In my denomination, Study Leave is required for all pastors. The minimum requirement is two weeks and $700 in my Presbytery, but those terms are common nationally. As a spiritual leader’s experience increases, the church might offer the same time (2 weeks) but more funding (at least $1000.)
According to assorted manuals I’ve researched, study leave is not vacation. There is an educational and spiritual refreshment component. Among the common study leave practices are:
- Long-range planning and preparation for worship, Christian Education, and mission.
- Meeting with established clergy groups who share sermons, spend time with a theologian, and/or pray together.
- Taking a class in an area to broaden skills in a particular area – either for a degree or certificate or for one’s own enrichment.
After over thirty years of professional ministry, I’ve been blessed with an array of solid Study Leave opportunities. I’ve taken specific courses on preaching, for example. I’ve earned a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality. I’ve attended conferences. I’ve hidden in a cabin to chart out the upcoming year. I’ve met with The Preaching Roundtable – a group of 16 clergywomen for 13 years. While I’ve always reported my study leave activities to the board of elders, I’ve never asked permission to take a certain course or make a certain plan for those two weeks.
So, here are my questions for you. (I’m asking both clergy who take Study Leave and church members who are impacted by your pastors’ Study Leave):
- Are two weeks and (about) $700 sufficient for your needs?
- Do you tend to take classes/attend conferences/workshops close to home?
- Do you run your plans by the personnel committee before Study Leave?
- Is Study Leave the same as Professional Development (i.e. can your Personnel Committee assign certain activities for your Study Leave?)
I would love to know your experiences. Thanks.