Sabbatical Coaching 

Maximizing the Time Away from Ministry

Rich and Jim assist Christian leaders in formulating a sabbatical experience that actually functions as a true sabbatical. We offer regular guidance sessions for the persons involved in a sabbatical as well as coaching a sabbatical guidance team or elders. Our understanding is that a sabbatical involves Rest, Recalibration and Re-Entry. Take a look at our Recommended Sabbatical Policy for churches and organizations and our Sabbatical Guidance Proposal.

More about Sabbatical, Rest, Recalibration and Re-Entry

Sabbatical is a time when typical work activity is suspended for the purpose of attending to one’s soul. Sabbatical was honored by our Lord when he “went apart” from the crowds and His ministry to them. He understood the time alone facilitated a work of the Spirit that can only be done in solitude.

Unfortunately, sabbaticals are often misunderstood. The time is filled with mission trips, study leaves, extended ministry preparation for preaching, teaching, or program development. These are not the ingredients of sabbatical even if one is “away” from one’s primary ministry. If one spends “sabbatical” time doing ministry related work the sabbatical will not yield its needed blessing. This is the reason most ministry leaders must have a sabbatical “guide” who holds them accountable for how their sabbatical is structured. CrossPoint structures sabbaticals around REST, RECALIBRATION and RE-ENTRY.

REST, the first component of sabbatical, often comes through retreat. Retreat means pulling back from the fray and demands of ministry, from the usual responsibilities associated with a person’s job description. Retreat means the normal contact with ministry colleagues discussing ministry matters is deferred. Usually, relational connection is limited to immediate family, a few close friends and a spiritual coach for helping guide during the sabbatical time. This means emailing, texting, blogging, twittering and regular phone contact is suspended. Retreat is most often best accomplished if part (if not all) of the time is in a different geographic region from where one is engaged in ministry. Geographic separation facilitates the experience of retreating and opening one’s soul more fully to Christ.

Our experience shows it is often difficult for persons to enter into rest especially at the onset of a sabbatical. Because the pace of ministry is so demanding our minds become addicted to being “busy-brained.” Leaders are used to constantly thinking, planning, connecting, strategizing and anticipating what should be done. When these activities are suspended in terms of the work environment and the focus is turned to the state of one’s soul, the early days of a sabbatical are sometimes frustrating. Many find they cannot slow down their busy mind. They are cognitively, emotionally and spiritually addicted. Sometimes there are medical issues involved that make rest difficult.

To enter into true rest a person must be patient in the first several weeks. Quieting the soul takes time if one has not been in the habit of doing so. A sabbatical guide will help calm the anxiety and frustration of the leader. It is crucial to do so because soul rest is not possible (or at least severely limited) if the “busy-brained syndrome” is not acknowledged and surrendered to the Spirit so that His recalibrating work can begin. So it is critically important to be firm with your soul to stay disengaged. This may feel odd and different. But if under the help of a guide, one stays with it, the soul will begin to relax. The agitation, frustration or even anger which some experienced will subside.

A quieter, slower, more deliberate pace of living is necessary for physical, emotional and spiritual rest. The rest one enters is formed by the conviction that God is resting and we now can enter His rest. This rest intentionally seeks to cultivate the capacity to be attentive, to be present to what is. God is present here and now with us. We don’t have to engage in a herculean spiritual effort to ascend to God. We are to be still and know that God is God and that God is present with us and is FOR us.

The cultivation of being attentive and present is nurtured by simply taking time to notice, really notice things. Look for beauty in the simple aspects of life that are around you. Pay more attention to the taste and texture of the food you eat. Be aware of the warmth of the air or the simple beauty of nature. Be present to your family. Observe their way of walking, talking, and, if children are nearby, their way of playing. Be attentive to your own body. Allow yourself to feel your body. Remember we are embodied souls. Our souls are not separate from our bodies; we are integrated beings. Be attentive to the weariness you might feel. If you are tired and can sleep then do so. The rest we enter is not merely mental or emotional rest, but most importantly it is physical rest.

The first several weeks if not months of the sabbatical may involve longer periods of sleep and more frequent naps! Allow your body to relax. A simple exercise is called body scan relaxation. Lie down and intentionally relax your body focusing on the tips of your toes and progressively moving to the top of your head. Another simple relaxation exercise that fosters attentiveness is paying attention to your breathing. Simply focus on your inhaling and exhaling. Notice the gentle rhythm of your breathing. Follow each breath into your lungs as well as when you exhale. This is the breath of life breathed into you by the Holy Spirit.

Rest of body, mind, and emotions occurs as we give our souls space, slowing the pace of our daily living. When engaged in activities don’t be in a hurry. Give yourself more time for coming and going to various places or planned activities. Take more time for eating and for leisure conversation after meals. Slow down! Resting doesn’t just happen! It is the result of the intentional surrender of quieting the soul.

  • Face difficult vocational or personal transitions
  • Find themselves in a good place and want to guard and strengthen their souls for the future
  • Want someone who understands the risks and rewards of ministry available outside the organization to listen and offer perspective.

When one is more rested the RECALIBRATION of the soul begins to take shape (this is the second component of sabbatical). With a rested mind, heart, and body one is able to reflect on one’s life and ministry in a deeper, more life-giving manner under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Times in Scripture is more extended and entered without the pressure of preparing for a ministry obligation. In an attentive, rested soul the Scripture penetrates to the deepest aspects of what our being. Prayer takes on a different texture as one spends more time listening to God rather than talking to God. One stops the incessant talking and begins to hear the Spirit in a new way.

Time of reflection includes the spiritual discipline of examen, a time to reflect honestly and clearly on how one is living one’s life. It is a time of drilling down deep before God. It is a time of reflecting on the quality of one’s relationship with the Lord. Simple questions like, “Where am I?” and “What am I doing?” and “Where am I going?” will open the door more widely to the Spirit’s recalibrating work. In the time of quiet reflection core issues of the soul become renewed and redeemed by Christ. One sees more clearly the condition one’s relationship with God the Father. One sees the deceptive sins of the flesh. One sees again the redeeming work of Christ. All of this leads to the recalibration of one’s soul before God. Being still before God and attending to God’s Word in quiet submission renews the soul more and more into the likeness of Christ. One cannot rush this process or make it happen through our volition. One can only be open and available to the sovereign God who works all things to His glory and our good.

As the time of reflection moves along and one enters the latter stages of the sabbatical it is time to notice how the Spirit is working to recalibrate the soul. We encourage leaders to think in terms of what they have heard from God about their soul. We encourage them to think in terms of God’s invitation for the journey of transformation. Is there an invitation to change? What aspect of your soul is exaggerated? What is diminished? How do you want to live the next decade of your life? What will really matter to you in this time?

One’s spiritual coach helps process these kinds of questions. A coach helps show where the exaggerations and diminishments caused by sin need to be changed. A coach helps clarify God’s invitation and what will you have to relinquish and surrender to be freer and centered in the will of God.

The key of recalibration centers on how one enters and engages relationally with God, others and one’s own soul. Loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor means being more free from the compulsions that so often drive one’s soul. All of us must be set free by Scripture and Spirit to live freely the abundant life that Jesus promised. At the end of the sabbatical the critical question is, “What did this time mean for my relationships?”

As the sabbatical comes to an end one must give attention to how to RE-ENTER ministry (the third component of sabbatical). While gone others have had additional ministry responsibilities. So it is best to come back with almost a ‘new pastor’ mindset. Re-enter with an attentive attitude. Listen before making any changes to what has been decided in your absence. If you are a strategic ministry leader be committed to affirm, encourage and thank those who have made your sabbatical possible. The discussions of re-entry also involve noting, in a specific way, how one’s recalibrated soul will do the work of the ministry in the future. This often includes dealing with issues of control, trust, self-worth, and delegation.

Once having re-entered continue to engage with your spiritual coach on a monthly basis to attend to what you are experiencing as you re-enter. Be patient with the transition. Avoid simply going back to old patterns. Notice the source of primary temptations. Continue to be attentive, to listen, to reflect. Give yourself permission to recalibrate some of your decisions while on sabbatical. Make your walk with the Lord realistic, holistic and practical.

Check out our Sabbatical Policy Recommendations and Guidance Proposal

CrossPoint has worked with many churches and Christian organizations in the care of their leadership. The following recommendations should be seriously considered and hopefully adopted by those who desire to strengthen the souls of their leaders.

  • Sabbaticals should be at least 3 month-long times away from ministry. The time is dedicated to rest and recalibration and preparing for re-entry.
  • They are usually granted by the Executive Team or Elder Board after six years of ministry service in the church (Note: There may be valid reasons for offering a sabbatical before six years of service [e.g. church planting]. Any usual situation will be at the discretion of the Executive Team/Elder Board in conjunction with a recommendation from CrossPoint).
  • The one on sabbatical is accountable to the coach from CrossPoint who will supervise the experience. Supervision will include input and care of the spouse as well. Both the one on sabbatical and his/her spouse must take the WEPSS profile in order to facilitate the oversight CrossPoint will provide.
  • The church or ministry organization will provide financial resources during the sabbatical to facilitate time away. We recommend a stipend of at least $1500 per month is given to make it possible to get out of town. We also recommend the church/organization pay CrossPoint’s guidance fee of $1500 for a three-month sabbatical.
  • In preparation for, as well as during and after the sabbatical of a Senior Pastor, it is advisable for the Executive Team (or Elder Board) to have at least one consultation with CrossPoint. This facilitates clear expectations around the sabbatical, reporting on the progress of the sabbatical, and re-entry from the sabbatical.
  • A written summary of the sabbatical experience will be submitted within two weeks to the Executive Team by the one returning from sabbatical experience.
  • The CrossPoint coach will also submit, upon request, a report to the Executive Team  of the sabbatical experience.
  • The Executive Team will use the summaries to explore the implications for ministry of the lessons learned during the sabbatical and the staff member.
  • A sabbatical has three goals. The first is REST. Rest is needed because the demands of doing ministry well are exhausting. Even when ministry leaders take a day a week away from work and a day a month in retreat, an extended sabbatical time is needed.
  • To facilitate rest the sabbatical time will include extra sleep, reading novels, watching movies, walking and hiking. Physical activities such as swimming, biking, golfing, skiing, and swimming will also be encouraged. The time and activities will be scheduled both alone as well as with one’s mate and children. The sabbatical should be a special time of enjoyment with family so that it creates good memories for all involved. Any meeting with ministry colleagues will NOT turn to matters of ministry.
  • The second goal of sabbatical is RECALIBRATION. Sabbatical rest is not an end in itself. The leader must be recalibrated so as to return to ministry with a different mindset. One must experience the presence of Christ in a way that fosters greater trust and discernment of His will for life and ministry.
  • To facilitate recalibration the coach will guide the sabbatical experience (via phone, Skype, or in person). The coach may offer Scripture passages for meditation, ways to engage in contemplative prayer and suggestions for journaling. The coach will be a spiritual mentor helping the one on sabbatical hear Christ’s invitation as to how the soul needs to be recalibrated for future ministry. Contact with the coach is usually every two weeks.
  • The third goal is a healthy RE-ENTRY. Often pastors are dangerously tired when they go on sabbatical. Our goal is to help them avoid a similar situation in the future. We work hard to develop a “way of being” for the pastor re-entering his responsibilities so that he does not wind up in the same place. This includes an evaluation of issues like control, delegation, trust, self-worth and service. We work with the elder board as well to develop realistic expectations of what the pastor can and should do in the future.

For: {Pastor’s Name}      Pastor of {Church Name}

By: CrossPoint Ministry (Rich Plass or Jim Cofield)

CrossPoint offers sabbatical guidance with the goal of rest and recalibration of the soul. The most important gift a pastor gives to his ministry is his transformed and transforming presence. Sabbatical is a time away from ministry with focused intentionality on the quality of one’s Christ-bearing presence.

CrossPoint will provide spiritual coaching/guidance to {Pastor’s Name} during his 3-month sabbatical {dates}. While our focus will be on {Pastor’s Name} we also want his wife {Pastor’s Wife} to be involved in the experience. Their guidance will include (but will not necessarily be limited to) the following:

  • Profile and Consultation – This will be the first session because their profiles will indicate both personal and marital issues which need to be addressed in the sabbatical
  • Sessions – CrossPoint will talk with {Pastor’s Name} at least once before the sabbatical begins, every two to three weeks during the sabbatical, and at least one time after the sabbatical. Each session is typically between 45 and 60 minutes. The sessions will include {Pastor’s Wife} as determined by CrossPoint.
  • Guidance – CrossPoint seeks to unearth and address the compulsions and defenses which get mixed up in one’s calling (our “stuff” contributes to the relational and vocational challenges of ministry!). This is what must be recalibrated so that the pastor returns from sabbatical, not merely rested, but in a different posture of soul. However, the focus of the first few weeks of the sabbatical is physical, emotional and spiritual rest. The rested soul is in a better place to hear the Spirit’s invitation of recalibration.
  • Assignments – CrossPoint will suggest Scripture passages for meditation as well as possible books to read during the sabbatical. We also encourage the pastor to keep a journal and to write a report on his return of the sabbatical experience to be given to the sabbatical committee.
  • Report – At the end of the sabbatical CrossPoint will provide, upon request, an evaluation of the sabbatical along with recommendations as the pastor re-enters his ministry responsibilities.

An affirmation of CrossPoint’s role carries with it the commitment to the entire sabbatical time. Recalibration is our goal and it is important for someone to remain in the process.

CrossPoint reserves the right to communicate with the chairman of the church’s sabbatical committee or elder board as to how the sabbatical is proceeding (note: confidential information will not be shared with the chairman without the approval of the pastor and his wife).

We look forward to being a part of your sabbatical experience!

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more Certain relationships in life leave you forever changed. Rich Plass is one of those relationships for me. While walking through the darkest time of my life God used Rich to help me navigate the valley. Rich is my pastor, counselor and mentor. Rich has helped me lean into my calling and claim my true voice. I am a better pastor, husband and lover of Jesus because of Rich’s love and guidance. Rich’s wisdom, love, depth, knowledge, immense experience and story make him the perfect spiritual guide through this journey of life. I am so thankful to have him as my guide. like Christ.

Chad Lewis, Worship Pastor at Sojourn Community Church East, Louisville, KY

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.In the world of life coaching, it can be hard to know who to trust. Quite simply, Rich is one of the wisest men I have ever met. I trust him. I have trusted him with my secrets, my pain and my hopes. He has earned my trust and proven himself to be a presence of safety and profound gospel clarity. I trust him enough that when one of my close friends is in need, I tell them to go to Rich. If you were my friend and in need, I would tell you the same thing. He has guided me into a deeper intimacy with Christ and other people and he will do the same for you.

Jesse Eubanks, Founder and Executive Director of Love Thy Neighborhood, Louisville, KY

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.No one has helped me in my journey as a man, husband, father or leader more than Jim. He is the easiest man to talk to and is the best listener I’ve ever met. You always feel a connection when you have spent time with Jim. His wisdom and insight are things I covet and thank God for regularly. I have referred countless leaders to Jim and every single one of them that have spent time with him come back and thank me. Spend as much time with Jim as you can, you won’t regret it.

Michael Crawford, Lead Pastor of Freedom Church, Baltimore, MD

Being the first Christian in my family and dealing with the complexities of pastoral ministry left me feeling insufficient in many areas of understanding myself, relating and communicating with others. Rich from CrossPoint helped me develop a greater sense of who I am in Christ, His approval and love for me. This has allowed me to give thanks to God for the victories, mourn my losses, and to be patient with myself in this journey. My relationship with Jesus, marriage, personal life, and ministry are stronger due to the time I spent processing, receiving wisdom, and encouragement from Rich.

Kyle Wetzler, Pastor of Operations, Living Stones, Reno, NV

Rich Plass’s professionalism and pastoral heart are used mightily in the lives of those he coaches and counsels. God used his counseling through my 2013 sabbatical to not only get me back to health in ministry, but set my ministry in an amazing new direction. Since my time with Rich I’ve recommended CrossPoint to anyone and everyone I possibly can. I simply cannot exhort church leaders enough to do the necessary soul work for long term health. Rich has the training and gifting that bears ongoing fruit long after the counseling sessions have come to a close.

Dan Braga, Lead Pastor, Taproot Church, Burlen, WA

After ten years into church planting it was time for a three month sabbatical. As we began to research the process and make a plan, other planters recommended Rich Plass and Crosspoint Ministry as absolutely necessary. Though initially a little hesitant, I was not disappointed–our sabbatical was an amazing experience, thanks in large part to Rich. We started with the Enneagram and a phone call to have Rich walk us through the results. From the first phone call I saw the incredible value of having someone direct and lead us through the Sabbatical, someone who had the wisdom and experience to know what we needed better than we did. At every step of the sabbatical, Rich shepherded me and my wife into a place of real rest and refreshment. So much would have been lost or missed without Rich’s wisdom and input and we feel very much in debt to him! The sabbatical has set us on a trajectory of growth and development that will take us into the next ten years, something we never would have had without Rich coaching us through those three months. I’ve continued to talk with Rich and it has been incredible to have someone pastor, counsel, and give me spiritual direction.

Steve Hart, Senior Pastor, Soma Communities, Spokane, WA

Family, medicine, and ministry are the three key elements of our life. Over our 15 years together, we thankfully have had our successes but there have been many challenges and failures, too. Rich has been with us every step of the way as our coach and mentor. We will be forever grateful for how he has helped us on our journey as Christ followers.

Drs. Bill and Lori Housworth, Director of Angkor Hospital for Children in Southeast Asia

My wife and I have been extremely blessed by the ministry that makes up Crosspoint. Pastoral ministry is more difficult than many understand and it takes a toll on the human heart and soul more than those in it can even comprehend. Therefore, when we met Rich and Jim, we were dealing with and doing the ministry of church planting and being leaders in Jesus’ church with little to no awareness of how traumatically our journey was affecting us. The toll on our soul eventually showed up in our marriage and we knew we desperately needed a way to navigate our hearts but felt helpless to do so.

Crosspoint has provided us with not only the new ability to truly love and serve others with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they have helped us understand our own need and given us permission to receive and serve ourselves the unconditional love of Jesus! I’m convinced that even though this journey has been a difficult one to walk, it has opened my eyes to the unlimited mercy, grace and loving kindness of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe every pastor needs to find a safe place like those at Crosspoint have provided so that they too receive what they are providing for so many in the church!

Rob and Lisa Mayer, Lead Pastor | Gospel Life Church – Acts 29

The Enneagram coaching we received from Sallie has been an immensely beneficial tool for our marriage.  It has given us a perspective through which to see ourselves and our marriage.  It has given us a “language” within our marriage that helps us understand each other.  The Enneagram coaching has given us a streamlined pathway to self-awareness.  Sallie’s coaching is nuanced, pinpointed, invaluable, and well worth your time.

Pete and Rachel Carlson, College and Young Adult Ministry, Redeemer Church, Bellingham, Washington

One of my favorite sayings from Jim is, “Sometimes God turns water into wine instantly and sometimes He grows grapes that take time and care to turn into wine. Both are miracles.” I feel like God provided Jim in our life at just the right time to care for and cultivate our souls for God to do miracles in us. In our marriage, parenting and in our ministry, Jim has helped us to better understand ourselves and each other with our gifts and limits in who God made us to best love ourselves and others.

Lisle and Kathy Drury, Pastor of Sojourn Community Church, Jeffersonville, KY

The last several years of life have been very trying for my family and I. In addition to planting a church, we have been through a failed adoption, my parent’s divorce, and coming close to losing my wife and unborn child due to a serious illness. Left reeling from all of these events, and wondering how God might use them in the future, we were referred to Jim for coaching and not a moment too soon. My wife and I have always been best friends, but the stresses from the past few years have taken their toll on us individually and as a couple. Jim quickly helped us understand ourselves better by having us take an Enneagram Assessment, which in turn helped us understand and appreciate each other. We have learned to delight in the Lord in a fresh way, as well as to delight in our differences. Our marriage has been strengthened as well as our ministry to other couples and leaders in our church. I cannot recommend Jim Cofield highly enough to ministry leaders. He is a wonderful coach with a pastor’s experience and heart. Stephanie and I are truly grateful for his investment in our lives and ministry.

Casey Cease, Lead Pastor, Christ Community Church of Magnolia

I’m so thankful for Joy’s guidance in my life. I’ve been able to spot areas where God is working, while I may have missed them before. Because of her many years of full-time ministry experience, Joy understands the struggles of women who serve in such demanding and stretching capacities. I can honestly say that my life has been transformed during the past 4 years of meeting with Joy as my spiritual director. God has mightily used her prayers, advice, and most of all – her listening  – to guide me through bumpy points in the journey. She has been the instigator for me to take new steps of faith out of my comfort zone.

C. M.

Jim and Crosspoint Ministries provided great counsel and coaching to us and our church’s Elders about how to use our sabbatical to refresh our souls after twenty years of pastoral experience. The most beneficial thing was the personal encouragement and direction we received at least a couple of times a month from Jim. God used Jim to help us become more aware of how we were personally wired, how we interacted with each other in ways that were unhealthy and how to live in a more emotionally and spiritually healthy way. We highly recommend them to all pastors and church leaders!

Chuck Land, Senior Pastor of CrossBridge Church, Houston, TX

Rich’s transformed and transforming presence is priceless. He was able to bring sound theology, a pastor’s heart, and psychological sensitivity into our coaching sessions during a critical time in my pastoral journey. Through his compassionate guidance and wisdom, I was able to sense God’s invitation forward in marriage and ministry. Through his encouragement and affirmation, I felt the freedom to pursue it.

Tom Pussel, Founding Pastor of Prodigal Church, Lakewood, OH

From the moment I met Sallie, I felt loved and heard.  The care and shepherding that Sallie showed me was healing to my soul.  As a pastor’ wife, and mom of 3, the pressures and expectations of a public position, and a mother, had become overwhelming to me.  I had gradually lost my sense of self.  Sallie listened to me, showed empathy, and gave wisdom.  Starting with the Enneagram, she helped me to lean into my personality instead of shying away from my strengths.  She helped me to figure out a lifestyle that fits me and my family.  Each conversation brought further healing.  Her presence in my life came at just the right time and was the catalyst I needed to move forward.  I will be forever thankful!

Lisa Collins, Pastor’s wife, Veritas Church, Grass Valley, CA

As I reflect through my Christian journey the Lord has always been faithful to give me mentors along the way. In this season, Rich has been a compassionate and wise mentor. As a Hospice Chaplain, caring for the dying can be overwhelming. Having Rich to process with and share my soul has been life-giving. I’ve learned to be better attuned to my own story, see how Christ holds me and how He carries the stories of those that I care for.

James Santos, Hospice Chaplain