrong.

    Wife of a Baptist preacher converts to Roman Catholicism, decides to travel back to Birmingham to visit family and goes missing. Preacher man’s uncle “happens” across the body in her car backed into a storage container well off the beaten trail. A few months later the uncle commits suicide after police show up at his home with a search warrant.

    Nothing to see here, move along, no foul play suspected.

    Alrighty then….

  71. Vacations are for refreshing and renewal. Every pastor gets vacations. They want sabbaticals because they think they are high and mighty.

  72. Vacation: Where I travel, what I do and who goes with me, is up to me and my wife. We pay the bills that exceed my salary.

    Sabbatical: The church and or elders approve where I go, what I do and who goes with me. The church continues my salary and pays for items they deem key to the trip. They may require me to make a report to the elders and or church on my experience and findings.

    I have led missions trips as a sabbatical (these we no vacations and often were extremely challenging and the food often was bizarre).

    On sabbatical I have spent over 70 hours a week in a dim and dusty library, sneezing as I turned dusty page of books that have not been opened in decades and were written in archaic English. This was not a vacation. And the report was not optional.

    KWIM???

  73. dee: Question: What professions deserves a sabbatical and what profession does not.

    I worked for a consulting company with offices in Europe. Europeans have much more generous vacation & personal leave. At a minimum, most folks get 5-weeks annual vacation leave, regardless of profession, and a good number of personal leave days through the year. Europeans take long summer vacations, spending quality family time. Americans don’t need sabbaticals; they need longer vacations to refresh mind and body.

  74. Max: Americans don’t need sabbaticals; they need longer vacations to refresh mind and body.

    I also work as an internal consultant for a large international company and agree the US culture has a strong workaholic tendency and we don’t take near enough vacation time. Interesting also the Europeans take more vacation and out produce us on a per person basis. Additionally some US tech companies have started giving their employees an extra month off every four years they work there.

  75. Godith: they think they are high and mighty.

    Not sure I agree with your statements across the board. However, interesting thoughts.

    Here at NarativTV, (probably due to a recent royal event), they are discussing how the European royalty class became the “administrative” class in the US. Class systems & elites by different names, reminded me of your comment. Around minute 25:
    https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-gci58-10055cf

    (This was the redirect to a sharable link. Hope it works. I was watching the video as posted on twitter.)

  76. Max: Americans don’t need sabbaticals; they need longer vacations to refresh mind and body.

    We were dogsledding in CO one time, and our ‘musher’ had an interesting background. Degree from Cal Tech. Worked 5 mo. each year in software development, 1 mo. off, 5 mo. with the dogsledding company (physical work, often 14 hrs/day, but in a beautiful setting) and 1 mo. off again. Not everyone can do that, but seems he found a way to make enough $ but also enjoy life!

  77. readingalong: Not everyone can do that, but seems he found a way to make enough $ but also enjoy life!

    A friend temporarily shut down her business to get her young family through the pandemic. Her husband’s job provides health insurance, so he obviously could not quit and then go back. That’s too bad, because his type of work is always in short supply. If he had taken six months off, he would have been rehired instantly; she now has to rebuild her base of customers.

    The link between jobs and health insurance in the USA distorts decision making. This is particularly hard on women who want to have children, and on people in failing health who are too young to retire. But hey, at least these folks HAVE health insurance, eh?

  78. David: Interesting also the Europeans take more vacation and out produce us on a per person basis.

    That was also my observation. The European consultants actually worked! When they worked, they worked. When they played, they played! I also found that the international biologists, chemists & toxicologists who worked for us to be a notch-up from their American colleagues in professional smarts and abilities. It just seemed that they took their careers more seriously … but during their time off, they shifted to recreation and relaxation.

  79. readingalong: We were dogsledding in CO one time, and our ‘musher’ had an interesting background. Degree from Cal Tech.

    I know an Alaskan fishing guide who made a small fortune in real estate transactions in the Northwest U.S. He considers his ‘real’ career to be as a guide half the year in Alaska, and then trudges back to the U.S. during winter months to take care of his real estate business. As you note, we can’t all be dogsledders (or fishing guides), but the imbalance of vocation and avocation wears on our health and wellbeing. Through it all, we need to hone our spiritual lives … but then we trudge to the average American church and find it not to be the Church at all. It’s a wonder that more of us aren’t mentally ill! Maybe we do need to go on a sabbatical!

  80. Friend: The link between jobs and health insurance in the USA distorts decision making.

    It’s amazing to me that the earth’s superpower hasn’t adequately fixed health insurance coverage for all its citizens. While we have tremendous medical care (the envy of many nations), it’s not as accessible as it should be. Losing health insurance if one loses their job or being able to afford alternative coverage for your family when out of work is a frightening thought for millions of Americans … a thought that not only distorts decision-making but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  81. I was at CLC when CJ handed the reigns over to Josh. My kids were at the private school there and I was at the church all throughout the week, picking up & dropping off kids, volunteering, etc. You are completely right about most of these guys not putting in a full day’s work. I saw them arriving mid-morning. It was awkward at times because there were so many of them and on some days at lunch time they’d all gather outside of the front doors (blocking us kindergarten moms from trying to pick up our kids) where they would meet to go out to lunch or Starbucks. Of course, they would never acknowledge, chat, or say hello to us moms.

    I heard my pastor say that he has morning devotionals with his and some other pastor’s son and then they have a game of basketball before he goes into into work (mid morning). He thought this was completely acceptable.

    Only a few were faithful to serve. I still remember how one pastor initially agreed to teach a Bible study at an after school public elementary school but then backed out at the last minute because the timing was too late (4pm). But gave us the materials to start it up on our own. Just like you, we were busy with a full plate and still served. These pastors are getting paid to serve but seem to put more time into their and their children’s spiritual development more than anything.

    These guys lived a very different life from the rest of us. When trouble hit, most of them moved on and have jobs in the community now. I’m sure they miss the good ole days, because they had dream jobs and dream schedules at CLC.

    Thanks for writing this post. These guys really like to take care of their own, so I can see how promoting a sabbatical as the norm will be very beneficial to all of them. I agree with you that any sabbatical should be a time of serving in the community.

  82. Max: It’s amazing to me that the earth’s superpower hasn’t adequately fixed health insurance coverage for all its citizens.

    So long as it doesn’t interfere with investor confidence on Wall Street, the ‘fixes’ are in…

  83. Rosie: I was at CLC when CJ handed the reigns over to Josh … You are completely right about most of these guys not putting in a full day’s work … there were so many of them and on some days at lunch time they’d all gather outside of the front doors (blocking us kindergarten moms from trying to pick up our kids) where they would meet to go out to lunch or Starbucks … Only a few were faithful to serve … These guys lived a very different life from the rest of us

    Thanks, Rosie, for confirming what the rest of us observed from a distance about life at SGM. Indeed, this is very typical of New Calvinism “ministries” across the country. The new reformers don’t really care about the Body of Christ – they are struck on themselves.

  84. Rosie: When trouble hit, most of them moved on …

    “They went out from us, but they were not really of us because they were not spiritually transformed; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out teaching false doctrine, so that it would be clearly shown that none of them are of us.” (1 John 2:19 AMP)

  85. Max,

    And good luck trying to get a German manager on the phone on a weekend or a part out of France in August. It befuddles me we often want to copy the Japanese who have a special word for dying of overwork, karoshi, as opposed to the Europeans. I think we have warped the Protestant work ethic. Back to pastors I think we forget that most of them are in small churches and place a huge burden on themselves and work way too long. But clearly some mega church pastors see their success as a special blessing and entitlement.

  86. David: Back to pastors I think we forget that most of them are in small churches and place a huge burden on themselves and work way too long. But clearly some mega church pastors see their success as a special blessing and entitlement.

    Indeed, the most faithful of ministers can be found working in small churches in obscure places … there are mansions awaiting them in glory. Mega-mania, Christianity Lite, New Calvinism, etc. attract clergy who demand sabbaticals … bless their very little hearts.

  87. David: And good luck trying to get a German manager on the phone on a weekend or a part out of France in August. It befuddles me we often want to copy the Japanese who have a special word for dying of overwork, karoshi, as opposed to the Europeans. I think we have warped the Protestant work ethic. Back to pastors I think we forget that most of them are in small churches and place a huge burden on themselves and work way too long. But clearly some mega church pastors see their success as a special blessing and entitlement.

    While I cannot say if this is true, it wouldn’t surprise me if Japan’s “work til you drop” ethic (at least until you’re 60, at which time a lot of places force you into retirement) may have come out of the Protestant work ethic. For the raw percentage of Christians in Japan (hovering around one percent), Christianity has an outsized influence. Remember, one of the reasons the country basically locked all Europeans out for 250 years was due to Christianity.

    But since Christianity has been legalized (~1872), the influence is unreal. Even though most Japanese are Shinto, it’s considered customary to tack on a Christian-style wedding in addition to a ceremony down at the shrine. Some of the best schools are Christian schools and universities. The empress emerita Michiko was born and raised in a Christian family and converted to Shinto to marry former emperor Akihito. (Akihito’s mother, Nagako, was apparently furious about this and opposed the marriage. Nagako also disliked Crown Prince Naruhito’s wife.) The current Empress had a broad education, including junior high and part of high school at a prestigious Tokyo Catholic school.

    A lot of Japanese elected officials have gone to Christian schools and universities because they are very good. So it would not surprise me to learn that over the last 150 years, the Protestant work ethic got ingrained and has led to the unfortunate problem with overwork. (I still remember the fully besuited drunk guys walking down an enclosed arcade in Kumamoto’s center one Saturday night, three or four of them hauling along a very inebriated colleague.)

  88. Nice, 9Mark Dever STARTED his pastorate in DC with a three month sabbatical?
    And urges other 9Marksists to follow suit:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=9TkrRCKa-kgC&pg=PA38

    “When I arrived at Capitol Hill Baptist, I waited three months before preaching my first Sunday morning sermon. I simply attended. I had asked for this time…I realize not all of us have the luxury of waiting three months to preach after our arrival; but if it’s possible, I’d recommend it.”

  89. Jerome,

    What a weird thing to do. Confusing and disappointing to the members, who doubtless had already waited awhile for some Great Man to fill the preaching void.

    Meanwhile, humans being human, I can’t imagine what was going through the heads of the leaders, feeling like they were being scrutinized, or like they ought to be jockeying for position somehow.

  90. Max, I think I hear a distinctively southern meaning to “bless their very little hearts” from you. When my grandma’s “blessed your heart” you had received a huge put down, shaming, and been called out for bad behavior lol!

  91. Jerome: “When I arrived at Capitol Hill Baptist, I waited three months before preaching my first Sunday morning sermon. I simply attended. I had asked for this time…I realize not all of us have the luxury of waiting three months to preach after our arrival; but if it’s possible, I’d recommend it.”

    Friend: What a weird thing to do. Confusing and disappointing to the members, who doubtless had already waited awhile for some Great Man to fill the preaching void.

    Meanwhile, humans being human, I can’t imagine what was going through the heads of the leaders, feeling like they were being scrutinized, or like they ought to be jockeying for position somehow.

    Perhaps this was a variation on grooming – the predator observing his prey prior to taking over the church. And while the predator observed, the leaders and people in the pews were experiencing anticipatory anxiety.

    Perhaps some of the leaders and people in the pews were observing the observer and trying to decide what to do, whether to stay or to go.

    (Perhaps Max or someone knows if something like this has happened before…a more obvious version of the stealth takeover.)

  92. researcher: Perhaps Max or someone knows if something like this has happened before

    I worked in a place where a man was hired as a rising star. Word got around that he would be promoted and become the next VP of our division. That did eventually happen.

    But he didn’t sit around, i.e., “simply attend.” He worked long hours while dressed in expensive power clothing. The VP position was his to lose if he did not meet some goals and create the right impressions. He did observe us worker bees in a more honest state, so probably there was a legitimate benefit as well as an element of stealth.

    In my experience in the temples of corporate mammon, three months of drawing a fat salary while observing the drones would not occur. That’s an entire quarter! Senior managers and executives typically change things immediately. They will “solve problems” (real or imagined), bring in their own “team,” “align” something with corporate goals, swap the org chart around, or do a 10% layoff to raise the share price. Just by calling a meeting, they can scare the heck out of people, thus “creating new energy.” Change can be good or destructive, but the important thing is to “implement change.”

    (Scare quotes are corporate buzzwords, and unfortunately many people believe that a 10% layoff will boost share prices. At a minimum, it reduces labor costs, amirite?)

  93. linda: I think I hear a distinctively southern meaning to “bless their very little hearts”

    I resemble that remark. However, I can’t reveal my exact whereabouts. The New Calvinists have been trying to track me down for years for exposing their aberrant belief and practice in the blogosphere. I think they have more than shunning/excommunication in mind if they catch up with me 🙂

  94. researcher: Perhaps Max or someone knows if something like this has happened before…a more obvious version of the stealth takeover.

    No, never come across such weirdness … but Dever’s ministry has brought in a whole new dimension of whacko to the pulpit. I suppose he spent three months carefully observing the membership so he could discipline the hell out of them when he got the chance! After watching them commit some sort of transgression at church (e.g., not keeping their wimmenfolk in line), he probably approached them after church to introduce himself and find out what their name was … then logged it in a small notebook to go after them when he was finally sitting on the hill at Capitol Hill. New Calvinism is such a cruel joke.

  95. At the end of the three months, Dever summoned the following men to the church for a public forum:

    future T4G pal & fellow TGC stakeholder Albert Mohler
    Carl F. H. Henry, CHBC member living in Wisconsin, had recommended Dever to the church

    and from Dever’s circle at Cambridge & Eden Baptist Church in the UK:

    D. A. Carson, future founder and president of TGC
    Bill Kynes, future fellow TGC stakeholder
    Sir Fred Catherwood, Eden Baptist layman, Tory politician, Iwerne booster, SIL of ML-J

    Title of the panel discussion was “What’s Wrong with the Local Church”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1994/09/24/upcoming-events/bf38e688-c885-499e-89ed-2decd726faa7/?utm_term=.fe36cbeb37bf

  96. Max–lol last night we enjoyed fresh caught catfish, fried taters, corn, green beans. Hubby cooked. I would have wanted to make some corn bread and purple hulls to go with those fish, lol, but it was all good. Now for some fresh peach cobbler……

  97. Jerome: At the end of the three months, Dever summoned the following men to the church for a public forum …

    Keepers of the Keys to the Kingdom.

  98. Max: Will do … along with deep-fried crappie fillets

    Max, you’d have loved Lake Michigan Perch back in the day, sadly, the Mercury content is too high these days…

  99. linda: fresh caught catfish, fried taters, corn, green beans … corn bread and purple hulls … fresh peach cobbler

    Oh My Lord!! Where exactly in the Ozarks do you live? 🙂

  100. linda: fresh caught catfish, fried taters, corn, green beans….corn bread and purple hulls to go with those fish….fresh peach cobbler

    What are purple hulls?

  101. As an outsider to American culture, I have always found the total consumption with work alarming. I’ve met people who have one or two weeks’ paid vacation a year. In the UK I’ve never had a job with less than six (none of which were very high-flying jobs), and the statutory minimum is four.

    All this to say that, while I share your alarm at the particular movements and individuals you name, it’s hard to be outraged at sabbaticals. They are a good thing and instead of insisting church leaders fall in line with the wider cultural idolotary of hard work, it might be good if US churches were advocating for a widening of reasonable vacation time, workers’ rights, sabbaticals, etc., for everyone in the US and not just themselves.

  102. Friend: Senior managers and executives typically change things immediately. They will “solve problems” (real or imagined), bring in their own “team,” “align” something with corporate goals, swap the org chart around, or do a 10% layoff to raise the share price. Just by calling a meeting, they can scare the heck out of people, thus “creating new energy.” Change can be good or destructive, but the important thing is to “implement change.”

    (Scare quotes are corporate buzzwords, and unfortunately many people believe that a 10% layoff will boost share prices. At a minimum, it reduces labor costs, amirite?)

    That.

    Or the company pays an exorbitant fee to a person outside the company (a consultant or a “consultant”), or perhaps to a different company, to come in and do the re-org and / or hatchet job.

    (Many years ago, my manager where I worked at the time informed me that I was losing a huge chuck of my salary and most of my vacation time when they “reclassified” my position….it was almost Christmas. Though not communicated outright, the “reclassification” was mostly about “balancing the budget”….)

  103. researcher: What are purple hulls?

    Purple hull peas are a Southern favorite … a variety of cowpeas, similar to black eyed peas. (To stay on the blog topic, they are worth taking a Summer sabbatical to the South to sample!)

  104. Luke: I’ve met [Americans] who have one or two weeks’ paid vacation a year. In the UK I’ve never had a job with less than six (none of which were very high-flying jobs), and the statutory minimum is four.

    These 9Marksists’ pastoral sabbaticals, are on top of their multiple weeks of vacation time off.

    TGC article on vacations by 9Marksist Jeramie Rinne (now pastoring at Sanibel Island, Florida):

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/vacation-for-pastors-who-wont-take-one/

    “Our pastors get four weeks of vacation annually…six would be completely reasonable”

    “Aim to take…a week at a time, so that you can miss a Sunday on either end.”

    “as…a 15-year American pastor…I think pastors should secure as much vacation time as a church will allow”

    “On a related topic, let me make a pitch for sabbaticals…I have enjoyed two sabbaticals now, and it would take another article to describe”

  105. Jerome: These 9Marksists’ pastoral sabbaticals, are on top of their multiple weeks of vacation time off.

    Not to mention that they don’t really work a day in their life while serving as a NeoCal “pastor”! They don’t visit the homes of members, pray with sick in hospitals and nursing homes, conduct funerals, strive to reach lost folks in their communities with the Gospel (the real one), etc. … but they find plenty of time to tweet their lives away with the dudebros at Starbucks. Nah, they don’t need sabbaticals.

  106. researcher: Though not communicated outright, the “reclassification” was mostly about “balancing the budget”….)

    And freeing up “resources” for Top Management Bonuses.

  107. researcher: Or the company pays an exorbitant fee to a person outside the company (a consultant or a “consultant”), or perhaps to a different company, to come in and do the re-org and / or hatchet job.

    For what it’s worth, in my college days I ran into someone who moonlighted as a “consultant”, told me most of it BSing the client, and that it was a very lucrative racket.

  108. Headless Unicorn Guy: in my college days I ran into someone who moonlighted as a “consultant”, told me most of it BSing the client, and that it was a very lucrative racket.

    True in some cases. A lot of consultants, though, are people who have stepped back from the rat race, but who still have valuable specialized knowledge. Some work for big companies, others are self-employed or work in small organizations. Some chase every opportunity, others are selective.

    Consultants are the same people, with the same level of expertise, whether they are military or corporate folks in March, or self-employed in October.

    Max, I believe, is a crappie consultant. 😉

  109. Max: Purple hull peas are a Southern favorite … a variety of cowpeas, similar to black eyed peas. (To stay on the blog topic, they are worth taking a Summer sabbatical to the South to sample!)

    I like black-eyed peas…. 🙂 (And also to stay on the blog topic….the C-PTSD I experience from so much abuse in my life has left me unable to drive, and unable to travel outside the city in which I live….perhaps you could eat an extra serving of purple hull peas for me, Max. 🙂 )

  110. Friend: A lot of consultants, though, are people who have stepped back from the rat race, but who still have valuable specialized knowledge. Some work for big companies, others are self-employed or work in small organizations. Some chase every opportunity, others are selective.

    Consultants are the same people, with the same level of expertise, whether they are military or corporate folks in March, or self-employed in October.

    That.

    And sometimes the person consults for the company they left. 🙂 (….which might have been planned ahead by the person and / or the company….)

  111. Max–I’ll never tell!! But as you can guess we eat good down here. My neighbor keeps us supplied with fresh eggs also. Free range chickens. YMMMM!

    Researcher: purple hulls are similar to black eyed peas. I also love crowder peas, another similar variety but with a sweeter creamier taste. Heathens are reported to eat them plain, but saved folks favor putting on a bit of Trappeys. That means green tabasco peppers in vinegar. Comes in little shaker bottles. Potent stuff! We also grow Christmas butter beans. Huge as big as a quarter when cooked, shades of red and cream colored.

    Making me hungry! When my grandma made iced tea she needed two teapot. One to steep very strong tea, one to put one cup sugar in and then add one cup boiling water and stir. Then she served you glasses of ice and passed a pitcher of water. You added the amount of water you wanted, then enough strong tea to get your blend, and then however much syrup you wanted.

    Her sweet tea will I believe be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Maybe some fried quail and cream gravy with it. Maybe some fried okra and fried green tomatoes. Maybe just smothered squirrel. But it will be good eats!

  112. researcher: sometimes the person consults for the company they left

    Seen a lot of these folks. Their presence always stirs up questions among their former co-workers. How did he get that gig? Why is she so much more relaxed these days? What’s the hidden downside of controlling your own schedule?

    If people want to do this, they need to have develop truly good work relationships so that they can ask the question and get the right answer. I did ask one time, and my boss said, “If I can’t do it, neither can you.” I ended up quitting and getting a much more pleasant job, part time, mostly from home, with benefits… and a nicer boss.

  113. Friend: Max, I believe, is a crappie consultant.

    I may resemble that remark … but it depends on how you pronounce “crappie.”

  114. linda: crowder peas … green tabasco peppers in vinegar … butter beans … fried quail and cream gravy … fried okra and fried green tomatoes … smothered squirrel

    OK, I know your approximate location … in the Show-Me State south of Highway 60.

  115. You are good. Hubby and I are having ham, taters, purple hulls, corn, sliced tomatoes, and fried okra tonight. Along with blueberry cobbler. Too bad you and the missus can’t join us, lol.

    But watch out–lots of calvinists here, of the new variety.

  116. Does anyone know how to keep potatoes from sprouting while in storage (Yukon Golds to be precise)? I use potatoes occasionally for “Great Depression Recipes” but can only get through half a 3 lb bag before they start sprouting.

  117. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Definitely store all potatoes in the dark. We buy a lot of Yukon Golds and similar potatoes. I look for glossy skins with no crepey texture or hint of green (green potato skin indicates light exposure, and it can be toxic). I lightly squeeze each potato and buy the hardest ones. I avoid buying potatoes with any “give.”

    I prefer loose potatoes, but those might not be available or convenient for you. Examining them through the bag is more tricky but not impossible. Happy hunting!

  118. Keep them in a cool place and most important is no exposure to light! We store them in the basement from harvest until we use them up, normally around February. And if they start to get ahead of you, you can slice them up as french fries, home fries, or hashbrowns. The first two we like to blanch for 10 minutes boiling water, then ice water dip, then spray with veggie oil and put on cookie sheets and freeze. When frozen you can pop them in bags and toss back in the freezer. We do that also with chunks for soups and stews. And for the hashbrowns, I skip the blanching. They will darken a little bit but taste just as good.

  119. Bridget: I keep them in the refrigerator in the vege or fruit bin.

    Food fight! 😉 It is OK to store potatoes in the refrigerator for short periods of time. However, they start to break down and form sugars. I don’t know the ambient temperature of HUG’s place, or how long it takes for him to get through his bag of spuds. Here’s what the USDA says:

    – If stored properly, general-purpose and baking potatoes will keep for several months; new potatoes will keep for several weeks.
    – … Store potatoes in a cool (45 to 50 T.), dark place, with good ventilation.
    – Potatoes stored at 70 to 80 °F. should be used within a week. The higher temperature often causes sprouting and shriveling.
    – Potatoes stored below 40 °F. for a week or more may develop a sweet taste. This is because some of the starch has changed to sugar. To improve their
    flavor, store them at a high temperature for 1 to 2 weeks before using them.

    https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND20408834/PDF#:~:text=Don't%20wash%20potatoes%20before,increases%20the%20likelihood%20of%20decay.&text=Store%20potatoes%20in%20a%20cool,dark%20place%2C%20with%20good%20ventilation.&text=Potatoes%20stored%20at%2070%20to%2080%20%C2%B0F.

  120. Bridget,

    I love the USDA instructions that appear to say you can restore cold sugary potatoes to normal by storing them outside the fridge for awhile.

  121. Robert Morris also pushes for sabbaticals (and he gets one every five years from the elders at Gateway). So it isn’t unique to the 9Marks crowd.