Renewal Leave
(Created by the Spiritual Health Subgroup of the Bishop’s Clergy Wellness Task Force, November 2018)

What Is Renewal Leave?

A renewal leave is a planned time to move outside the normal demands of pastoral leadership in order to make space for God to bring renewal. It’s the renewal that is needed for moving forward in life and ministry with increased health spiritually, physically, emotionally, and as a visionary spiritual leader. The specifics will look as different as the individual pastors. However, being renewed is the focus. Ultimately, it’s being renewed in the sense of God’s calling, being renewed in energy, and being renewed in God’s grace. 

Some find this guide helpful for ongoing renewal:

  • practice renewal one day a week
  • one week a year
  • one to six months every four to six years

Why Do I Need Renewal Leave?

As the leader goes, so goes the church!  If the pastor is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted, the church will suffer. Thus, Renewal Leave is not just time off.  Renewal leave is an investment – An investment in yourself; An investment in the church; An investment in the Kingdom of God! Here are just a few statistics to help you understand why this investment is so important…

  • 90% of pastors feel fatigued and worn out every week
  • 91% of pastors experience some form of burnout
  • 70% of pastors fight depression
  • 80% of pastors believe that ministry negatively affects their families
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years

Conclusion: Pastor stress statistics document the need for Renewal Leave!

More information on why pastors need to take Renewal Leave

Read about the importance of Renewal Leave, from District Superintendent, Rev. Brent Watson.

How Do I Take Renewal Leave?

An effective renewal leave will require advanced planning.  It will be important to contact your District Superintendent well in advance to help you communicate with the congregation and prepare them for your time apart.  Also, involving your family in the planning process will not only provide them with information, but it will communicate that you are thinking of them and it will help secure their support.  Even advanced planning for returning after renewal leave will be helpful.  Life has continued on for your family and congregation while you have been away and a preliminary plan for how best to reconnect will bless all involved. 

Here are some resources that you may find helpful in planning your renewal leave:

When Can I Take Renewal Leave?

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church continually reaffirms the importance of time away from regular ministry for continuing education and spiritual growth.  Paragraph 350.2 of the 2016 Book of Discipline states, “A clergy member’s continuing education and spiritual growth program shall include professional formation leaves at least one week each year and may include at least one month during one year of every quadrennium.”

Paragraph 350.3 of the 2016 Book of Discipline states, “A clergy member may request a formational and spiritual growth leave of up to six months while continuing to hold an appointment in the local church. Such leaves are available to clergy members who have held full-time appointments for at least six years. Such a leave shall be with the approval of the committee on pastor-parish relations, the church council, and the district superintendent. Annual conferences are encouraged to assist with pulpit supply and other temporary support for such leaves.”

Top Ten Lame Excuses for Not Taking Renewal Leave

  1. I can’t be away from the ministry that long.
  2. My church would never allow me to take renewal leave.
  3. My church couldn’t function that long without me.
  4. Finding replacements while I’m gone is more trouble than it’s worth.
  5. Renewal leave is for lazy people.
  6. I can’t afford it.
  7. Planning an effective renewal leave is just too much work.
  8. I don’t need renewal leave.
  9. My DS won’t support my being gone for an extended period of time.
  10. What in the world is renewal leave?