The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church in ¶350.3 recognizes that clergy serving local churches need a time of refreshment which goes beyond the disciplinary requirements for continuing education and spiritual growth. Occasionally clergy need a time of renewal to be the best leader. Renewal leave is a time for clergy to take a respite from the normal exercise of pastoral ministry. The Book of Discipline states that clergy “may request a formational and spiritual growth leave of up to six months while continuing to hold an appointment in the local church.”
Renewal can be a season of discovery or a short season of time away. It can be a season of refreshing, heart, mind, and spirit. It can be a season of refocusing before burnout occurs, or it can be a season of essential pruning to bear fruit in other areas of our lives. It is a time that can include spiritual, physical, and emotional renewal. Clergy renewal leave is one way that the Great Plains Conference encourages clergy flourishing and invests in developing, equipping, and empowering today’s leaders for the church of tomorrow.
Based on the Gospel of Mark, where after returning from their missionary journey Jesus invited the disciples to “come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while,” Renewal Leave is not “empty” or unstructured or task oriented but is an intentional time of purposeful activity and rest promoting refreshment and renewal.
The intent is for clergy to return refreshed with renewed energy for continued ministry, often with a fresh vision, as well. The congregation can engage in new ministry with lay leadership while the pastor is on Renewal Leave. Often new leaders emerge in the local church as people step up to assume new responsibility.
¶ 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.”
Criteria for Approval:
Renewal Leave grants may be requested once every eight years of ministry. However, first-time applicants shall be given priority.
The following shall be carefully considered:
Great Plains Clergy Renewal Leave can span up to 12 weeks, unless additional considerations are requested.
Applications for consideration for the next calendar year open in May of the current year with a deadline August 1 of the current year. All applications are considered at the same time. Grant awards will be determined by the review team no later than September 1 of the current year. Late applications received after the initial deadline are reviewed by the review team on a rolling basis if all grant funds are not distributed.
Steps for Approval:
Prior to submitting an application, the applicant must do the following:
A maximum of $3,000 is available for a Clergy Renewal Leave grant. Late applications received after the initial deadline are reviewed by the review team on a rolling basis if all grant funds are not distributed.
The local church/charge will continue to pay the pastor’s salary and benefits during the period of time she or he is on Renewal Leave.
If awarded a grant, payment of the grant funds will be made by the annual conference directly to the church after receipt of a voucher from the local church Treasurer for expenses incurred. If the grant includes funds to pay the person giving pastoral coverage, this will be remitted according to arrangements made before Renewal Leave. If the grant is to cover expenses incurred by the pastor, payment will be made to the pastor after submission of appropriate receipts.
All reimbursement requests must be submitted to the Director of Clergy Excellence within one month after completion of the Renewal Leave, and prior to December 31 of the current year, whichever comes first.
The District Superintendent shall provide names of any clergy available to provide pastoral support for clergy during Renewal Leave.
Detailed arrangements for dates of coverage and responsibility of the clergy providing pastoral support or lay persons providing leadership shall be made by the pastor who is requesting Renewal Leave, in consultation with the local church/charge, the District Superintendent, and these individuals.
When designing a Renewal Leave plan, the Pastor should—in consultation with SPRC and/or other congregational leaders—consider the checklist below.
Checklist for Renewal Leave
When communicating with the congregation(s) about the Renewal Leave, the items below could be important to incorporate: