Sabbaticals and Jubilee Years for Churches?

In Leviticus 25, Moses receives farming instructions from God:

‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord.”

A few verses later, “Count off seven Sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.”

For years 49 and 50, Israelites were not allowed to sow or reap – the land was to lie fallow. The 50th year was celebratory year: all debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, etc. It was a year to remember and it usually happened once in a person’s life.

What if churches had Sabbath Years and Jubilee Years?

What if every seventh year a church:

  • Seriously evaluated every current program and completely overhauled it to set it up for the next six years. A church probably can’t totally stop every program for a year, but they can embark on a year-long study and serious assessment to determine if the program should continue or not.
  • Discerned what are the goals for the next six years and created new programs to meet those goals.
  • Visited other churches and non-profits to learn from what they are doing successfully and unsuccessfully to see if and how those ideas can be implemented in their own church.
  • Determined if its missions activities were successful and if it its missions funds (even the funds given to the denomination) were used for their maximum good.

What if every 25th year (a half-jubilee) a church:

  • Did an analysis of its staffing needs and current staff in order to implement a strategic blueprint to guide the church for the next generation (every 25 years) – that is a “half-jubilee” timeframe

What if every 50th year a church:

  • Studied its current facilities to determine

o   Whether the church needs to be in its current location or move to a new location

o   Whether the church needs to update or even gut and redo the current buildings

o   Whether the church needs to tear down its existing structures and/or build new facilities

This concept means the church intentionally designs and redesigns its resources (programming, staffing, and buildings) to meet the needs of the current and next generation(s). It follows a (biblical) model of intentionally evaluating why it is doing what it is doing and then decide what it needs for the next few years. Instead of just “keeping on keeping on” this makes the church really pray and study about what it wants to do going forward.

As to what date you start with, why not use the church’s year of origin as the basis?


Lead On!