Sabbatical provides a unique opportunity for clergy to reflect on deep questions in a way that often isn’t possible while serving in full-ministry. As Allen+ Hughes, Counselor General for Leadership Advancement and Mission Stewardship, shares, it’s a time when coaching can serve as a catalyst for breakthrough. As Allen+ looks ahead to taking a sabbatical this summer, he’s examined the aspects that contribute to a successful sabbatical through the lens of his gifts in coaching and leadership training, and this week he shares some of his insights.

Churches with clear and expected rhythms of sabbatical for staff tend to have higher retention rates and healthier clergy. Sabbatical provides an opportunity for churches to honor the sacrificial service of clergy and give them a chance to get off the front lines of full-time ministry and all of its demands for a time. It is NOT a vacation, but rather a time for clergy to stop and reflect on the deep questions in their hearts: Are they fully living out the Lord’s call on their lives? Are they stewarding well the gifts that God gave them? Are they growing more in love with Jesus each year?

It can be very difficult for many clergy to find the large blocks of time to truly wrestle with these questions during their ordinary rhythms of day-to-day ministry. And, when they do get the time, they often feel too tired to rigorously pursue this reflection. For this reason, coaching can be extremely beneficial during a sabbatical.

Often, when we contemplate deep issues alone, we can’t achieve the clarity we need; having someone help us walk through these questions provides both space and accountability that generally leads to breakthrough. Coaching is the art of drawing out what God has already deposited in our hearts and souls and bringing it to the surface of our thoughts. Like Jesus, a good coach knows how to ask the penetrating questions that help us examine our hearts with honesty.

I highly recommend that all clergy seek coaching on a regular basis, but in order to ensure a meaningful and effective sabbatical, coaching is essential. I would strongly suggest to your church that coaching be required for clergy during their sabbatical. I have also found it best when clergy share with their leadership teams the questions they are asking going into a sabbatical, so that their coach may provide the fertile ground needed to hear from the Lord.

If you have questions about coaching during sabbatical or would like assistance in implementing coaching, please contact us.