The Case for a Sabbatical...from the World of Football

A few weeks ago we announced to our congregation that Mark Beeson would be taking a sabbatical--his first after 23 years of ministry. I haven't heard one negative comment about that decision--the people of Granger seem to be saying, "Well, of course he should!" A friend of mine (Bill Zimmer) passed along an article to me that talks about the need for football coaches to take a year off because of the high-stress of coaching. Now I suppose we could argue all day about whether coaching a championship team or pastoring a large and growing church is a more stressful job--but let's just agree that they are likely both toward the top of the list.

In making a case that Urban Meyer should take a one-year break, the author of the article pointed to three very successful Notre Dame coaches to make his case:

During an exclusive FanHouse interview, former Notre Dame athletic director Gene Corrigan had more than a few revelations. For instance: soon after he took over the Fighting Irish in 1981, former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian confessed to Corrigan that, even though he knew he was suffering from exhaustion during much of his legendary 11 seasons with the Irish through 1974, he didn't decide to delegate responsibility until it was too late. Not only that, he privately fumed after he told university president Theodore Hesburgh about his idea of becoming more of a CEO, only to have the priest force Parseghian to retire anyway.

According to Corrigan, Parseghian added of his ouster, "I couldn't see it then, but I was done, and I didn't know it. I'm telling you now that [Hesburgh] saved my life."

The following didn't come from Corrigan, but from the public record: Frank Leahy evolved into a maniac. He was so obsessed with coaching Notre Dame to greatness during the 1940s and early 1950s that he even received the last rites of the Catholic church at halftime of a game. He also was shoved out of Notre Dame, but unlike Parseghian, Leahy took his bitterness to his Oregon grave.

Then there was Lou Holtz, the famously intense coach who was brought to Notre Dame by Corrigan in 1986. According to Corrigan, Holtz would have lasted with the Irish beyond 11 seasons, but only if he would have heeded Corrigan's advice to take a sabbatical near the end. Instead, Holtz kept going, and he eventually resigned (with a nudge from the Notre Dame hierarchy) within a season. He re-surfaced three years later, but only at inferior South Carolina.

The point is, all those Notre Dame coaches needed a break along the way, but they didn't take one until it was too late. (Read entire article here).

I don't think we should wait for our senior leaders to initiate the idea (or worse yet, to implode) before we provide a sabbatical. If you are in leadership at your church--take initiative and make this happen for your pastor!

Tim Stevens9 Comments