Stewardship Of Self And Clergy Sabbaticals

Ministries increasingly encourage stewardship of self for pastors. In his book, Clergy Self-Care, Greg Sumii writes, “Pastors are human with limitations and yet many are ministering beyond their limitations.”

Stewardship of self is something pastors need to model for others in the parish as much as we need it for ourselves.

In an online article, pastor and author Lillian Daniel writes:

I would personally like to declare a moratorium on all clergy self-care conversations, in the interests of clergy self-care. Ultimately, the notion of self-care does not work because we don’t have in us what is required. Self-care is the Band-Aid we put on spiritual exhaustion, dark nights of the soul and the disappointment of consecutive losing seasons in a long ministry.

What everyone needs—pastors included—is stewardship of self, grounded in a sense of Sabbath, not self-care. God wants us to acknowledge our limitations by observing the Sabbath.

One way congregations encourage pastors to model stewardship of self is adopting and implementing a ministry sabbatical policy. The idea is simple—schedule two months every four years of service in the congregation for the purpose of Sabbath, for rest and renewal.

Small congregations that struggle with the economic challenge of providing a sabbatical typically realize the need for creative stewardship. Living Waters Lutheran Church in North Port, Fla., created a program to help pastors plan an affordable sabbatical by providing free housing in exchange for very light pastoral duties. You can learn more by reading the cover story of the November 2011 issue of The Lutheran.

Another creative approach to an affordable sabbatical is a home exchange with another Christian somewhere.

In his book, “The God of Abundance,” Trygve David Johnson writes about the feeding of the 5,000:

This story of Jesus challenges me to re-imagine my life and live into an economy of God’s abundance.

A stewardship of self that emphasizes the importance of observing the Sabbath makes sense for those guided by the assurance that God is in control and God owns it all.

Photo Credit: Still bearing traces of pride by Emil Athanasiou is licensed under CC by 2.0.

From Luther Seminary’s “Stewardship for the 21st Century,” July 24, 2012. Author: Dell Shiell