What is a Sabbatical?

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. –Exodus 20: 8-11 

In case you haven’t yet heard, the church board is allowing me to take a sabbatical during the month of February this year. This will be my second sabbatical during my tenure as pastor of Marshfield Christian Church, and I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on my personal renewal. The time away from my normal duties as pastor will provide me an opportunity to re-engage and re-energize for the work of ministry in the months and years to come. 

I anticipate some of you may be wondering what a sabbatical is, and why sabbaticals are important for pastors and congregations. The General Commission on Ministry in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has published a helpful document to answer some of those questions. The Sabbatical Guidelines explain why time away is important for the pastor: 

Congregations expect much of their ministers and ministers expect much of themselves. In healthy relationships between congregations and their ministers, there is a sense of mutual care. The minister cares for the members of the congregation and they also care for the minister. 

Everyone needs time away periodically to reflect, renew and recover the work/rest rhythm necessary to complement effective ministry. A Sabbatical/Renewal Leave offers the minister time for reassessment of his/her ministry, which can be difficult to do while engaged in the day-to-day tasks for ministry. By changing the scene and the pace as well as engaging in different activities, ministers find themselves enriched spiritually, mentally and even physically. 

As important as sabbaticals are for pastors, there are also distinct benefits for the congregation as well. “When a minister takes a Sabbatical/Renewal Leave, the congregation will benefit from the opportunity to reflect on its mission and ministry, experience different gifts of leadership and perhaps discover their own unique areas of ministry.” To that end I have organized for a variety of different people to fill the pulpit during my sabbatical, and the elders, deacons, and church board members will take on some additional responsibilities. Honestly, I am jealous that I will not be able to hear the sermons you will while I am away. 

This may sound like a paid vacation, and while there are certainly elements of rest and recovery in my sabbatical plans, there are other important activities planned as well. During my sabbatical I will be traveling to Tulsa (with our camper) and taking a seminar presented by Phillips Theological Seminary entitled “Creating Generous Congregations.” During this time I hope to gain insights into how a culture of generosity and stewardship will help to propel us forward together with God in serving our community. I will also be spending a few days at a retreat center (this time without the camper…) in Indiana. During that trip I will be working on planning for renewing a Disciples Men group here at MCC, and simultaneously working on plans for revitalization of men’s ministry in the denomination. 

We also have a trip planned to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to cheer Kaia and her dance team on as they compete. And, I’ll have the opportunity to see her perform her solo in competition at a second competition in Springfield. Finally, and I think possibly most exciting, I will be working on a book about congregational leadership which stems from my doctoral research, and experience as a coach.  As you can see, it will be a busy four weeks, but rest assured I have planned several intentional spaces where I can read for fun, watch some movies I’ve wanted to see, and go for several walks in the woods.  

Please know that I’ll be holding you all in my thoughts and prayers. If you need anything, please call the church office and Linda will pass on the information to the appropriate people. I’ll see you in March! 

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