Leave for Pastors

The following describes this synod’s recommendations and policies regarding sabbatical leave, vacation, family leave (maternity/paternity), and holidays.

Sabbatical Leave

Consideration should be given by congregations to granting a sabbatical leave to a pastor every three to five years, beyond the First Call Theological Education program.  This leave is granted to provide an opportunity for the pastor to take an extended period of time for personal enrichment, study, spiritual growth, travel, skill development, research, and experimentation, all for the purpose of enrichment for continued service in the church.

It is recommended that pastors planning for sabbatical leave be in contact with the Office of the Bishop to talk about possible scholarships to offset congregational expenses and to discuss arrangements for plans for the leave.  Arrangements for pastoral coverage during this leave will be made by both the pastor and the Congregation Council and satisfactorily completed prior to the beginning of the sabbatical leave.  This leave would be granted for up to three months, with full pay.  After this sabbatical, the pastor will remain in his/her parish for at least one year.

The Upper Susquehanna Synod Council has adopted a policy for Sabbatical Leave for rostered leaders. The policy is available for download here: Sabbatical Leave Policy.


The need for an annual vacation is self-evident.  A pastor is frequently under much stress in his/her profession and needs time away.  The synod recommends a minimum of one month or four weeks vacation. The congregation should consider granting additional vacation time based on the length of service in the ministry.  The length of vacation time, the number of Sundays, and when vacation time is to be taken are all matters which need to be discussed openly with your pastor and should be considered an important part of his/her compensation.

Further, a minimum of one day off each week is a necessity.

Family Leave

A specific family leave plan should be carefully drawn up in consultation with the congregation council.  A paid maternity leave of six to eight weeks is encouraged for the pastor or lay rostered leader giving birth. A paid paternity leave of up to six weeks is encouraged. A minimum of two and up to six weeks of paid parenting leave is encouraged when welcoming a newly-adopted or foster child. This leave is recommended to be available for a period of twelve months following the birth or adoption of a child. This time may be taken as either Block or Intermittent Leave (described below).  In some situations, additional leave time (salaried or unsalaried) may be approved by the congregation council.

Care for a family member with a serious health condition (e.g., any illness, injury or condition involving inpatient hospital care or requiring continuing in-home treatment by a physician or other health care provider): A paid leave of up to eight weeks in any given twelve-month period is recommended. The time may be taken as either Block or Intermittent Leave. In some situations, additional unsalaried leave time may be approved by the congregation council.

To offset the expenses of any family leave, the Upper Susquehanna Synod will provide reimbursement of supply pastors for a maximum of three weeks or will provide coverage by a member of the synod staff. Pastoral care for the congregation will be provided by local pastors under the auspices of the Dean of the Conference.”

The congregational council is encouraged to give prayerful consideration to other family situations and use the above guidelines as guidance in their deliberations.

Block Leave:  Leaves taken in one or more continuous periods of time. For example, leaves of two to eight weeks fall within this category.

Intermittent Leave:  Leaves taken on an intermittent basis, or where the pastor or lay rostered person works a reduced work week according to a prearranged schedule. The reduced work schedule can include full or partial days of leave.

(This Family Leave Policy was adopted by the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly, June 18, 2011)


Time away from the parish must be made available in observance of recognized holidays. How many days and when they are observed must be mutually agreed to in advance to accommodate the needs of both the parish and the pastor.