Is This Continuing Education?

Sometimes it’s called Study Leave and pastors (and other professionals) are expected to do it. My denomination requires two weeks of study leave annually.

So what counts as Continuing Education? A retreat with Simon Sinek? A Carrie Newcomer concert?

What books can be charged to a clergyperson’s book allowance? Brene Brown? John Green? Jameliah Young-Gooden?

Gone are the days when we clergy spent all our Study Leave time attending preaching conferences – although those conferences are still offered and often recommended. And our books are no longer solely Biblical commentaries.

Which of the activities below would your congregation consider study leave or continuing education? (Select as many as you wish.)

The truth is that – especially for preachers – EVERYTHING can inform out sermon-writing from Marvel movies to medical journals, from romance novels to podcasts about bees. This is how the Holy Spirit works. God uses everything to teach us about the meaning of life and who we are and who God is.

Although we Clergy (and others) are tasked with taking our two weeks of study leave, many pastors I know do not do it. They are offered Sabbaticals after 5-7 years of service, but they do not take those Sabbaticals. Why?

Money is an issue. Many clergy have continuing education budgets that aren’t enough to pay for a conference away from home. And churches sometimes fuss that they also cannot afford to pay for someone to cover for pastors when they are away.

Martyrdom is an issue. Many clergy are “too busy” to take time away or they fear that their congregations will not like it if take vacation and study leave time.

Not understanding the meaning of Continuing Education/Study Leave is an issue. Parishioners call it “vacation” even if you are in classes every day, especially if those classes are in a beautiful place. Some parishioners don’t realize how important it is for the church that their leaders take time to rest and reflect.

I’m curious about Continuing Education for you and/or your church leaders. Do pastors take it? Do elders have to approve it? Is there enough funding to cover it?

Please share. Thanks.

6 responses to “Is This Continuing Education?

  1. There has to be enough money to cover it, because the Presbytery minimum includes it, AND stipulates how much time needs to be allocated, and that it is separate from vacation. The Committee on Ministry would not approve initial terms of call that didn’t meet that standard. Whether it’s enough is a different story. Also, it doesn’t accrue as much – that is, the pastor needs to take it! Yes, Session has to approve the time off, so the pastor has to tell Session what it’s for. Has approved writing projects and retreats, historically. Also, participating in local projects that involve the pastor in the community one day a month. (A local leadership program.) I doubt we’d consider teaching projects away study leave. But maybe we could be persuaded.

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  2. We have very often traveled

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  3. I was stated supply, 19.5 hrs/week, not installed. That meant the church (PCUSA//ELCA) wasn’t required to (and didn’t) allow study leave or provide continuing education or book allowances. Everything was on my own time and at my expense. I also didn’t have paid vacation–my contract was 46 weeks/year. What professional would stay long enough for a sabbatical under these conditions? We are creating a second-class pastorate by not finding a way to provide for part-time pastors, and there will be more and more of them.

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  4. The COM subcommittee I serve on in the Presbytery of the James, Church and Pastor Relations, right now is drafting a continuing education policy. We want to make sure that Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, Christian Educators, and Commissioned Pastors are using their study leaves. We are realizing that a wide range of topics/activities today “counts” as study. Just shared your blog, Jan, with the people on the subcommittee.

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  5. I recently retired, but my main problem with continuing Ed. was “time” to do it.

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  6. Catherine Taylor

    Not taking study leave, sabbatical, or vacation does the church a HUGE disservice. It models accomplishment as the reason God loves us instead of love for love’s sake. The grandiose pastor who “can’t take time” for education or self care creates a mess for whoever follows. I gratefully took study leave, a sabbatical after seven years, and regular vacations with my congregation’s blessing.

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