Making the Most of Your Sabbatical : Jay Fowler

Making the Most of Your Sabbatical - Jay Fowler - 44 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

As a pastor, and as a church, how do you get the most out of a sabbatical? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Jay Fowler. Jay serves as the Midwest Regional Director at PastorServe. He is a certified coach who coaches pastors, consults churches, and serves in crisis care. He is an ordained Anglican priest who has planted churches, pastored and served churches for over 30 years. Jay has also coached many pastors and helped churches through the process of coaching around sabbaticals, and he has written the Sabbatical Prep Workbook. Together, Jay, and I look at not only the value of a sabbatical for a pastor, but also the value of a sabbatical for the local church. Then we also explore some of the ways that you can actually get the most out of that sabbatical time, making it as effective and impactful as possible, for both the pastor and the church.

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Additional Resource Links

Sabbatical Preparation Workbook – Jay’s years of experience coaching pastors and churches through sabbaticals come together in this workbook designed as a tool to help ministry leaders get the most out of their sabbatical

Sabbatical Coaching PastorServe – If you are considering a sabbatical, here is an opportunity to talk to a coach at no cost. Pastors and ministry leaders can receive a complimentary session with a ministry coach from PastorServe.

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Key Insights and Concepts

  • Sabbaticals are gaining renewed interest as the Church rediscovers the need for healthy pastors and ministry leaders and recognizes the dangers of burnout
  • Our souls are like rubber bands. Stretching, at times, is beneficial, but prolonged stretching leads to either being snapped or becoming malformed.
  • Churches do not want their pastors to snap or to become malformed. They want healthy pastors.
  • Taking a sabbatical, a prolonged and intentional time away from the busyness of ministry, is not only vital to effective and healthy ministry, but it is also biblical. [See Moses, Elijah, and Jesus]
  • Helping the local leadership and congregation of a church understand how a sabbatical can benefit both the pastor and the church is valuable
  • A sabbatical is an investment of time, energy, and resources, however, the benefits are tremendous
  • Utilizing a sabbatical coach can really maximize the effectiveness and impact of the sabbatical for both the pastor and the local church
  • Preparation time for the sabbatical is just as important as the actual sabbatical itself
  • During a sabbatical, much typically occurs that might feel like a surprise to a pastor. When we slow down, a lot catches up to us, such as facing our inner struggles, doubts, fears, and more. This is why having a coach can be so helpful.
  • Sabbaticals are more than extended vacations. They are opportunities for rest, renewal, and deep spiritual growth.
  • Churches of all sizes can plan for and assist their pastor with a sabbatical. it just takes some thoughtfulness and intentionality.
  • A sabbatical policy can provide peace both for the pastor and the local church as they enter the process

Questions for Reflection

  • Am I feeling like a rubber band that has been stretched taut for too long? If so, what words would I use to describe how I feel?
  • Have I considered taking a sabbatical? If so, why am I considering one? If not, why not?
  • When is the last time I intentionally slowed down and stepped back to seek God for a prolonged amount of time? Has it been too long?
  • As I reflect on my life and ministry, when were times that I felt most refreshed and alive in my calling? What was happening in those times?
  • How could I benefit from a sabbatical?
  • How can my local church benefit from me taking a sabbatical?
  • What are some obstacles to me taking a sabbatical? Are there ways to overcome those obstacles?
  • How might a sabbatical coach help me maximize my sabbatical for me, personally? For my family? For my local church?
  • Am I willing to talk to a coach about how I am feeling in life and ministry right now? (If so, PastorServe wants to bless you with a complimentary coaching session with one of our trusted ministry coaches >>

Full-Text Transcript

As a pastor, and as a church, how do you get the most out of a sabbatical?

Jason Daye 
In this episode, I’m joined by Jay Fowler. Jay serves as the Midwest Regional Director at PastorServe. He is a certified coach who coaches pastors, consults churches, and serves in crisis care. He is an ordained Anglican priest who has planted churches and pastored and served churches for over 30 years. Jay has also coached many pastors and helped churches through the process of coaching around sabbaticals, and he has written the Sabbatical Preparation Workbook. Together, Jay, and I look at not only the value of a sabbatical for a pastor, but also the value of a sabbatical for the local church. Then we also explore some of the ways that you can actually get the most out of that sabbatical time, make it as effective, as impactful, as possible for both the pastor and the church. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye, and every single week, it is my privilege to sit down with a trusted ministry leader, and to really tackle a topic that we believe will impact, in a very positive way, pastors and ministry leaders just like you. And we do all of this, in an effort to help ministry leaders really embrace a sustainable, healthy rhythm for both life and ministry, and that is the heart behind our show FrontStage BackStage. We are proud to be a part of the PastorServe network. And in fact, with every single one of these episodes, we don’t only have a conversation, but our team also creates a toolkit to help you and your ministry team at your local church really dig in more deeply to the conversation at hand. And you can find that toolkit at Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, give us a thumbs up and take a moment to put in your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love to get to know our audience better, and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re following us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take time to subscribe or follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And like I said, I’m excited about this week’s conversation. And at this time, I’d like to welcome Jay Fowler to the show. Jay, welcome.

Jay Fowler 
Hey, Jason, good to see you.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, it’s good to see you, brother. Now, it’s awesome to have you on the show because you and I are friends. We both serve at PastorServe. And so we have an opportunity to have lots of really cool conversations and the conversation we’re going to have today, we get to let everyone in on, one of these conversations that we have about ministry, and about really, what does it mean for us to find rest in the midst of the busy, often hectic, chaotic times, in the life of a ministry leader. And so we’re going to really look at this idea of sabbaticals, and really what is a sabbatical. Most, probably, in our audience are familiar, at least, with sabbaticals. But Jay, you have invested a lot of time in your coaching as you coach pastors and ministry leaders around the country. Every day of the week, you’re coaching a pastor, which is pretty awesome. But you’ve invested a lot of time in helping pastors and ministry leaders not only understand the value in the need of sabbatical, but actually helping them really get the most out of you know, when they make a decision to take a sabbatical. You really help them get the most out of that sabbatical, which is an awesome ministry and you’re, you know, you’re within our PastorServe world, our team, you’re like the sabbatical expert, so we always lean on you and we appreciate all the work that you’re doing. But Jay, just to kind of start out, it seems like the idea of sabbaticals is kind of on the rise. More and more pastors and ministry leaders seem to be talking about them. And even church boards, elder boards are kind of, you know, investigating, exploring a little more deeply. I know that you’ve seen that in your work. So, Jay, why do you think there is this kind of, I don’t know if it’s a resurgence, but there’s more interest, it seems, in the idea of a sabbatical. Why do you think that is?

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, that’s a great question. First of all, I totally agree. There’s a lot right now, especially, I think maybe the pandemic or something, but the last three years for pastors has really been hard. There’s a lot of data out now because of Barna and other places that do good polling and surveys with pastors and stuff about how hard it has been and the pastors feeling tired, exhausted, and questioning their call, questioning their ministry. And so I think there’s, I think people are pretty aware of this. It’s been a tough two or three years. It’s been hard on pastors.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. Yeah. And, Jay, you know, you and I have talked a little bit about, not only has it been challenging and difficult, but also there’s kind of, it seems like more of an acceptance to say it’s okay to slow down. In fact, it’s not just okay. It’s like necessary to kind of unplug and slow down a bit. So do you feel like there’s this, maybe a deeper understanding of it, maybe a shift perhaps from, you know, as pastors, you and I both have been lead pastors at churches, we’ve served churches, right. So we know what it’s like week in week out, you know, the kind of nonstop, and it almost seems like there’s been a shift or an understanding maybe, that pastors just going nonstop and sacrificing for the kingdom is kind of how we, you know, spiritualize it right? Like that there’s an understanding of, that that’s not healthy. Do you feel like there’s a better awareness around that idea?

Jay Fowler 
Oh, yeah, totally. You know, I often think of our soul, like a rubber band. And if you pull on a rubber band, and it’s kind of tight, there’s some good about that. You can pluck it, it’ll make music, you can sling a paperclip across the room, you can tie something together, right? So there’s, there’s something about tension and stress that is okay in life. That’s part of how we’re productive, right. But when that gets pulled for too long, one of two things happens, either it snaps, the rubber band snaps or when you let go of it, it comes back to this sort of malformed. And I think again, like, if you read the, if you read the Internet at all you know about pastors who have snapped. You know, that might look like ugly, you know, anger outbursts, that could look like a moral failing, it could look like just quitting and walking away. The thing that people probably don’t see as much is the malformed, the pastor that stretches and stretches and stretches, and finally, lets go but his soul is just sort of malformed, he’s tired, he has doubts. He’s skeptical. He’s disappointed, you know, and that part is less easy to see for the public. But it’s still very real. So I again, I think for sabbaticals and the need for them, it’s an understanding of the soul of the pastor. And I think more and more churches are saying, like, we don’t want that… we don’t want a pastor that snaps and we don’t want one that’s malformed. We’d like a healthy pastor. And so I think the pace that maybe the church was at for really two or three decades of just like, you know, work, work, work, work, work, grow, grow, grow, grow, grow, work, work, work, work, grow, grow, grow, grow, I think we’ve seen that some of the fruit of that emphasis wasn’t very healthy.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah. No, I love that. I love that imagery, because it just sticks in your mind whenever you talk about that rubber band and I think it’s so true. And I’m sure there are plenty, plenty of pastors watching along, who either feel like they’ve been under that tension for a long time, or they may feel like they’re a little malformed, you know, after it has come back. And so, so with that, a lot of the work that you do, Jay, is you work specifically coaching pastors who are looking to go on a sabbatical, right, they have an interest, and so, and a lot of things. I love what you do, because not only do you coach them in their sabbatical work, but you even work with the church board, you’ll even share with the church board or the elders or whatever, to help them better understand not only the idea of a sabbatical, but how to make the sabbatical as effective as possible for their pastor, which I think so, so vitally important. So let me ask you, Jay, in your work in coaching pastors, and even working with churches on sabbaticals, are there certain things that you have seen, that might be misconceptions or misunderstandings that you’ve seen time and again, around the idea of a sabbatical? Or things that maybe pastors or even churches kind of miss around the idea of a sabbatical?

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, um, I think the biggest misconception for mostly like boards and even congregations, is that a sabbatical is just an extra long vacation. And that can also be a problem for the pastor, that they just think I’m just so exhausted. All I want to do is get out of here and recreate or maybe quit. Right, that’s the dark side, right. And so I think that the spiritual component of sabbaticals is often like missed or overlooked. And I think that’s the actual the most crucial part of it. So when you look at Moses, and Elijah and Jesus who had extended times away, those are spiritual leaders that we all look up to, and that spiritual time away for each of them was formative for their ministry. So for Moses, he goes off and has a long time away and he kind of gets this picture from God of what God’s people are supposed to be like and kind of nation building as a people of God and that’s really, really important. He comes back with kind of a plan for the way forward, not kind of, a very specific plan, for the way forward. For Elijah, he’s discouraged, he feels defeated, he’s isolated, he feels all alone. And that time away with God is a time of encouragement. God feeds him and gives him water and, and then speaks to him this gentle whisper and encourages him. And that’s so important, and sometimes spiritual leaders need that from the Lord, that that word of encouragement: I love you, I care about you, I have not left you alone, you know. And then for Jesus at the start of his ministry is his time in the wilderness. And that’s the time when he confronts the devil, you know, Satan comes and tempts him. And I do think that often in sabbatical, it’s a time when we slow down, and we kind of face some of our demons. And that’s really unpleasant. Most of us don’t like to do that. And that’s a reason people avoid sabbatical. Because in the back of their mind, they think if I slow down, I probably have to deal with stuff I don’t like to deal with. Some of it’s in me, some of it’s around me, that’s been caused by me. And that’s unpleasant work. But yet it’s part of the soul growth and health that any spiritual leader needs. So I think that framing the sabbatical, not as just an extended vacation, but an important aspect of a spiritual leaders life, that needs to happen fairly regularly, and it needs to be an extended period, you know, three months or something. I think that’s the piece that gets missed, you know, is, by all parties at times, that that spiritual core of a sabbatical and how important that is for the life of the leader, and then subsequently for the life of the church that that leader leads.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I love that. And just looking at the biblical examples, I think, is so helpful, Jay, in that, honestly. And the idea that oftentimes, as you said, when we think about sabbatical, sometimes we’re thinking about this idea of unplugging and stepping away. And that’s definitely you know, a piece of it. But there is kind of a a proactive piece of a sabbatical, right. It’s not just kicking back and hoping God speaks to you, which is which is great and fantastic. There is that, right? There is that rest piece that’s important. But there is kind of a proactive piece as well. And I think that’s what you’re kind of saying in this idea that, you know, it’s not just this extended vacation. So whenever a pastor is considering sabbatical, what are some of the pointers in regards to the proactive piece that you tend to kind of lean on? And I know you’ve, like I said, you’ve coached multiple multiple pastors in this you’ve helped churches understand this. In fact, you’ve kind of written the book, to a degree on this, the Sabbatical Prep Workbook to help pastors as they’re kind of preparing for a sabbatical, which is fantastic. So talk to us a little bit about some of those pieces that help that proactive part of a sabbatical kind of come to be.

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, that’s really, really important like that preparation time for the sabbatical is, is just as important as the actual sabbatical itself. And again, sometimes that gets overlooked for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the pastor is just so darn tired, they don’t feel like doing any prep, and that’s okay. The time away, God, God will use it even if you can’t get the prep time in. But if you can get some preparation time in, it helps a lot. So one of the things I like to do with pastors is help them think about well, how are you doing, really? How is the state of your soul? And so slowing down and really acknowledging that sometimes pastors know “I am in desperate shape” sometimes pastors go “I’m doing really great” and they’re maybe not in touch with, with how they’re really doing. I remember when, I have had two sabbaticals. And the second one, I was, I came home one day and, and my wife challenged me and said, “Hey, you’re angry, and you don’t even know it.” I said, “No, I’m not. I’m doing great.” She goes “no, you’re not, you’re angry, and you’re short with all of us.” I am, by the way, short all the time, when she meant short temper wise. And, and I said, Okay, I need to take a look at that. So I wasn’t even aware of where I was at. I needed somebody outside me to help me see myself. So part of preparation for sabbatical is to try as best you can to get a hold of how you’re doing, you know, and then out of that, out of some of your need and some of the desires of your heart, is to begin to set some goals. And so we have a process in that workbook that first helps you sort of get a state of how your soul is and then has some really great questions that talk about like, When am I operating in the present from the pain of my past? So some reflective questions that then lead to so therefore what would be I don’t know, three to five goals for my sabbatical.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. And that, if I understand correctly, Jay, you often will coach pastors, not necessarily when they’re in their sabbatical, although that can be a piece of it, but you’re actually coaching them before they even get there. Right? Because to really help them make this the most effective time possible, right? Yeah, absolutely. So one of the tools that you use is the Sabbatical Prep Workbook, which you’ve you’ve written, and that helps them kind of piece together, and then you walk through that with them, and help them reflect on those things, and actually help them kind of determine what some of these goals might might be for them?

Jay Fowler 
Right, exactly. Yes. So that’s an important part of like, making the most of your sabbatical, I think, is thinking like, Okay, what do I need? And I really encourage pastors to pray about it, and say, Lord, what do you want to say to me? What do you want to do in me? How do you want to meet me in this sabbatical? Lord, what are some areas of my life that need attention that have been neglected? So to not just try to conjure it up on your own but to enter into that relationship with the Lord and ask Him for guidance and direction on those goals?

Jason Daye 
Yeah. I love that. Now, one of the things I think’s interesting when we talk about sabbaticals is, I’ve often heard you, you may have heard this yourself, experienced this in pastors and churches that you’re working with, that well, sabbatical can kind of work for a larger church, right? Because you have other staff can fill in the gaps. But hey, I’m a solo pastor. How can sabbatical ever work for me? So talk to us a little bit about this idea of of is sabbatical only for, you know, the bigger mega churches that have a bigger budget and a big staff?

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. And yes, I have heard that. And I have seen pastors in smaller churches go on sabbatical, but it does take some organization and some thinking. So I think in a smaller church, one thing that they can do is they can get committed to the idea of of sabbatical, and they can begin to set aside some money every year and save up for that for the pastor. So if a sabbatical is once every five to seven years, every year set aside a little chunk of change, so that that pastor can get that sabbatical. Because one of the biggest hindrances to sabbaticals is finances. So, you know, the church, I think, should pay for their pastors, pay their salary while they’re off, you know, in that sabbatical period of time. So that, that means they also have to probably pay somebody else to come in and maybe preach or do some kind of leadership. In some church settings, they can find people that will do that preaching and teaching for free that are maybe deacons are elders or other staff if they have other staff at the church. So that that can solve that problem financially. But I do think it just takes planning and and sort of permission. Yeah. And yeah, this is good for your pastor and good for your church. It’s good for your church, which we can go into if you’d like. How is it good for your church to have your pastor go on sabbatical?

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah, I’d love for you to touch on that. Because I think that’s one of the things that’s helpful. What… let’s just say this, Jay, it’s kind of, it can feel odd for a pastor to go into his elder boarder, his church board and say, Hey, guys, I think I need to take a sabbatical. I think I need to take a couple months away, right, or a few months or whatever. So that’s, so I think that that is, can be a hindrance. I know, on conversations I’ve had, you know, that that can be a hindrance, because how do you even kind of raise this topic without it being like, everyone suddenly assuming Oh, there’s something wrong with the pastor. There’s something going wrong, there’s something, right? So that’s even a challenge, I think just to get over that first hurdle of even raising the conversation, right? So talk to us a little bit about some of those pieces that help a pastor having that conversation. Like you said, some of the ways that a sabbatical is good for the church as a whole, not just good for the the health of a pastor, which we hope every church cares about the health of their pastor, but you know, they’re looking at the big picture. So talk to us a little bit about that.

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, yeah. So I think one thing is it helps the church learn how to rely on the Lord to continue with the mission that God’s given them. So I mean, it’s important for churches to trust their pastor and rely on their pastor, but it’s also good for them to remember, ultimately, the pastor of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the shepherd. And we can trust him to empower us to do the mission for a period of time without our pastor here. So I think it allows people to step into relying on the Lord, they might even discover, wow, God can use somebody like me to do something, and that’s a good thing for the church to do. Certain leaders might have the chance to lead more without the pastor there who does that leading normally. And again, not only just in serving and doing the mission for general everybody, but just for leaders in the church to step up and have the space to step up and lead and to try things on leadership-wise, I think that’s a really, really important thing that sabbaticals provide. It also reminds the congregation that their pastor isn’t the Messiah. I just was reading in my devotional time today, where the people go to John the Baptist and the guy Hey, who are you? You know, and he says, very emphatically, I am not the Messiah. And it’s important for pastors to know they are not the Messiah. And it’s important for their congregations to remember that they are not the Messiah, they are human, they have limitations, they are finite. And they do need time to re renew, renew and rejuvenate their soul. So I think in that way, it just kind of like allows everybody to be more human. And I think that’s a good thing.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah. I love that. And like you said, it’s making space for God to move in a way that may not necessarily be there, you know, if the pastor is still doing what the pastor is doing week in, week out, right, and so that gives that opportunity for people like you said, to step into some leadership roles perhaps, or to flex some leadership muscles that they may not otherwise, and see what God does with that as well. So I think that’s a beautiful kind of byproduct and benefit of a sabbatical. If you were to, Jay, look back across the coaching that you’ve done over the years for sabbaticals, and all the work that you’ve done in this area, what would you say are some of the the greater challenges? Let’s start with challenges, first, with the actual processing through and actually being on sabbatical for the pastor himself or herself as they’re on sabbatical? What are some of the challenges that they may not think that they’re going to bump into, but they may bump into during that sabbatical time?

Jay Fowler 
Oh, man, that is a great question. Remember, when I talked about kind of facing your demons? Right? Yeah, I think when we slow down and really slow down, we come to grips with things that are unpleasant in our soul. One of the first ones is our maybe our over-dependence on people’s accolades and praise of us. So all of a sudden, you step away from everybody telling you great job, you know, you’re awesome. Along with that might be that need to be needed, you know, that my whole life revolves around people needing me or that, like, constantly available, you know, so I’m constantly available to everybody else and my, my identity gets all tangled up and all that. So I think that idea is the idea of, can I be okay, without all of that. And that’s, it’s like, it’s like, giving up an addiction at times, you know, because we get fairly comfortable with something about ministry. And that’s part of why we stay in it, there’s something about it, that feels good. You know, like I said, the need to be needed or to be recognized or people saying way to go or we love you. And when you cut that off for three months, that can be kind of scary. Is the Lord enough, right? Is really just being with the Lord and my family, am I going to be okay, is that going to fill the cracks in my soul? So just I think wrestling with that is, is hard. And it’s by I want to just say it’s normal. It’s really normal. To have that, like, oh, I don’t know if I’m okay leaving. I think that another thing that can happen is that pastors can get away and go, Oh, gosh, is this a good fit for me? Is this the right place for me? Is ministry right for me? You know, so, again, that can be one of those things to, if you have a sabbatical coach, is somebody you can process that with, right? And not not to fear it. It’s pretty normal to step away and say, Gosh, I don’t know what I think. Um, another thing I think that happens is pastors will get away and say, If I don’t keep that level of workaholism going, will the church accept me? On the one hand, will they accept a different kind of me? A kind of me that’s a little more balanced. And secondly, will the church survive without me work overworking. So there can be concern about will when I come back if I’ve changed, will people still love me? If I’ve gotten a little more healthy, will they accept that knew me? And wow, can the church go without the overworking me? So those are I mean, those are just really common things that pastors if they’re real honest about what’s going on in their heart that’s in there. So you might as well get it in the open and it’s normal. Another thing that sometimes happens is like skepticism, like doubts about your faith. And again, where else are you going to talk about that? Right, you know, but clearly, you see that with poor Elijah, you know, he’s just like, he’s just roasted. And he goes away and pours out His heart, you know? And I think there, sabbatical can be a time for folks that they slow down, they go like, yeah, what do I really believe? Where am I at with the Lord? And needing to process through things at a deeper level. It’s a time of dealing with disappointment, you know, unanswered prayers. Pastors pray a lot. And not every prayer gets answered. So again, just to slow down and say, Okay, what am I going to do Lord with these things you didn’t answer. So, a lot, a lot happens during a sabbatical that might feel like a surprise to a pastor. But all those things are normal. That’s what’s great about having a coach to go it’s normal, you’re not crazy. That’s kind of normal, when we really slow down. Some of these things start to catch up with us.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I love that, Jay, because it is that idea that they might be unexpected, right? Because even as you’re listing those off, you know, as you listed off those, in my mind, I was going would that be something you know, they were all kind of surprising, but then as you talked about them, they all make sense, right? So there’s that unexpected nature to it. But I love the fact that you’re saying hey, this is this is normal, you know, whenever you are unplugging whenever you’re really, you know, stilling life, right? Because that’s what what was happening to sabbatical. You know, you’re stilling things around you, and that’s whenever real deep work in the soul can often happen. And so it makes perfect sense. And there is that encouragement from you, Jay, that this is normal. This isn’t, you know, you’re having some massive faith crisis. You know, I mean, this is what happens when we aren’t going, going going and, you know, being bombarded on every side, when we actually slow down and let the Spirit work in our hearts. So it’s super encouraging. Now, Jay, you’ve shared a lot of fantastic stuff. I know that you have resources, we talked about your Sabbatical Prep Workbook that you’ve put together out of your experience from coaching all of these pastors, you’ve created this, and really, I love this because it came out of your your own coaching work. And this was a tool that you use as you are coaching pastors. And then you thought, hey, let’s see how we can make this available to you know, that there is greater interest in sabbaticals, it is a you know, tool that pastors can use. And so I love the fact that you, you know, you put pen to paper and pulled all of your experiences together and all the tools that you use with your, your coaches, coaching clients, and pastors you’re working with and put this book together. So talk to us a little bit about resources for sabbatical, because I know there are a number. There are different books that people can can look at. But talk to us a bit about how not only, you know, the preparation, like the workbook you put together for preparation, but the coaching piece, how those kind of come together as a resource for a pastor who’s really looking… because the reality is, we’re investing a chunk of our time, right? I mean, this is, you know, two, three months, perhaps on sabbatical, sometimes even longer depends on situation. But you’re investing all that time. So you really want to, to let it be as effective as possible. Right? And so how do these resources come together and work together to really make that happen?

Jay Fowler 
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. Um, so yeah, so exactly. This thing that I put together as a workbook, it’s not like a book about sabbaticals. So it’s not like a book you read. There are lots of good books about sabbaticals. This is just like helping you actually write things down, think it through. So there really, they’re kind of three phases to sabbatical coaching, one is the pre-sabbatical, and that’s where thinking through your goals. And then beyond the goals is thinking through like some daily rhythms, you know, like, what kind of time do I want to spend with God? What do I do with my afternoons? Because again, another big concern is like, what am I going to do with all this time? You know, so, I think one big fear of many spouses, or is he just going to sit on the couch and play video games and watch TV all day? So to have some sort of rhythm for your day, that includes time with God, time helping out around your house, time with your spouse and your children. You know, key things like that. So pre-sabbatical is working through that, thinking through all that. And then during the sabbatical, the coaching is more like spiritual direction. It’s more like what are you thinking? What is God saying to you? What spiritual disciplines are you trying that are working and which ones aren’t working again, the permission to say, I tried that I just, it didn’t help me connect with God at all, you know. So during the sabbatical to have somebody to process with what God’s doing in your soul, the positive, the times you feel really sweet and close to Jesus and refreshed and be able to celebrate that with someone. And the other times that are, you know, more discombobulating like we talked about earlier, when you’re going like do I still believe all this? So to have somebody you can do that with, and then toward the end of the sabbatical is to have somebody help you begin to think like what are the things that God did in you -the rhythms and the patterns and stuff like that- that you want to take with you now back into ministry? What are you concerned about going back into ministry, etc? And then once you’re back, kind of post-sabbatical coaching is like, what’s it like to be back? You know, what are the things you delegated that need to stay delegated? And what are the things you need to take back on that really are your right place right now in the leadership of the church. So the the workbook and the coaching go hand in hand to help that whole process. Those three phases of sabbatical coaching to really benefit the pastor, and then ultimately, I really do believe benefit the church.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, definitely. And I love that you brought up that kind of the post-sabbatical piece, too, because that’s one that oftentimes, you may not put as much thought into it, you know, as you’re going to sabbatical, because you’re really geared up on okay, what’s God going to say to me during my sabbatical, but then there’s this whole re-entry process, right, and you’re coming back in, and God has spoken. And so there’s a fresh vision and might be fresh vision for the church, fresh vision for your life? Probably both of those things will be happening at some point, right? So how do you kind of bring that back into the weekly rhythms of ministry? And share that with your leadership in your local church? And share that with the congregation? And what does that mean for you know, this next season of ministry, at your local church? And that’s a key part. Because if you really think about sabbatical, as being not only for the pastor, but also for the church, as you, Jay, make very clear, you know that there’s that benefit for both obviously. Then, if you’re not considering that post-sabbatical piece and the impact that it has, not only on the pastor, but on the church, then you might be missing out on some of that, you know, that the effectiveness of what that sabbatical time was, so I love that post-sabbatical piece. Let me ask one more quick question. Before we kind of wrap up because this is one that that I’ve heard, I’ve bumped into multiple times, I’m sure you have to, and those watchalong might be might be thinking through and so I want to ask it. There are times a pastor goes on sabbatical and when he returns to the church, he ends up, you know, feeling like he’s released from the ministry of the church. Yeah. So that that is a that’s a reality. We know that. I think that is a perhaps and I’ve heard this actually, anecdotally, I’ve heard this, that that’s a fear from the church itself and leadership in a church of letting a pastor take a sabbatical. I think, to some degree, it could be a fear from a pastor themselves, you know, I mean, right, like, so. So can you just talk? I know, it’s a big a big, you know, here I am opening up a huge question right here is wrapping up, but But it’s one of those questions I did want to touch on. Because I know it’s one that’s asked and wrestled with, and process through so much, so. So speak to us a little bit about that. Because I know you’ve run into this, and you’ve had to talk churches through this and pastors through this as well, and coach on this.

Jay Fowler 
So yeah, I’m smiling. Because when I went on my first sabbatical, I had two, like, opposite fears. One fear was, oh, my gosh, I’ll go away. And they’ll realize they don’t like me or want me, right, on the one hand, or the other extreme was, I’ll go away and they’ll find out the church can’t survive without me. And I’m stuck there forever. I gotta go back and forth. So we wrote a sabbatical policy for the church that I led. And in it, it said, the pastor, whoever’s on sabbatical, not not just me, but other people on our staff who would go on sabbatical, they couldn’t leave the church for one year when they returned, okay. And on the other hand, they couldn’t be fired for one year after they returned, and now obviously, if there’s something horrible that happened, that could be, but there was a general agreement, we’re stuck with each other for a year. Okay. And that kind of gives everybody a little bit of peace. You know. So even if you even if one of those two extremes happened, where the pastor says I do feel like I’ve gotta go, you have a whole year to figure that out, without just walking back and saying, I spent three months looking for another job, right? Yeah, yeah. Which does happen sometimes. On the other side, if the pastor is away and the church goes gosh, it just seems like we’re healthier like this. It allows the pastor to come back and have time to process that with the congregation, rather than him showing up, and they said, we found out we liked it better without you, you’re fired, which I know somebody that that happened to, they came back and got fired. Wow. So you kind of avoid both those anxieties by just saying, Okay, we love each other enough that we’re gonna stick with each other for a year after the sabbatical is over, and we’ll figure it all out together.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good. That’s a, that’s a great answer, actually. I didn’t know how you were going to answer that question. And that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that particular answer. So I think it’s fantastic to say, hey, we’re gonna we’re going to agree to love each other and stay committed through this and we’ll figure it out. And, and then, you know, obviously lean upon the Spirit and God in the midst of all that, if one of those one of those sort of arises, and work through it, but at least there’s that peace going into it for both the pastor and the church. Excellent. Awesome, brother. Well, such great stuff, obviously. And I know we’re just scratching the surface on on the work that you’ve done over the years, and the work that you continue to do week in and week out. And so, one, this Sabbatical Prep Workbook, we will have links guys, to Jay’s workbook, at in the toolkit for this for this particular episode, so be sure to check that out. And then also, at PastorServe we are offering a complimentary coaching session. So if you’re watching this right now, and you are considering or thinking about a sabbatical, maybe in the near future, you know, for you at your church, or it doesn’t have to be particularly sabbatical. I mean, that’s that’s what we’re talking about right now. But but anything that you might be, feeling a little restless in ministry, whatever it might be, a challenge or whatever it could be, you can go to And as a pastor, you can you can fill that information out, and our team will reach out to you and we’ll give you a complimentary coaching session. So you get a sense of what it’s like to be coached, as Jay does with with pastors all over the country, and our other coaches do as well. So if you are thinking about sabbatical, this is a great opportunity for you to jump on and get a free session. And again, you can check out the Sabbatical Prep Workbook that Jay has put together, and that provides a ton of additional information. And all that can be found at in the toolkit for this particular episode. So make sure that you take advantage of those opportunities, because that’s just the way that we have PastorServe seek to help bless pastors and ministry leaders just like you. So Jay, again, brother, it’s always good to hang out with you and chat with you. It’s fun to do this and share, like I said, let everyone else listen in to our conversation is kind of fun to put this out there and let other pastors and ministry leaders hear. So, Jay, thank you so much for taking the time, making the time to hang out with me today. And I appreciate you, brother and all that you’re doing week in and week out for the Church.

Jay Fowler 
You know, likewise, Jason. This was a lot of fun.

Jason Daye 
Awesome, brother. God bless you. Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at That’s And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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