What are churches to do about the alarming percentage of pastors thinking of leaving ministry? One option is to grant weary pastors a sabbatical–or preempt the weariness with intentional time away. Relieving pastors of church responsibilities for a short time can give them time to refocus, recharge, and tap into their relationship with Jesus.
“It is really to reestablish that rhythm of rest,” says Big Flats, NY pastor Alex Ruffer, who believes all believers benefit from regular times of rest. “But it’s also to break some cycles and influences that maybe have been creeping in without our knowledge–both for us, but also for our congregations.”
Ruffer’s been lead pastor at The Bridge Wesleyan Church since 2013, serving the church as its Children’s and Youth pastor for eight years prior to that. Ruffer is taking his first pastoral sabbatical this summer.
“When we encourage leaders: ‘Please take the space you need to get before the Father and hear His voice, and let His voice drive you beyond any other voice,’ then we say, ‘You can now be an instrument that can be set aside for holy purposes,’ because the voice that is most important is being listened to,” he says.
Having a pastor spend time away may seem like it could stagnate the church, but Ruffer believes it has the potential to do just the opposite.
“If we encourage our people and our pastors to take that space on a regular basis,” he says, “they’re going to be hearing from God, they’re going to be hearing revelation and understanding that’s timely, and that’s going to give us a level of fruitfulness that maybe we’ve never experienced before because we’ve just been doing things according to our own understanding and according to our own power.”