What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a time for refreshment and re-creation.   The word sabbatical is derived from the same root as Sabbath; a fundamental purpose of a sabbatical is to have a time for rest and renewal, so as to return to ongoing ministry refreshed and re-energised physically, emotionally and spiritually.

A sabbatical is not a holiday.  Nor is it doing the same job in a different location (that is a ministry exchange).  Nor is a sabbatical the same as study leave; there may well be an element of study within a sabbatical but it will involve more than simply disciplined study.  It will include time for personal reflection on ministry and calling, along with a deepening of one’s own spiritual life.

Examples of sabbatical projects might include:

  • A study of patterns of shared leadership made by visiting a range of contrasting churches in the region.
  • A visit to a church overseas to experience of some aspect of church life in a different culture.
  • Writing a book or article in some area of theology of particular interest and contemporary relevance.
  • An extended retreat offering exposure to some unfamiliar style of spirituality.
  • Spending time outside the church environment, e.g. in a prison, school, or social services department. 

A sabbatical is a gift from which any licensed minister (lay or ordained, stipendiary or self-supporting) might benefit if the opportunity can be made available. 

Organising a sabbatical

The Diocese of Sheffield makes provision for sabbatical leave for clergy who have served a minimum of ten years in stipendiary ministry. Up to six per year may be permitted, with each sabbatical generally expected to last three months.  The diocesan process for clergy undertaking a sabbatical is broadly as follows:

  • At least nine months before the proposed start date of the sabbatical, the applicant requests an initial conversation with the Director of Ongoing Ministerial Development.  This meeting involves sounding out ideas and a possible focus for the sabbatical, along with preliminary guidance about key aspects to consider and possible sources of funding.
  • Following this meeting, the applicant writes a full proposal and submits this to the Director of OMD and to the Bishop of Doncaster.  This includes details of what is planned, a timetable, draft itinerary and costs, even if only provisional.
  • The Bishops of Doncaster and of Sheffield discuss the proposal and give their response.
  • If provisional approval is received from the Bishops (which would include likely dates), the applicant initiates a conversation with their Area Dean and Archdeacon about the plans.  The applicant begins to arrange cover for key aspects of their work during the period of the sabbatical.
  • The applicant keeps in touch with the Director of OMD, submitting a progress report at least seven months before the proposed start date.
  • The Director of OMD asks the applicant to distil their revised proposal into a one page summary.  This is forwarded to the Bishop of Doncaster for final approval at least six months before proposed start date.
  • The Director of OMD informs the applicant of the Bishop of Doncaster’s response.
  • If the sabbatical has been finally approved, the Director of OMD arranges payment of a sabbatical bursary just before or during the sabbatical period.  Payment will be up to £825 maximum, depending on what is itemised in the applicant’s budget.
  • The applicant keeps in touch with the Director of OMD during and after the sabbatical, and submits a report and reflection on the sabbatical experience within two months of its completion.

 Further help

Please contact the Director for OMD,