Pastor Hans and Katie Dahl's Sabbatical

summer 2024  


What is a Sabbatical?

It is an extended time away from routine ministry to provide a time of special renewal for a church staff member that will bring personal nourishment, family refreshment and focus, and a clearer understanding of God’s calling on his life. A sabbatical helps prevent ministry burnout and prepares staff members for the next season of ministry with us.

Why a Sabbatical?

The demands placed on a church staff are unique and ever present. A pastor, for example, has emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. In the course of a day, a pastor can deal with death, deep spiritual issues, petty criticisms, tragedies, and celebrations of birth. A pastor is also “on call” 24-hours a day – they go to sleep with the knowledge they could be awakened by a phone call at any time of the day, and vacations are rarely uninterrupted. Most unique is the fact that pastors work every weekend and multiple weeknights a week, which is time most of us spend caring for our families. 

Our church staff does these things generously and selflessly, but we know the unique demands affect their family, social, mental and physical health. In fact, our research uncovered a recent study that was alarming: A survey in 2022 from Barna, a Christian research organization, asked 1000’s of pastors if they'd given serious consideration to quitting in the last year, and 42% said “yes.” We also discovered that within our denomination, the ELCA, for every 3 pastors retiring, there is currently only 1 going into ministry. Only 1 out of 10 pastors retire as a pastor. There is a leadership crisis at foot in the church.

Pastors who have sabbaticals have longer tenure at churches. Church staff members who receive sabbaticals feel appreciated and valued. They feel as though the church sees the uniqueness of their commitment and the realities of the work they do. Most of all, a sabbatical gives them time to refresh, recalibrate, renew and reconnect.

Why has the Calvary Council decided to grant this sabbatical?

Pastor Hans has faithfully served us for 12 years, and Katie joined our staff 8 years ago. They want you to know that they love Calvary! The sabbatical is not a result of burnout, frustration, or a health crisis. They are excited for this time away to reflect on the past 12 years, recharge and prepare for another 12 years with us. During their time away we pray… 

  • They experience care for their souls, finding spiritual renewal and recharging after 12 years of serving at Calvary.
  • They experience intentional family time that offers them the opportunity to invest more deeply for a season in their marriage and relationship with their children. Church staff members work when the rest of us are with our families, on weekends and evenings. We pray they have a summer making memories together.
  • They’re imagination is inspired for the next 12 years. The grant Pastor Hans was awarded offers their family the opportunity to travel and experience people, spaces and places that will inspire them for the future ahead of us.

Have previous pastors at Calvary taken sabbaticals?

Over the past few years, Calvary’s Council has developed a set of strategic priorities. With the decline in the availability of pastoral and church leadership, we have developed a series of policies designed to support, invest in, and equip our staff. To that end, in January of 2023 at the annual meeting, in accordance with best practices and ELCA guidelines, the congregation passed a sabbatical policy that would allow staff who have been here for at least seven years to apply for a sabbatical. To our knowledge, pastors have not taken sabbaticals at Calvary in the past.

When will the Sabbatical take place?

May 28 - August 28, 2024

What will Pastor Hans and Katie be doing while they are away?

  • They will be parent and spouse. Because ministry happens when most of us are with our families, Hans and Katie often miss out on the unique opportunities to do some of the things most of us take for granted. For example, it’s impossible for them to coach their kids’ teams, participate in their activities and travel to tournaments on the weekends.
  • They plan to travel. The Lilly grant offers them the opportunity to travel to places that will inspire their imagination for the years of ministry ahead.

What is the coverage plan for leadership during Pastor Hans & Katie’s absence?

  • Administrative Leadership: Katie Rentschler, Calvary’s Business Administrator, will provide administrative leadership for the day to day operations of the church, working hand in hand with Calvary’s council and staff.
  • Pastoral Leadership: Pastor Angie Larson will provide pastoral leadership this summer, including weekly worship experience leadership, preaching, funerals and weddings. Pastor Maddie Elliott, Executive Director of Luther Crest Bible Camp will also preach throughout the summer.
  • Additional administrative staff and volunteers will cover the critical engagement roles performed by Katie Dahl, including weekly worship volunteer recruitment, engagement with new participants and members, and all communications.
  • Calvary Partner Network:  Kia Kisthart, Calvary Partner Network Administrator, will oversee the network partnership in Pastor Hans’ absence.

December 2023

Dear Calvary family,

For the past few years the Council has been working on the strategic priority of leadership - developing and equipping new leaders in our church as well as supporting, developing, and equipping our staff. To that end, in January of 2023 at the annual meeting, the congregation passed a sabbatical policy that would allow staff who have been here for at least seven years to apply for a sabbatical. 

We are excited to share that Calvary’s Council has unanimously approved that two of our employees, Pastor Hans Dahl and Katie Dahl, be granted a 12 week sabbatical to take place in the summer of 2024, June 1 - Aug. 31. Hans has been in his role as Lead Pastor for 11+ years, and Katie has been in her role as Director of Engagement for 8 years. Their entire family has made sacrifices to do the work God is calling them to here at Calvary and we are excited to be able to offer them this time of rest and renewal, when they will be able to invest in their time as a family.

Additionally, Hans and a team of Calvary members have applied for and received a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment which allows Calvary to add pastoral support, as well as support for Katie’s engagement work, without incurring extra expense in our general fund budget. It also allows the Dahl family to travel and devote time to their family. 

We are providing Hans and Katie this opportunity as a way to refresh and renew for the long future we’ll have together here at Calvary. While they are gone, we have a capable, experienced staff team who will continue to move Calvary forward in our mission. 

Please join us in offering a word of gratitude for the work Hans and Katie have done here at Calvary, the sacrifices your boys make to allow that work to happen, and for a long future ahead leading our congregation in its mission. 

Jana Berndt (Council President), on behalf of Calvary’s Church Council