Renewal Leave FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Renewal Leave and Renewal Leave Grants:


What is Renewal Leave?

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.”


Who is eligible for Renewal Leave and Renewal Leave Grants?

Criteria for Approval:

  • Applicants must be full members or associate members of the Great Plains Conference or local pastors who have completed Course of Study, who are currently in an appointment. 
  • Applicants must have served a minimum of six (6) consecutive years under full-time appointment (or the part-time equivalent) prior to their application. (The 2016 Book of Discipline, ¶350.4).
  • Applicants who have been granted Renewal Time previously may apply additional times.

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:

  • The circumstances of each applicant
  • The recommendations of the District Superintendent
  • The recommendations of Pastor-Staff Parish Relations Committee and the Administrative Board/Church Council
  • The availability of sufficient funds to underwrite the request.


How long can a Renewal Leave be?

Great Plains Clergy Renewal Leave can span up to 12 weeks, unless additional considerations are requested.


When can clergy apply for the Renewal Leave Grant?

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.


How can clergy apply for a Renewal Leave and/or Renewal Leave Grant?

Steps for Approval:

Prior to submitting an application, the applicant must do the following:

  1. Meet jointly with the District Superintendent and the Pastor-Staff Parish Relations Committee of the local church/charge being served at the time of the request to describe the plan for the Renewal Leave.
  2. Secure the approval of the Administrative Council(s)/Church Council(s) and the Pastor Staff Parish Relations Committee of the church/charge being served at the time of the request.
  3. Secure the written approval of their District Superintendent at the time of the request. It is the applicant’s responsibility to complete the application, secure all required signatures, and forward the application to the Director of Clergy Excellence at least 120 days prior to the date requested for the Time of Renewal and by August 1 of the current year. If there is not 120 days, the applicant will consult with the District Superintendent to explore other options available, or wait until the next opportunity to apply.


How much money is available through the Great Plains Conference Clergy Renewal Leave Grant?

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.


On what can the Renewal Leave Grant money be spent?

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.


Who will provide pastoral coverage when a pastor is on Renewal Leave?

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.


What should be considered by the Pastor, SPRC, and/or congregation for a Renewal Leave?

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

  • Clergy create a plan for Renewal Leave to include request, timeframe, and address the following questions:
    • Who will preach? Create plan to provide coverage for each week.
    • Who will welcome, provide hospitality, and orientation for guest speakers?
    • Who will visit those in the hospital, shut-ins, visitors?
    • Who will handle administrative duties?
    • Who will cover teaching responsibilities?
    • How will committees cover duties?
    • Who will provide emergency care?
    • What, if anything, should be communicated to the clergy while they are gone, by whom, and how?
    • Who will pray for the pastor on leave?
    • What communication is needed to the congregation? Methods: Newsletter, brochure, announcements, social media, website, sermon series etc. (See below for suggested information to communicate)
  • Gain approval from Administrative Council and SPRC on grant application form
  • Gain approval from District Superintendent on grant application form
  • Apply for Renewal Leave and Renewal Leave Grant
  • Plan ritual/liturgy for beginning and ending time of Renewal
  • Plan for return, recognizing that the pastor and congregation may have experienced significant changes during the time of renewal. How will this be addressed, planned for, and what intentionality should be considered?

When communicating with the congregation(s) about the Renewal Leave, the items below could be important to incorporate:

  • Pastor’s need for renewal
  • Book of Discipline guidelines for renewal
  • Guidelines for communication with the pastor
  • How the Renewal Leave will benefit the congregation
  • What will the pastor be doing while on leave
  • What is considered an emergency and who it will be reported to
  • Dates of the Renewal Leave
  • Listing of speakers and short biography for each
  • Who is responsible for other duties/responsibilities
  • Share with the congregation that the pastor is not leaving the church or in trouble and when the pastor will return
Links to related material:


Annual Conferences who have helpful info on their websites:


Local Church announcements about Renewal Leave