What is a Sabbatical?

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:3, ESV)

The word sabbatical comes from Sabbath, which simply means rest. We know rest is good because God rested on the seventh day after having created/worked the previous six. God blessed the seventh/Sabbath day and declared it holy (Genesis 2:2-3). The biblical idea of rest relates to the promise of God when he invites us to join Him in His rest. We enter that rest now by faith (Hebrews 4:1-5), but we are looking for a final Sabbath when we will enter our eternal rest with God (Hebrews 4:6-11).

Throughout the Bible, there have been copies and shadows that pointed forward to that final Sabbath rest. One such pointer was the sabbatical year in Leviticus 25. When Israel entered the land, they were to cultivate it for six years, but on the seventh year the land was to receive rest from cultivation and sowing and pruning. This was the sabbatical year. It is this concept that informed the first sabbaticals.

Writing in the Journal of Higher Education in 1978, Bruce Kimball notes that the concept of the sabbatical year was first established by ten American universities in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the first one being Harvard University in 1880. From this early period, sabbaticals were utilized to “render the recipient more useful to the college.” Sabbaticals were seen as an investment by the college “to increase the efficiency of the teaching force.” The recipient of the sabbatical became more useful by being allowed to travel, research, and write. This purpose remains today as evidenced by the Harvard School of Public Health’s definition of a sabbatical as “a leave for the purpose of engaging in research or other activities that will advance the faculty member’s scholarly achievement or that will enhance the reputation of or otherwise benefit the university.”

This understanding of sabbatical is utilized in the church as well. At High Pointe, the elders have also established a sabbatical policy. As it states in our Personnel Policy Manual, “The Church provides the Senior Pastor and Associate Pastor(s) with paid sabbatical leave, allowing them to take an extended break from normal work duties for the primary purpose of resting, spending time with family, and refreshing the soul through focused study, reflection, and devotion. The Senior Pastor and Associate Pastor(s) begin accruing sabbatical leave upon commencement of employment and receive two weeks of sabbatical leave for every year of employment completed. Up to one month of consecutive sabbatical leave may be taken at any one time. After 15 years of service, pastors will be eligible to take 2 months of consecutive sabbatical at any one time. Pastors are eligible to take a maximum of one sabbatical per year. The Sabbatical Policy further explains how this leave should be used and coordinated.”

The elders are happy to announce that we are awarding pastor Robert Baldwin with a sabbatical, beginning May 2. May 1, 2022 marks Robert’s 23rd anniversary at High Pointe. As many of you know, Robert has served us tirelessly, and, until recently, has barely taken time off for vacation. So, it’s only appropriate that we honor him with a sabbatical. Robert has accrued a sabbatical of two months, but he prefers to split that time away into two different months: May and October. We thank God for Robert and for his faithful ministry. Would you join the elders in praying for Robert and Shirley as they take this time away that the Lord grant them rest, joy, and peace?


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