Benefits of Sabbatical

Benefits of Sabbatical

Last week, Sabbatical Committee member Jodi Brown wrote the first in a series of blogposts regarding Rev. Paige’s upcoming sabbatical happening April 1, 2023 through August 31, 2023.

This week, fellow committee member Kirstin Nelson offers a second blogpost, below. You can also listen to Kirstin’s comments about sabbatical that were shared during the February 5, 2023 worship service (she begins speaking at 51 min, 53 sec).

According to the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), sabbatical leave is an investment that the congregation makes in the future of a ministry. Therefore, sabbatical leave benefits the community as well as the minister.

In an NPR story on Talk of the Nation titled “Clergy Members Suffer from Burnout, Poor Health,” Robin Swift, former director of health programs at the Clergy Health Initiative (CHI), Duke University Divinity School, discussed a study that showed — “Priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams are generally driven by a sense of duty to answer calls for help. But research shows that in many cases, they rarely find time for themselves.”

CHI conducts extensive research on US clergy’s physical and mental well-being. In a 2016 study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, they summarized which factors might protect clergy against problems such as emotional exhaustion, depression, and anxiety and which factors might improve their positive mental health. The study recommended churches put resources toward proactively promoting clergy’s positive mental health, which can further serve as a preventive against physical or psychological health concerns. One fundamental way to encourage positive mental health is by providing extended time for renewal, study, and strengthening family connections.

In another multiyear program by CHI, to worked to assess and improve the health and well-being of United Methodist clergy in North Carolina.

It compared the health of these clergy members with that of people with similar demographic characteristics using a longitudinal survey, biometric data, focus groups, and interviews, as well as a wellness intervention and behavioral health study.

One focus of that study was on “flourishing clergy” and the tools used to set them apart from the clergy that struggled in their roles. The study found that “flourishing clergy” are intentional and strategic about 11 specific things:

  • Strategy 1: They focus on working in alignment with their beliefs
  • Strategy 2: They create time for discernment
  • Strategy 3: Prioritize healthy behaviors
  • Strategy 4: Invest in spiritual care
  • Strategy 5: Make time for personal interests
  • Strategy 6: Set boundaries around their work and personal lives
  • Strategy 7: Use space creatively
  • Strategy 8: Communicate clearly and regularly
  • Strategy 9: They manage their technology and take time to unplug
  • Strategy 10: Find support from other clergy
  • Strategy 11: Seek out emotional support from family and friends

During Rev. Paige’s sabbatical, she will take time to work on many items on this list, and UUCC will benefit right along with her.

Stay tuned for next week’s blogpost from fellow Sabbatical Committee member Jill Christianson!


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