Seeing Beyond the Power Lines: The Importance of Renewal Leaves

July 07, 2017

by Rev. Jacqueline Elliott Tookey, Pastor of Mt. Zion UMC, Piney Creek and Executive Director of Big Sigh Ministries 

Prior to my 2014 three-month renewal leave from a wonderful local church appointment, my ministry was affected by the tremendous physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens I was carrying. Some might say I was definitely stressed out and hurtling towards the boulders of exhaustion and ministry burnout. I was losing my joy for ministry, the very call from God that I had cherished for nearly twenty years. Our home in Sparta, North Carolina boasts a distant view of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway from the front porch, but all I could see was the tiny scenic imperfections of power lines and water towers. Taking big sighs for no apparent reason, juggling feelings of doubt and disillusionment, and tired of being tired, I heeded the wise counsel of a dear ministry colleague who strongly recommended I plan for an extended time away, a spiritual formation renewal leave.

My husband, Jack, had just returned from his own renewal leave and I couldn’t imagine a leave might be possible for me. But it was! It transformed my life, helped me refocus on Christ and helped birth Big Sigh Ministries, a renewal leave-planning non-profit ministry for clergy and Christian leaders. Our mission is to renew this generation of Christian leaders for the revival of this generation of Christian disciples.

Often we do not receive because we do not ask! I have seen God provide everything needed, (pulpit supply, pastoral care fill-in, finances, and a place to stay), for pastors to take extended time away who thought their congregations would never understand, much less bless their leave. I’ve seen God meet worn-out preachers in the “stillness” of renewal leave and re-invigorate them by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve also witnessed pastors who received strong support from their congregation because they planned ahead for renewal leave. Maybe you are wondering about a renewal leave for yourself or a colleague. I encourage you to look past the “power lines” of doubt and receive the renewal beauty beyond.

Here are just a few renewal leave benefits for pastors, Christian leaders and their service communities. Renewal leaves:
  • provide a way for pastors and Christian leaders to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  • help pastors and church communities re-center on Christ and their calling to be and make disciples
  • assist pastors in sustaining their passion for ministry for the long haul, leading to ministry resilience and burnout avoidance
  • provide sacred space for pastors to rest, regain their balance and reclaim their authentic ministry-perspective
  • help grow healthy leaders who in turn grow healthy congregations, spreading the Love of Christ throughout the world
Through our GRACE BREAK program, Big Sigh Ministries guides pastors and churches through the renewal leave process as set forth in ¶350.2 of the 2016 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Please see our website for more information including, what pastors are saying about renewal leave: www.bigsigh.org.


Reverends Jacqueline and Jack Tookey, Co-founders and Directors of Big Sigh Ministry
Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.