Sabbatical Information

In the following video, Pastor Derrick gives a few final thoughts prior to his sabbatical beginning on October 1.

 

Pastor Derrick answers questions about his sabbatical in this Just Ask video. View Derrick's sabbatical plan here.

The following message from Elder Vice Chairman, Jeff Herman, as well as the eDove article written by Lay Elder, Brian Hanks, provides background information on the newly adopted sabbatical policy for Blue Valley Baptist Church.

 

 

Sabbatical Policy FAQs - August 2021
BVBC Employee Handbook:  Relevant Portions Pertaining to Sabbatical Leave
August 8 eDove Article
Lay Elder Brian Hanks

Thank you. Those were the words expressed by Pastor Derrick at the end of his sermon two weeks ago to express his gratitude to our members for their support of his leadership during his years as pastor of Blue Valley Baptist Church.  I can sincerely say that this sentiment is shared by all the elders and staff.  BVBC has had over 14 years of relative peace in ministry that has been characterized by growth, new campuses, and church plants.  This type of unity is God’s will for the church and is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 4:1-4).  We should count this as one of God’s graces but should also recognize that the daily and weekly routines of ministry take a physical, mental, spiritual, and relational toll on our pastoral staff.  Such tolls have become even more evident during the past year and a half that abounded with difficult decisions regarding the pandemic, quarantine fatigue, and political division.  We would all like to take a break from these challenges to rest, reflect, and recharge.

This is where the idea of a pastoral sabbatical arose, not from your pastors and elders but from among you.  One of our members suggested a sabbatical for Derrick following the difficulties of leading through the pandemic and out of that idea, the lay elders determined that this sabbatical should be extended to all pastoral staff.  This was the impetus for the idea, but it was an idea well overdue.

So, what is a sabbatical?  The concept of a sabbatical has its roots in Leviticus 25 where the people of Israel took a year off from working the fields every seven years.  In the modern sense, a sabbatical is an extended career break and is typically granted in academic settings to university professors.  With this limited information in hand your lay elders set about the task of defining what a sabbatical policy might look like for your pastors in terms of duration, frequency, and objectives.  We performed our research in the form of reviews of other policies and articles[1] on the topic and conducted interviews, covering the entire process in prayers for wisdom in how to care for our pastors.  As lay elders, we ended up unanimously agreeing upon a sabbatical policy that is practical and meaningful to your vocational elders. 

In short, this policy involves:

  1. Eligibility for a fully-paid sabbatical during the seventh year of full-time ministry service at BVBC.
  2. A sabbatical leave of a minimum of four and a maximum of six weeks.
  3. Accountability to the other elders in the form of a written sabbatical plan. The plan will include specific objectives in five key areas of health: spiritual, physical, mental, vocational, and marital.

So, why a sabbatical?  Aside from the events of the recent year, we recognize that pastoral burnout is a real thing.  We are grateful that none of our pastors at BVBC are at the point of burnout but also realize the importance of providing care and rest for those whom God has called to lead and care for the church.  We recognize the difficulty and high calling of our pastors (James 3:1) and want to support them fully so that they can persevere in their calling and finish well in ministry (2 Timothy 4:7).  A sabbatical is just one way we can support this as they seek God’s rest and recuperation in the five areas mentioned above. 

More details can be found in the upcoming BVBC Pastor Speak podcast.  You can listen to this podcast and others on your preferred podcast app.

So, again, Thank you.  Providing a sabbatical is one way we can say these words back to our vocational pastors. 

Thank you for using your gifts to serve BVBC to make sabbaticals possible for your vocational pastors.  Thank you for your prayers and support that lift us up daily.  Thank you for making it a joy to serve as one of your elders.

[1] One great resource we found was the following blog series available at For the Church:

https://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/the-practice-of-ministry-sabbaticals-part-1/

Sabbatical Policy FAQs - August 2021

1.  Why was a sabbatical policy implemented?
The lay elders at BVBC recognize the special need for its full-time vocational elders to seek and obtain spiritual renewal.  God’s Sabbath principle, applied to their leadership and ministries, provides an opportunity to sanctify one’s life and work to the Lord, reacquire God’s perspective, and refresh one’s spiritual health. In this way, the entire Body of Christ benefits and is blessed by the pastoral Sabbath

2.  Is the sabbatical simply additional vacation days, or is something else required?
The sabbatical policy is intended to provide spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellness, rooted in Christ’s calling to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).  The sabbatical policy recognizes the Bible’s emphasis on rest (Exodus 20:8-11) and the importance of abiding in the Lord (John 15:4).  As part of the sabbatical, each full-time vocational elder is responsible for submitting a sabbatical plan to the elders for approval that sets specific goals for spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellness.  For those married, the plan must also consider marital health.

3.  How does a sabbatical policy strengthen the ongoing ministry at BVBC?
Pastoral burnout is real, and the BVBC lay elders are actively considering how to care for our vocational pastors, their families, and our church.  In reflecting upon the current and future health of the church, it was noted that well-rested pastors are better equipped to fight temptation, to overcome spiritual warfare, to respond with love and grace to the challenges of each day, to think critically and creatively about our multiplication efforts, and to hear the will of God through the practice of the spiritual disciplines.  The sabbatical policy is a short-term investment in the long-term fruit of our church and the well-being of our pastors and their families.

4.  Who is eligible for the newly implemented sabbatical policy?
Only full-time vocational elders are eligible to take a sabbatical.  In assessing eligibility, the BVBC elders considered the unique demands placed on the vocational elders, particularly related to decision-making, stewardship, and shepherding. 

5.  Is there anything being done for the rest of the staff?
The BVBC elders recognize the importance of each staff member’s contributions to the health of the church, considering Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12 that “the body does not consist of one member but of many” (v. 14) and, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (v. 21-22).  Accordingly, in addition to the sabbatical policy for full-time vocational elders, all full and part-time staff members at BVBC who reach seven years of service in a ministry cycle are granted additional vacation days in recognition of their service and commitment to God’s work at and through BVBC.

6.  What is the impact to the budget?
The sabbatical policy includes full salary and benefits, and any other associated expense must be approved by the elder body and consistent with the sabbatical’s intent to provide spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and marital wellness.  Activities eligible for approval include but are not limited to counseling and spiritual mentorship, marital enrichment activities and retreats with qualified instructors, cross-cultural mission trips and experiences, books, and vocational training. 

7.  Why is a sabbatical needed in addition to vacation days?
The existing vacation policy allows for short-term respite from day-to-day responsibilities.  In order to find dedicated renewal in the Lord, a longer and sustained period of intentional rest and reflection is necessary.

8.  Who fulfills the regular ongoing responsibilities of the pastor during their absence?
Care will be given to schedule sabbaticals in coordination with the rhythms of ministry.  Overlapping sabbaticals will not be allowed to ensure the effective continuance of ongoing ministry and shepherding.  Furthermore, as part of the beauty of the plurality of leadership, other vocational elders, lay elders, deacons, and church members are willing and available to sustain the ongoing ministry of the church during the pastor’s absence.

9.  What resources were considered in creating the sabbatical policy?
The BVBC lay elders reached out to wives, church members, staff members, and pastors at other churches as part of its reflection upon the importance of rest and renewal for its vocational elders. Resources from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and other organizations dedicated to strengthening the local church were considered.  Sabbatical policies as created by other local churches were reviewed.  Finally, and most importantly, the lay elders prayed and read God’s Word as part of its contemplation on the implementation of a sabbatical policy.

10.  Is there a biblical foundation for the new policy?
God the Father established a pattern of rest following creation (Genesis 2:2-3), and the importance of the sabbath is reiterated in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11).  In the New Testament, we find our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ breaking away for extended times of prayer.  In the Gospel of John, Christ states, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4).  God’s Word reflects a continual pattern of the believer dedicating intentional time for renewal and refreshment in the Lord.  Given the busyness of modern American culture, a concentrated time of refreshment allows for BVBC pastors to retreat from the day-to-day demands of ministry and to focus on abiding in the Lord.

11.  How often will a sabbatical be taken?  How long does a sabbatical last?
A sabbatical will be granted as part of the seventh year in a seven-year ministry cycle (or, stated differently, during the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th years of full-time ministry).  A sabbatical leave will last a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of six weeks.

 


BVBC Employee Handbook
Relevant Portions Pertaining to Sabbatical Leave

119 Sabbath Years

119.1 Sabbatical Leave

119.1a Policy Overview

Blue Valley Baptist Church recognizes the special need of its full-time vocational elders to seek and obtain spiritual renewal. We also recognize the special benefit and wisdom of a Sabbath renewal. God’s Sabbath principle, applied to their leadership and ministries, provides an opportunity to rededicate (sanctify) one’s life and work to the Lord, reacquire God’s perspective, and freshen one’s spiritual health. In this way, the entire Body of Christ benefits and is blessed by the pastoral Sabbath.

The sabbatical policy is intended to provide spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellness, rooted in Christ’s calling to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).  The sabbatical policy recognizes the Bible’s emphasis on rest (Exodus 20:8-11) and the importance of abiding in the Lord (John 15:4).

119.2 Procedures

  1. Vocational elders, with elder approval, shall be entitled to take a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of six weeks of sabbatical leave during the seventh year of full-time service.
  2. It is each vocational elder’s responsibility to plan and schedule their own sabbatical leave in coordination with the demands of the ministry at the church. However, the demands of the ministry at the church do not constitute an adequate reason to prevent the Sabbatical leave.
  3. Full salary and benefits will be provided during the sabbatical leave.
  4. Only receipted expenses approved as part of the proposed sabbatical budget will be paid by BVBC and will not be considered taxable income. All unreceipted and unapproved expenses will be considered taxable income if paid by BVBC.
  5. Sabbaticals may not be accrued and must be taken roughly in the year in which they are due (the seventh year in the ministry cycle).
  6. The sabbatical leave may not be taken as terminal leave (i.e. as leave at the end of employment).
  7. The sabbatical leave cannot be combined with vacation time and cannot occur any less than four weeks before or after the vacation leave.
  8. Cash, or other forms of compensation, may not be offered or accepted in lieu of Sabbatical leave.
  9. Sabbatical is provided for spiritual renewal and freshening. The sabbatical leave cannot be used for ministry at any other church, other Christian ministry, or other employment.
  10. Each full-time vocational elder is responsible for submitting a sabbatical plan to the elders for approval that sets specific goals for spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellness. For those married, the plan must also consider marital health.  A vocational emphasis – including but not limited to learning and development, strategic planning, or other growth initiatives – should also be identified in the sabbatical plan.
  11. The timing of the sabbatical leave for full-time vocational elders will be coordinated with the Lead Pastor and the elders. The timing of the sabbatical leave for the Lead Pastor should be in consultation with other full-time vocational elders and lay elders.
  12. Care should be given to avoid scheduling overlapping sabbatical leaves to ensure the effective continuance of ongoing ministry and shepherding.

120 Sabbath Weeks

120.1 Policy Overview

Blue Valley Baptist Church recognizes the value of all our non-pastoral, administrative and support staff regarding their contribution to the impact our church makes in our local and global community. We want to reward long term faithful service to the ministries of Blue Valley Baptist Church by providing a benefit specific to Blue Valley Baptist Church that we call “Sabbath Weeks”. Everyone (including full and part-time ministry staff, full and part-time administrative staff, and full and part-time support staff) will receive extra time off during their “sabbath years” of Blue Valley employment (7, 14, 21, etc). 

120.2 Procedures

120.2a Ministry Staff

  • Two "sabbath weeks” of paid vacation during the sabbath year, in addition to that year’s normally allotted vacation.
  • Must be scheduled through the staff member’s supervisor.
  • Must be taken with at least one and not more than two regular vacation weeks (full-time staff) to provide extended rest.
  • Part-time ministry staff are required to take the two weeks of paid vacation consecutively.

120.2b Administrative and Support Staff

  • One extra week of paid vacation during the sabbath year.
  • Must be scheduled through the staff member’s supervisor.
  • Must be taken with at least one and not more than two regular vacation weeks (full-time staff) to provide extended rest.
  • Part-time staff are required to take their paid sabbath week at one time; not a day here or there.

In all cases, unused sabbath year time off will not be owed to employees who might resign during their sabbath year, as unused vacation is.  Further sabbath year time off already taken MAY be deducted from an unused vacation balance should an employee resign after having taken sabbath year time off.