December issue: Continuing Education & Sabbaticals


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Continuing Education & Sabbaticals: What are they?

By Rev. Emily Carson

A healthy approach to ministry is rooted in a willingness to grow, adapt, learn, and experience spiritual refreshment. Annual time set aside for continuing education is one of the ways the leaders of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod live out their callings as healthy, vibrant leaders.

Continuing education time is a requirement of a full-time rostered minister’s call, and Bishop Steven Delzer believes it is extremely important that synod leaders make it a priority. When a rostered leader joins the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, one of the commitments that they make is to engage in a minimum of 50 hours of continuing education time every year.

Continuing education can take many formats and may include seminary classes, online courses, workshops, or independent study directed toward a specific goal. It is meant to inspire and also refresh.

The synod’s official “compensation guidelines” document is a tool approved annually at the synod assembly. The document is a resource that leaders and congregations can use as they discern together the appropriate compensation package.

The compensation guidelines describe continuing education this way: “Continuing education time and funding should be provided for leaders for updating skills and for professional growth in order to strengthen their ministries. It is recommended that a minimum of two weeks (including up to two Sundays) and $750 be granted annually for continuing education.”

Congregation members are invited to have an open, encouraging relationship with the church staff members about their continuing education experiences! Ask questions. Encourage leaders to set aside time for learning. Celebrate with leaders when they return from continuing education experiences and express an openness to learn more.

Sabbaticals are another valuable tool that congregations and leaders can utilize in order to grow, learn, and experience spiritual refreshment. Sabbaticals are beneficial to both congregations and leaders. Rev. Tim Ehling serves as the chair of the synod’s Synodical Leader Grant Team, and he and the other committee members are strong advocates for leaders and congregations in the synod who want to engage in a sabbatical.

Congregations are encouraged to write and approve a sabbatical policy for their rostered leaders. The 1997 ELCA Churchwide Assembly recommended that rostered leaders be granted a period of extended study and renewal, a minimum of 1-3 months every 5-7 years in the current call. This time of refreshment and renewal can take many forms. The leader works in collaboration with the congregation and the synod’s Synodical Leader Grant Team in order to shape the sabbatical time.

If you have questions about continuing education, please contact the Office of the Bishop by calling 507-280-9457. Please email Rev. Tim Ehling at for additional information about sabbaticals and ways that leaders in the synod can receive special funding for continuing education & sabbatical experiences.

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