Resources collected by Beth Brownfield
Edited by Andrea Lerner
Published by the Liberal Religious Educators Association
The Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) furthers the
interest of liberal religious education by maintaining high
standards and working toward full professional recognition for
educators. LREDA provides opportunities for continuing education;
helps disseminate program ideas, resources, and leadership training
materials; provides assistance and encouragement for all those
for Unitarian Universalist religious education programming; serves
in an advisory and consultative capacity to the UUA Departments of
Religious Education and Ministry; and articulates the philosophy,
curriculum, and methodology of liberal religious education. LREDA
advocates on behalf of its members for the application of the
for Professional Religious Educators in congregations. LREDA
to be a welcoming and anti-racist organization and affirms a wide
diversity of people within its membership.
The members of LREDA hold that religious education leadership is
a sacred trust. Those engaged in this profession have the honor,
and responsibility of passing on a rich religious heritage to the
generations of the present and the future. Whether in a part-time
or a full-time position, the work of a religious educator is
in the fullest sense of inspiration, care, and service. LREDA
are asked to abide by the Association's bylaws and Code of
Section seven of LREDA's Guidelines for Professional Religious Educators
The religious educator is a member of a profession utilizing an ever-growing
body of knowledge and cluster of skills and should be granted an
period of leave with salary every five to seven years for personal
growth, enrichment and renewal (not to include scheduled vacation
time). Individual arrangements vary.
The sabbatical period should be determined well in advance so that
the educator may plan for the most profitable use of the period
and so the congregation can adequately provide for the educator's
absence. In determining how to use the sabbatical period, the
should thoroughly explore the variety of educational programs
that would contribute to his/her growth in his/her areas of
This Handbook is designed to provide guidance to liberal religious
educators and to the congregations they serve in the design and
of sabbatical leave. It is intended to provide guidelines, planning
tools, and support throughout the sabbatical process from start to
OF A SABBATICAL
Thinking of a sabbatical? Your head is probably full of questions.
It's an exciting yet intimidating prospect. Where does one begin?
What are the steps to follow? What are the possibilities?
WHAT IS A SABBATICAL?
A sabbatical is a period of special leave granted for professional
development in a manner not possible during the press of activity
in a typical work year. While the request for sabbatical time may
be initiated by an individual religious educator, it should be the
position, not the individual, for whom the sabbatical is provided.
Sabbaticals are not vacations, but pathways to viewing vocations in
new ways, through fresh eyes. Many people travel, experience
cultures, learn new skills. The goal of this activity is to return
to the congregation renewed, refreshed.
Sabbatical time is normative for UU Ministers. It is increasingly
common for Directors of Religious Education to be granted such
Many benefits are accrued by both the religious educator and the
Religious educators make an intense commitment of time and energy
to their congregations. This work schedule allows for little
for the thoughtful enrichment, analysis, study and evaluation that
Sabbatical leave allows. The congregation has an opportunity for
through the sharing of creative abilities in meeting the
needs during the sabbatical and also benefits from the renewed
of the Director upon his/her return.
The UUA Board Recommendations based on the Compensation Committee
Report (April 1995 include:
We believe continuing professional education is an essential for
religious professional in order to maintain and advance
skills and knowledge. We urge congregations to provide adequate
for professional personnel's continuing education including
leave, not to be considered as part of vacation.
In the Greater Washington Association of Unitarian Universalists
Societies virtually all ministers and religious educators (whether
ministers or not) have sabbatical agreements with their churches,
in accordance with the guidelines of the Greater Washington Area.
This calls for one month of leave, with all pay and benefits, for
each year of service to a specific church, and only after five
of service. Other options, such as 3 months every 3 years may be
Those eligible included full-time and part-time Religious Educators.
A number of Unitarian Universalist Churches in New Jersey have established
a program called Leadership Leaves for the purpose of providing
professional development of ministers and religious education
and to enhance the religious life of several congregations. It is
designed to permit "religious professionals" to pursue
professional development opportunities as will strengthen and
their ministries. Participating congregations join for six-year
The governing body establishes a schedule for the Leaves program,
determines means of financing the plan and is available for
and advice to individual societies. (More information on this
is available on page 13 in the resource section of this handbook.)
LREDA SABBATICAL GUIDELINES
LREDA encourages congregations to grant sabbatical leave to their
professional religious educator. We recognize that the ultimate
decision regarding this matter is between the congregation and
Ideally, provision for sabbatical leave should be part of an initial
The professional religious educator should accrue one month sabbatical
leave per employed year.
Sabbatical time should be exclusive of any vacation or study leave
Sabbatical time may accrue for a maximum of six months.
Sabbatical may be taken separately from or together with vacation
Sabbaticals are taken for the purpose of personal and professional
The employment agreement may require the religious educator and
congregation to continue to work together following the
This mandated period should not be longer than one year.
The religious educator shall receive full salary and fringe benefits
during the sabbatical plus any special funds from study grants,
gifts, professional expenses, etc.
SOME INITIAL CONSIDERATIONS
When is the best time for a sabbatical? Should it begin in the
beginning, middle or end of the church school year?
Are there any considerations about taking a sabbatical at this
time? (conflict within the congregation, other staff on
or in major job transition)
What are the benefits for the religious educator and for the congregation?
What are the concerns and fears of the religious educator, Board
of Trustees, R.E. Committee, minister and other church staff that
must be addressed?
Are there particular issues the congregation would like the religious
educator to think about or work on during the sabbatical? (Take
care here. Make sure that the issues and project are mutually
to the religious educator and to the congregation.)
What opportunities will the sabbatical create for the congregation
and how will it best take advantage of this time?
GAINING CONGREGATIONAL SUPPORT
The question of sabbatical may start with the earliest discussions
of covenants and employment agreements. The best provision is for
a sabbatical paragraph to be included in the religious educator's
agreement before or at the time of hiring. Made at this time, it is
a hopeful statement, planning for the educator to remain in their
position a long time. Benefits to the R.E. program, the
and the religious education professional can be presented at this
time and discussed: renewal that follows detachment, reflection and
new learning, and renewal that brings fresh enthusiasm, new ideas
and a clearer focus.
Clarify how many years of service will be required before a sabbatical
will be awarded and a formula for figuring out the length of a
(i.e., one month per year accrued for every year of full time
Clarify the rate of salary and benefits that will be paid to the
educator while on sabbatical. Establish guidelines for the creation
of a Sabbatical Support Committee.
If a religious educator has been in the position for a number of
years without this clause, begin to explore the process with the
relations committee, personnel committee, or R.E. committee. Make
it clear that the sabbatical is to be awarded to the position and
not to the individual.
It is prudent to ask local colleagues first for their support. Enroll
the minister in this cause. Consider the possibility of bringing in
an outside consultant (the District Executive, Program Consultant,
or a religious educator who had a successful sabbatical experience)
to create focus groups of diverse congregants to discuss wishes,
opportunities and challenges which a sabbatical might involve. This
may clarify the steps necessary to make this a successful venture
PLANNING BY THE CONGREGATION
Once a sabbatical is being seriously considered, it is time to form
a Sabbatical Support Committee. This committee should decide how to
best support the religious educator's plans. This committee will
the calendar and list all functions which must be covered, document
the names and phone numbers of those who will be responsible, and
work with Board or Fiscal Committee to determine how to cover
costs (i.e. additional staff time if needed). Begin to plan for the
sabbatical one or even two years ahead.
A sabbatical brochure or resource guide for the congregation might
contain information about:
What is a sabbatical?
Benefits to the educator and the congregation
Structure and role of the Sabbatical Committee (including telephone
Dates of farewell, the sabbatical itself and welcome back festivities
Statement from the religious educator on sabbatical plans and
Responsibility for religious education tasks during the sabbatical
The committee might address the following tasks, among others:
Children's special activities
Curriculum and program needs
Teacher training and support
Social action projects
Special functions (Christmas programs, breakfasts, special fundraisers
It is a good idea to create a month-by-month "tickler file",
calendar, or notebook of what needs to get done and by when. A
group for each R.E. event during the sabbatical period should be
with its own with clear instructions, expectations, and other
(files, descriptions, former publicity, deadlines, procedures,
etc.) If the religious educator will be gone until the end of the
program year it is important to remember to accomplish what needs
to be done in advance for the coming year (recruitment of
registration of families, program planning, curriculum selection).
PLANNING BY THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATOR
Some initial questions for the religious educator are:
What do you really want or need most at this point in your career?
Are there particular things you want the RE committee to work
on during the sabbatical?
How will you coordinate your sabbatical needs with the needs and
wants of your family?
What tangible results do you want to bring back? How will you
communicate the results?
Are your goals reasonable, considering the length of the sabbatical?
How will you facilitate your return with a different perspective
to a different situation?
Consider what preparations need to be made (registrations, reservations,
etc.) and develop a timeline for completing these preparations.
both the opportunities and impact on self, family, friends, job,
and the community. It is unwise to go on sabbatical in a time of
with your congregation. Budget for expenses. Save money for this
so that you can do things you've always wanted to do.
PLANNING FOR DEPARTURE
It is very important that there be some formal, scheduled and carefully
planned congregation-wide farewell. Do not leave this to chance.
Sabbatical Support Committee or a subcommittee should make
for this important event. It is a way of honoring and celebrating
the religious educator and sending him/her off on a positive and
Some ideas to consider might include:
A potluck or congregational dessert party with a "roast"
or honoring of the religious educator. Make it something that
out instead of simply making it part of a Sunday coffee hour. It
could be combined with a special program to help draw a crowd
as a fundraiser for a special program or with specific
(music, magic show, or other attraction)
A gift of some sort - money towards sabbatical expense, books
of special significance to the type of sabbatical taken, gift
for special pampering (theater tickets, health spa).
A sermon or part of a Sunday service where the short presentations
(by minister, Board chair, and the Sabbatical Support Committee
chair) followed by a sermon or short speech by the religious
This will help the congregation understand that the minister and
the board support this sabbatical.
It is important that the religious educator and the Sabbatical Support
Committee make it clear what boundaries and responsibilities will
be honored by the religious educator and congregation during the
Many educators stay completely away during the entire sabbatical,
coming in only at odd hours to pick up important mail or materials.
Some religious educators choose to write one or two newsletter
as a way of reporting on the status of their sabbatical.
Most advise that phone calls from parishioners be discouraged during
the sabbatical period and that the educator avoid attending any
functions during this time. It breaks the flow of the sabbatical.
It is too easy to be drawn back into work related issues even on
WELCOMING BACK AND ITS PURPOSE
A welcoming reception is as important as a farewell. Much will have
happened to the religious educator and to the congregation during
the sabbatical period and it is important to reestablish
Planning for reentry should be part of the Sabbatical Support
or a subcommittee's responsibility. Activities might include:
A welcome back pot luck or dessert party in celebration of the
A special evening or afternoon event like a musical event where
the religious educator is welcomed back. It could include a short
skit, songs, small gifts and welcoming words to make the welcome
A Sunday morning service soon after the return of the religious
A special program (forum, sermon, or talk) might be given by the
religious educator on some special aspect of the sabbatical
experiences, studies, insights).
A feature article in the church newsletter accompanied by a message
to the congregation by the religious educator.
PLANNING FOR RETURN
A clear plan must be formed about what is to be accomplished before
the return of the religious educator and what is to picked up by
educator upon return. It is important not to feel overwhelmed by
many tasks for the reentry period. Make sure that there are
duties but not major tasks facing the religious educator.
Plan time for the educator to meet with committees to engage in some
formal group process with those who have done the work. Evaluate
things and people have changed. Questions to explore include:
What felt good about the sabbatical period?
List specific ways religious educator, others, or the program
benefited, changed, grew during the religious educator's absence
List specific ways in which the religious educator or the program
might have been better prepared for the religious educator's
How could this have been done?
What program areas could have gone better? What needed more attention?
What happened during this period that the religious educator should
In addition to the many positive benefits of the sabbatical, be prepared
for possible negative feelings the educator might experience upon
return. They might range from jealousy that someone else did a
job during the absence to shock at being back to a tight schedule
and difficult timelines. The educator may find that the position no
longer satisfies him/her in the same way and things easily accepted
before sabbatical are no longer tolerable upon return.
Be prepared for problems that might encountered upon return. The
committees might be reluctant to give back aspects of their new
There may have been personnel changes in the church. Difficult
may have developed that will involve special work with youth
volunteers, particular parents, etc. The educator may have thought
of new ways to do things and find reluctance on the part of the
or committee members.
If possible or necessary a recovenanting between the religious educator
and the R.E. Committee and/or the congregation might be undertaken.
WHAT DID YOU DO ON SABBATICAL?
The shortest sabbatical reported was 3 months and the average was
5-6 months. Some of our religious educators used their sabbatical
time in the following ways:
I finished some seminary course work; attended other churches,
as well as a Tibetan Buddhist dharmadatu; began work on my
did Clinical Pastoral Education unit.
Researched paper for Master of Divinity.
Took seminary courses, Winter Interim at Meadville/Lombard
Attended worship services and visited other Religious Education
Meditations at Buddhist monastery
Traveled to the UU Churches of Khasi Hills, India. Traveled from
East Coast to West Coast and visited religious education programs
in San Francisco area. While there also visited Grace Cathedral
to view their labyrinth. Also pursued professional work with
Visited Chicago with focus on curriculum, worship, racial
and interactive social action. Visited "Way Cool Sunday
attended Meadville/Lombard Winter Institute for Religious
Visited churches in vicinity of NY City, All Souls Church, White
Plains (Shelter Rock), and the NY Office of "Crossroads-An
Interfaith Ministry for Racial Justice." Consultations were
also scheduled with UUA Religious Education Staff
Attended conferences, i.e. Meadville/Lombard Winter Institute
Spent three months in Great Britain exploring story of King Arthur
and its impact on the British people. Also attended General
of the Free Christian Churches in York, England, and gave a major
address and a lecture to divinity students at Oxford University.
Spent three weeks traveling through England and Scotland exploring
ancestral routes. Also edited some original church school plays
and curriculum for publishing.
Visited UU churches and interviewed DREs about the programs offered
for children and youth (particularly Coming of Age programs).
computer classes and learned about Internet, Excel for Windows,
and Word for Windows. Attended European Unitarian Universalist
Retreat held in Belgium. Traveled to England and France to
and visit relatives and friends. Attended Meadville/Lombard
Institute. Took a Renaissance module, and attended R.E. Conclave.
Received training in facilitating Study Circles on anti-racism.
Walked the labyrinth at Arlington, VA and again at Chartres
in France. I read for pleasure as well as for professional
HOW DID THE SABBATICAL BENEFIT YOU?
Here are some of the personal benefits expressed by religious educators:
My sabbatical was designed to giving me some breathing space in
my over-packed schedule of working full-time and finishing
My farewell sermon was on "Breathing". The sabbatical
did allow me to take a breather - to finish some work and feel
on top of things.
They gave me a wonderful loving "roast" when I left,
and welcomed me back with gifts and songs.
I found my sabbatical let me set aside the role of religious educator,
to which I normally devote the majority of my time and energy,
reorient myself in another way. In doing this I found myself
how much being a religious educator means to me.
So here I am, almost as if I knew "the place for the first
time," ready to look ahead, recharged with a fresh supply of
energy, and filled with appreciation for those who have kept
going while I was away.
I enjoyed the more flexible schedule, and the freedom from all
the details that usually come with my work. It gave me the luxury
of time to think about the options for continuing education, and
the opportunity to present them to the Board of Trustees. It was
refreshing and relaxing. It was also a humbling experience - a
that nobody is indispensable and the world keeps turning, whether
you are there or not! As far as the program is concerned, I think
the main benefits are an increased awareness on the part of the
R.E. Committee about what I do, and an opportunity for people to
take more initiative.
A learning for me was beginning the process of rediscovering my
So much of R.E. work is repetitive, time consuming and draining
that it is hard to get recharged, even with a month's vacation in
HOW DID THE SABBATICAL BENEFIT THE CONGREGATION?
Congregations expressed the benefits accrued to them in different
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
Congregation felt good about doing something good for the religious
They discovered they could function with clear roles and expectations
The RE committee reformed into a council with liaisons in charge
of areas of responsibilities.
Volunteer involvement and ownership was increased.
We tried new things in different ways.
We gained an appreciation and understanding of complex workload
of religious educator.
It gave the RE program a new sense of structure. The way we set
people up to cover things while the religious educator was gone
worked so well, we used it for a model for the RE Council after
It allowed the congregation to express their love and appreciation
for the religious educator and to feel like real participants in
her work at church and in her becoming a minister.
Congregation recharged their own leadership batteries.
I would have made it longer, or programmed less in, so I could
have included some real meditative spiritual renewal time in
or some set aside place. (5 month sabbatical)
I would have made it longer than three months. It takes awhile
to get into the swing of a sabbatical, and you're just getting
when it comes to a close.
I would have allowed more time for doing nothing or doing things
for personal enjoyment rather than always tasks specific to
education. Remember that part of the purpose of a sabbatical is
I would have started earlier and planned more carefully the process
of presenting the idea to the Board of Trustees and the
I would have liked to have more activities less directly related
to the nitty-gritty of working more efficiently, but the Board
a detailed plan and expected tangible products.
I would have done something more exciting, gone farther afield,
tried something I had never done before or that I thought would
really challenge me.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO OTHERS PLANNING OR TAKING SABBATICALS
Be aware that you will most likely feel a separation anxiety,
as will people who will be covering the work while you are gone.
Developmental Stages of Sabbatical (Abby Crowley)
ANXIETY: Wanting to do something eternal and important,
or be somewhere I was not.
GUILT: Oh my goodness, I don't think this is what the
people in my congregation are paying me to do. I had better
THE CANDY STORE: Faced with so many tempting possibilities.
Should I do this or that?
PRODUCTIVITY: It was clear I could get a lot done,
but something was missing. I need to take time to
REFLECTION: Where can we go from here?
I never called it "my" sabbatical. I always tried to
frame it that it was a sabbatical time for "us." I
it "Sabbatical Spring" because the concept I kept
out there was that for the good of us all. The congregation and
I will periodically renew and refresh.
Make sure areas that need coverage are clearly assigned to folks;
but don't do the work yourself. Let them be in charge.
Start a file of ideas you'd like to do on your sabbatical, books
you'd like to read, churches you'd like to visit, travel ideas,
Give the RE committee a clear assignment, i.e. work on some area
of programming you felt is weak and hasn't been handled well
in the past.
An intern should not be asked to take over for a religious educator.
Internships are opportunities for mentoring and that opportunity
is gone if professional supervision is not present.
Set some specific goals for your sabbatical that you can focus
If you have the time coming to you, use it.
Don't rule out doing a sabbatical in town, if that's the only
way you can arrange it.
Don't let the congregation get away with overloading RE volunteers
while you are on sabbatical; if necessary, get help from an RE
Consultant or District Executive in making a case for paying for
extra help while you're gone.
If you want some kind of celebratory "good-bye" when
you leave and "welcome back" when you return, realize
that you may have to ask for it. If you have a Sabbatical
or other planning group put the "send off" and
recognition as part of their job description.
Recommend GETTING AWAY! The 2 months I stayed home I felt guilty
about what I should be doing like housework! Being away gives
and space for reflection as well as much needed rest time
"Be alert to some craziness on the part of the congregation
upon your return," wrote one LREDA Good Offices person who
has seen this in her congregations and in other congregations.
Take an October though March sabbatical. I got the year off to
a good start and was back in time for teacher recruitment.
Make sure that a sabbatical plan is included in your letter of
agreement, so that it does not look like a favor.
Choose a Sabbatical Committee that is aware of the difference
between sabbaticals in academic and church settings.
If possible, do not commit to very specific activities, so that
you don't miss out an opportunities that may arise after you
Train the people who are covering for you, and put as much as
possible in writing, make check lists for quick reference.
Give reports to the Board, the R.E. Committee and the congregation
when you return.
Meet with the people who covered for you after you return and
get them to answer a questionnaire about their experience: what
did they accomplish, what did they learn, any problems that they
Show appreciation to those that covered for you with a postcard,
small gift, reception in their honor; and certainly recognition
at church and in the newsletter for the extra work they have
Take cautions and don't plan too tightly. Leave room for your
"family," rest and renew your spirit, exercise,
Ask yourself: What will renew me? What can I share with the
when I return? What issue do I want the church to look at during
HOW WAS IT FUNDED? HOW MUCH DID IT COST THE CHURCH AND YOU?
I continued to receive my salary, but all coverage at the church
was volunteer, and all my activities were already paid for so
was no financial factor.
$1,800 for Sunday coverage.
Religious Educator was paid half of salary. The other half went
to pay a temporary DRE.
One congregation increased the hourly rate of the RE assistant
and added additional hours. They hired a student preparing for
ministry who had a Masters in Education and was an experienced
This person took over the MRE responsibilities.
One congregation hired a religious educator for 25 hours a week,
for 17 weeks, for a maximum of 30 hours. This was for a total of
464 hours at $10.70 an hour. Total budget for the salary was
and did not include benefits.
RE Assistant who was working 10 hours a week had hours increased
to 15. The added responsibilities were in supporting Sunday
for three months the DRE was away.
RE Assistant hours were increased from half time to full time.
$6,000 was allotted to sabbatical expense. ($4,000 was paid by
annual budget, and $2,000 was covered by the Religious Education
program from an R.E. endowment.
The church budgeted $2,000, in addition to the regular $1,350
for "DRE reimbursable." I paid for all travel expenses
for the trip to Europe and registrations in certain courses that
were of a personal rather than job-related nature. Members of the
R.E. Committee and a few volunteers took on specific tasks and
and rotated to be on duty on Sunday mornings. There was no paid
HOW WAS YOUR POSITION COVERED?
One congregation set up a "sabbatical circle" - a special
group of people who had different areas to steer while religious
educator was gone (pastoral care, adult ed., youth programs,
special activities, facilities needs, and another to coordinate
and liaison with R.E. Committee, the minister, and RE Assistant.
The RE Committee was asked to plan and recruit for the fall
The religious educator met with each person individually and as
a group before she left. They published a brochure, and also had
things in the newsletter to explain to everyone who was covering
One program had a chair for each RE event during the sabbatical.
A 10-hour-a-week assistant's hours were increased to 15. Her main
responsibilities were supporting the Sunday morning needs.
In another large program the RE assistant went from ten hours
to 20 and was paid at a higher rate for the second ten hours.
Only once did I get involved (as a parent of a kid in the RE program),
commenting to a teacher about needing a form to sign for a field
trip. I was sorry I did that. But I was happy I attended the
of Age service and party (everything totally run by others, I
appeared) - and another time when I attended a big
concert - again no involvement, just wanted to enjoy being there!
Pastoral care boundaries didn't come up - my colleague and a member
of the Sabbatical Circle, who is a counselor, handled all things
well. I suppose, if someone very close to me had died, I might
engaged... but for the most part, all crises and needs for
attention were met by others, or could wait for my return.
I did write a monthly "letter from Linda" for the Newsletter.
I didn't check in with the office. I didn't go to the building.
I didn't talk to anyone from the church.
Leadership Leaves Program of New Jersey (contact Unitarian Church
in Summit: 4 Waldron Ave., Summit, New Jersey 07901)
A number of Unitarian Universalist Churches in New Jersey have established
a program of Leadership Leaves for the purpose of providing
professional development of the Ministers and Religious Education
Professionals and to enhance the religious life of several
It is designed to permit "religious professionals" to
such professional development opportunities that will strengthen
enrich their ministries...
Participating congregations join for six-year periods. The governing
body establishes a schedule for the Leaves program, determine
of financing the plan and available for recommendations and
to individual societies.
The financing is derived from the assessment on the member churches
on Nov. 1 of each year.
Leaves are described as 1/2 of the society year in addition to
the usual vacation period, at full salary.
Each recipient society agrees to pay three-quarters of the total
disbursement to the religious professional at the time of his or
her sabbatical. One-quarter of the disbursement shall be retained
by the recipient society.
For Religious Education Professionals on leave the congregations
are expected to develop a strong Sabbatical Circle of volunteers
with clearly identified responsibilities. One church member would
be responsible for the overall well-being of the program.
The assessment formula is one percent of the budgets of each of the
member societies with a cap of $2,200. Any excess is kept until the
end of the cycle.
Greater Washington Association of Unitarian Universalist Societies
In GWA of UU Societies virtually all ministers and religious educators
(whether ministers or not) have sabbatical agreements with their
in accordance with the guidelines of the GWA. This calls for one
of leave, with all pay and benefits, for each year of service to a
specific church, and only after five years of service (If taken
the sixth or seventh year, the amount of leave is, of course,
Other ministers and religious educators provide certain services to
the church. The person taking sabbatical leave makes arrangements
for such coverage before taking leave. Both parties understand that
the person taking leave will return to the church for at least one
year following such leave.
BACK TO RESOURCES
TO TAKE A SABBATICAL
Adapted from an article "The Parish and the Minister's
from Congregations (Alban Institute) January-February 1993
Three Steps to Sabbatical Planning:
Re-entry after the Sabbatical
Determine the time parameters.
When? How long?
It is important that the sabbatical period should not include
normal vacation time.
Sometimes it must first be determined what you will do with
the sabbatical before deciding when
Often a sabbatical plan includes a statement in which both
the church and the "religious educator" agree to
their relationship for at least one full calendar year after
Determine the financial arrangements.
Continuation of full salary and benefits during sabbatical
Who will pay? How will they pay?
It is accepted practice to pay the pastor full salary and
benefits during the sabbatical
There will also be additional expenses to the program during
the sabbatical. The church ought to be setting aside funds
the sabbatical, to pay for these expenses
Make specific sabbatical plans.
Can the work be achieved in the time available?
There should be a goal, objective, and strategy. Determine
what one hopes to accomplish during the sabbatical and how it
is to be accomplished
It should be clear not only how the sabbatical will benefit
the "religious educator", but what benefit can be
expected by the parish.
Coming back from a sabbatical is a lot more difficult than
leaving! While the "Religious Educator" has been gone
the parish has not stood still.
Pace is important. The "Religious Educator" on
sabbatical has been operating at a different pace.
"It is not possible to board a moving train with a
perpendicular leap!" The Religious Educator" must run
alongside the train for a bit to catch up with the parish
Advance planning is just as important for re-entry as it
was for lift-off. It is extremely unwise to leave things for the
"Religious Educator" to start when he/she gets back.
group activities may be planned in advance and already begun when
the "Religious Educator" returns.
The return from sabbatical should be celebrated with a
reception, a dinner, or other occasion for members of the parish
to gather and re-meet each other.
It would be great for each committee to keep a journal
of things to remember to convey when the "Religious
It is perfectly understandable human need to feel that
one's absence was noticed! There is a temptation for the
Educator" who has been on sabbatical to look for evidence
things did not go as smoothly as they might have if he/she had
The "Religious Educator" should report to the
parish (presentation, sermon, and also something in writing that
covers in detail what was done, or accomplished. This report
include how the sabbatical has benefited both the "Religious
Educator" and the parish.
The parish must "own" the sabbatical. It is not healthy
when the sabbatical is thought of as simply something the parish
to the "Religious Educator." The sabbatical is a church
program and should therefore, be planned and funded like any other
program and should be designed to benefit the parish and to enrich
the "Religious Educators" work in that parish.
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POLICY FOR LEAVES OF ABSENCE FOR DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
(Adapted from Paint Branch Unitarian Church Adelphi, Maryland)
1. It shall be the policy of the Paint Branch Unitarian Church to
grant its Religious Educator a leave of absence for the purpose of
formal study; writing, planned social service or other specific
designed to achieve self-renewal. The benefits of such activities
are deemed in the best interest of the congregation and the
2. The Religious Educator of the Paint Branch Unitarian Church shall
become eligible for such leave of absence after a minimum of five
years service with the church and after the completion of each
five years upon the return from said leave of absence.
3. Such leave of absence shall normally be granted for a period of
five months immediately before the normal school church schedule.
4. Such leave of absence to be granted by the Board of Trustees contingent
on submission of a satisfactory plan and on making satisfactory
for essential coverage of the DRE's duties by the R.E. Committee
the Greater Washington Area R.E. council.
5. During the leave of absence the DRE will be paid his/her usual
salary and the church will continue payment of retirement and any
insurance plans in effect.
6. It is understood that the Religious Educator will be expected
to return following his/her leave of absence and thereafter to
the congregation of the Paint Branch Unitarian Church for at least
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OF AN INITIAL SABBATICAL EXPLORATION WITHIN A CONGREGATION
A Sabbatical Committee for the Director of Religious Education has
been formed to investigate and propose a sabbatical for the
educator to be taken in the 1995/1996 program year. The request for
a sabbatical is strongly supported by the Religious Education
and parish minister. It is furthermore recommended by the UUA:
14 of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation's Compensation and
Practices (January 1995) reads: A sabbatical plan should be
for all full-time professionals, providing for one month of
for each year of service.
(Here give brief history of Religious Educator's years and service
to the congregation, District, and Association...) followed by a
rationale for sabbatical, i.e. The scope and complexity of
a Religious Education program leaves little time for study,
or time for renewal. This leave of absence would be for the purpose
of formal study, writing, completing projects, and other specific
activities designed to achieve self-renewal.
A committee has been formed which will work to submit to the Board's
satisfaction plans covering details of the proposed sabbatical and
essential coverage of the Religious Educator's duties while on
The members of this committee are:
Spring 1994 Introduce idea to the Board and discuss tentative plans
Fall 1994 Formal request to the Board for approval of sabbatical
with tentative budget, plans, and dates in 1996
Fall 1995 Present proposal to the R.E. Committee for discussion
Spring 1995 Present final request and submit budget to the Board
(it would be well to consider costs a year or more in advance so
money could be set aside ahead of time)
Spring 1995 First newsletter article, giving information about sabbatical
Fall 1995 Second newsletter article to include tentative plans for
Fall 1995 Information session with board or members of the congregation
where the Sabbatical committee and Religious Educator respond to
December Good-bye function
Jan 1995-June 1996 Sabbatical
Late spring Religious Educator meets with RE committee, parish minister,
early fall evaluation volunteers, staff to evaluate how things
Fall 1996 Welcome back function, sharing of sabbatical experience
with the congregation
Fall 1996 Continuation and follow-through on findings, implementation
of new ideas
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SABBATICAL REQUEST FOR RELIGIOUS EDUCATOR
Date of sabbatical:
Purpose of Sabbaticals:
Foster rest, reflection and renewal
Change in routine
A respite in depth to break away from established routine
and weight of responsibilities
Be stimulated by new learning
Time and space to reflect on the meaning of one's work
Benefits for the congregation:
A rejuvenated and refreshed Religious Educator
Application of experiences/knowledge/resources gained during sabbatical
Opportunity for parents and religious education volunteers to
take more ownership of the Religious Education program and its
Outline of sabbatical projects or goals:
(Have some specific examples of plans but don't lock Religious
into unrealistic expectations either of his or her own design or
by the congregation)
Rest and relaxation
Sabbatical Committee will:
Develop a plan to cover special events and programs that will
be handled by individuals, committees, or volunteers
Oversee recruiting of acting Religious Educator (if one is to
Develop a comprehensive plan to cover all duties of the acting
Religious Educator including...
Religious Educator will work with the Sabbatical Committee to ensure
Committees are in place to carry out special events
Responsibility for special functions (i.e. intergenerational worship,
position on specific committees, etc.) of the Religious Educator
are covered during the sabbatical period
Curriculum is in place for the sabbatical period and plans for
ensuing curriculums planned for
Recommendations for Board:
Approve sabbatical for Religious Educator from ____to ____ at
full pay, pension fringe benefits and professional expenses
Approve budget of ______to cover cost of interim DRE for ____hrs
per week @_____per hour.
BACK TO RESOURCES
First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, MN 1997, Beth Brownfield
If I Stopped by Sean Le Claire
(From Creation Spirituality magazine, date unknown)
If I stopped for a year to read the classics,
what would happen to my life
If I stopped for a year to visit art galleries and museums,
would I ever work again
If I stopped for a year to dance and climb mountains,
would the Boardroom Bell not sound for me
If I stopped to teach,
would I learn who I was in the gleaming eyes of tender youth
If I stopped for a year,
would I feel the seasons change and hear ants talk
If I stopped for a year,
could I learn to breathe and name the sense I have long since
If I stopped for a year,
could I remember the shock of the birth canal and the bright, white
light called life
If I stopped...
At intermission, we leave our missions in our serious seats along
with our programs and remember the show is just a show and talk
whatever we want. We walk randomly at intermission without thinking
we need permission to do so...Our lives are intermission. When
not watching someone else's show at home, at work, when we're not
acting in our own show, when we're just getting fresh air if we
and sitting still if we want and mingling if we're in the mood,
life. It's so short though. We spend so much time watching other
shows and putting on our own that we forget that it's just a show.
So this is intermission. Are you doing what you want?... Anne
from issue 16, Women of Power
I'm writing to you on day fifty-six of my sabbatical, which feels
like an intermission to me. You might want to ask me questions
my experience: What are you doing with your eyes? Have you done
you'd never done in your life until now and why did you do it and
what happened? Who and what do you miss? What brings you joy? What
is something you made that you like? What is something that
that you thought about for a long time after it happened? What do
you do between breakfast and going to bed? What was a good time for
you? When did someone or something teach you something that made a
difference? What did you learn?
I am experiencing beauty: the beauty of solitude, the beauty of shadows
on snow, of sunlight in the early morning and late afternoon. I am
experiencing clouds and stars. I am looking in puddles to see the
reflection of the trees. I am noticing the shapes of the bare trees
and I am falling in love with the patterns they make.
I am creating with my hands: sewing, cooking, collage, jewelry. I
am rearranging, sorting, and organizing "stuff" I've had
around. I am learning new skills: taking up playing the Autoharp,
learning Quigong (Chinese exercise like Tai Chi). I am using my
more: exercising daily, experiencing massage, meditative dance,
chanting, skiing, walking, and swimming.
I am taking time to be with friends, to entertain and take joy in
preparing the food, to clean the house as a meditative practice
of a chore.
For those who feel the above list is frivolous I have done many things
related more directly to my work as a religious educator: attended
a conference and professional meetings, read books and articles,
reports, made recommendations, answered mail, kept in touch with RE
staff and others as I'm called upon, coordinate the District Youth
Coming of Age retreats, given interviews, consulted with religious
educators, completed projects like RE photo albums and resource
cleaned the craft closet and visited four UU churches. I've thought
a lot about the First Unitarian Society: who we are, what we do,
we do it. I've tried to imagine what it will be like coming back
this time away.
By the time you read this I will be in Java and Bali on an extended
trip to immerse myself in Indonesian culture-to see what it would
be like to live for awhile with no separation between art and life,
nature and life, community and life, religion and life. I'll return
in late May to meet with the RE committee. I will continue the
this summer, attending General Assembly in Indianapolis to give a
workshop on the Coming of Age program. In mid-July I will attend
Unitarian Universalist camp on Star Island, off Portsmouth, New
for the Religious Education week. I'll return to the east to attend
a week-long Leadership School at the UU conference center called
Mountain" in North Carolina. I'll be back in the RE office in
I'm appreciative of this time. I am learning, growing and creating
and will return with bushels of ideas and energy for the work that
we will do together in creating a community for all ages.
BACK TO RESOURCES
QUOTATIONS FOR USE IN BROCHURES
"What is sabbatical leave? A sabbatical is a period of special
leave granted for professional development, in a manner not
during the press of activity in a typical work year. Planning by
Board of Trustees for the DRE Sabbatical began two years ago.
Why do churches give religious educators sabbatical leave? The present
DRE position requires intense commitments of time and energy (50
hour weeks are not unusual with work conducted several nights and
sometimes seven days a week). This work schedule allows little time
for thorough and thoughtful enrichment, analysis, study, and
which a sabbatical experience will provide to enrich our Religious
Education Program." Sue Philley, Unitarian Universalist Church
of Arlington, VA
"The sabbatical period for the congregation is an opportunity
for reflection and growth, just as it is for me. It gives members
of Cedar Lane time to explore their own resources and build
in their own abilities to provide for the needs of successful
in our large and vital church. We can come back together in June
and invigorated by the growth and identification of possibilities
we each have gained." Roberta Nelson, Cedar Lane Unitarian
"Sabbath time is intended to be relaxing and unpressured, but
Sabbath time is not formless or random. Sabbath implies focus.
the sense of enchantment and renewal arises from a willingness to
allow one's spirit to rest in things which are eternal, under
where there is time and space to do so." Dan Seeger, Pendle
"The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 'Say to the people of
Israel, When you come into the land which I give you, the land
keep Sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and
six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruits;
but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for
the land a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field or
your vineyard. What grows of itself in your harvest you shall not
reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you shall not gather;
it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the
land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and
female slaves and four your hired servant and the sojourner who
with you; for your cattle also and for the beasts that are in your
land all its yield shall be for food.'" Leviticus 25: 1-4
"Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping
of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city
and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell
relaxes stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element
on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the
beach, erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings...One
never knows what chance treasures rollers may toss up, on the
white sand of the conscious mind; what perfectly rounded stone,
rare shell from the ocean floor...But it must not be sought
sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too
impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and
but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea
Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a
for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Gift from
"We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
shall be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time."
"We are living in a culture and social climate, which places
a great and positive emphasis on presence. We feel that being
is a value as such, and almost always better than being absent.
present constitutes much of our occupation as ministers: present to
patients and students, at services, at Bible groups, at all sorts
of charitable meetings, at parties, at dinners, at games-and just
present in the streets of our town. We need, Nouwen suggests, to
ministry of presence with a ministry of absence. For example, when
we make pastoral visits 'it is essential for patients and
to experience that it is good for them, not only that we come but
also that we leave. In this way the memory of our visit can become
as important, if not more important, than the visit itself...I am
deeply convinced that there is a ministry in which our leaving
space for God's spirit and in which, by our absence, God can become
present in a new way. There is an enormous difference between an
after a visit and an absence which is the result of not coming at
all. Without a coming there can be no leaving, and without a
absence is only emptiness...'" Henri Nouwen, The Living
"Unstructured time is...both a boon and burden. In most of us
there is something that rebels against punching a time clock,
assignments, fulfilling obligations. We long to take off our
turn on the answering machine, and simply spend the day sauntering.
'What is life, if full of care/we have no time to stand and stare?'
the poet asks. The soul prefers a different pace and a different
than the practical intelligence. The two are not, in fact, always
on cordial terms...
It is vitally important...to carve out time for 'being' as well as
'doing,' to create intervals where nothing needs to be done and
will be done. Life is too sweet to be held hostage by assignment
and 'to do' lists. At the same time, it is childishly naïve to
think that empty hours alone will nourish the soul. Even if the
prefers to dwell in endless summer, it still needs the structures
of common sense to rescue it from boredom." Rev. Michael
First Unitarian Society in Madison, WI
"Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when
you come back to your work, your judgement will be surer, since to
remain constantly at work you loose power of judgement. Go some
away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be
in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportions is more readily
seen." Leonardo da Vinci
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