Soul Care for Pastors

A bibliography of ways for churches to care for pastors and their families, and for pastors to care for themselves

General Soul Care

Retreat spots and Counseling for pastors:

  1. Alongside - helping Christian leaders and their families in difficult circumstances get away, get help, and find forward
  2. Crossroads Counseling of the Rockies - a safe refuge where hearts can heal
  3. En Gedi Retreat - free for pastors
  4. Hope Restored Marriage Intensives - a Focus on the Family brand
  5. Hospitality Homes
  6. Marble Retreat - Bringing healing, hope and restoration to those in vocational Christian Ministry through Christ-centered intensive counseling
  7. The Ministry Center Residential Discipleship (Adirondack Bible Chapel and Ministry Center) - a residential discipleship home that specializes in helping Christians grow, heal, recover, and be encouraged through biblical-based, Christ-centered discipleship and mentoring
  8. Mt. Eagle (in Arkansas)
  9. Prairie School - In Western Nebraska, hosted by our own Don and Nancy Cruise. Email Don at
  10. Quiet Waters - On Lake Wylie, outside of Charlotte, NC, hosted by former EFCA pastor Dan Johnston
  11. Recentered Groups
  12. Restoring the Soul - Wake up your Heart. Heal your relationships. Restore your life. Get unstuck in two weeks to THRIVE.
  13. Smalley Institute - for pastors who marriages need attention
  14. Sonscape Retreats - providing spiritual retreat, counsel, and community for pastors, missionaries, and other vocational Christian leaders and their spouses to extend God’s kingdom in the world
  15. WinShape Marriage Intensives



  • I highly recommend a minimum of 6 weekspreferably 8-12. If God is going to do a work in the pastor, it will likely take 3 or 4 weeks to get to that point. You don't want the pastor coming back a week after being deconstructed by God.
  • A sabbatical should (in my opinion) be taken all at once, not as a bunch of small extra vacation days. A contiguous block - not a week here, 2 weeks there, then another week later.
  • It's NOT a vacation. You normally can't get to the deep work of God in short break or vacation. Vacations have their own good purpose.
  • Sabbaticals are as much for the wives as the pastors. Emphasize this and you'll get better buy-in.
  • Sabbaticals of 8 weeks or more usually come at 7 years of service - some churches are as frequent as 5 years.
  • Some churches shorten the time in between or lengthen the duration of sabbaticals with more years of service.
  • Before booking any plans, the pastor should submit a sabbatical plan to the church leaders, who should review and perhaps modify the plans to fit the written policy and purposes.
  • The church leaders should be the primary ones to communicate the sabbatical idea and plan to the congregation. This is something the elders are doing, not something the pastor finagled. They should reiterate several times that they are doing this for the good of the pastor, his wife, and the church. They should emphasize that this is not the same thing as a vacation. It's good to also mention that this is a common practice for churches and pastors.
  • Sabbatical Metaphor for your church: It's like letting a field go fallow for a season - 1) It lets the soil rest; 2) It builds nutrients back into the soil; and 3) It gets rid of toxins. It's better for the farmer to let the field go fallow for a season, and it's better for the church to give the pastor a sabbatical for a season.
  • Therefore, include in each sabbatical plan: mandatory restmandatory time for building up / learning / seminar / reading list, and mandatory extended solitude with God (individually and as a couple).
  • A book-writing or sermon series planning "sabbatical" is a different kind of sabbatical. You might even choose a different name for something like that to keep the two ideas separate.
  • You want a pastor to go on sabbatical before he needs to go on sabbatical.
  • Many worry that a pastor or a church may decide during the sabbatical that they are no longer a good match. Don't let that deter you - if it takes a sabbatical to figure out you're not a good match, that's a good sabbatical.
  • Sabbatical policies should be written and should apply to all pastoral staff.
  • Make a sabbatical policy independent of the personality of the current pastor (unless you want to renegotiate the policy each time you call a pastor).
  • When calling a new pastor, this is a good time to make sure you have a written policy that's up to date. Communicate it to a candidate as part of the benefits package.
  • Some churches want the pastor to give the leaders and/or the congregation some kind of report of how the time was used and how it benefited him and his wife, plus how it benefits the church. Other churches don't want the pastor to have to feel like he's justifying what he did on sabbatical.
  • Consider using sabbaticals to incentivize credentialing - a more generous sabbatical policy to those who have an EFCA license and even more for ordination.
  • No pastor who has been on sabbatical needs to be convinced to go on another. (Not a scientific statement, but illustrates the point.)


There are plenty available just by searching the web, but here are a few:

Pastors' Wives