Another Game of 20 Questions!
Ok, time for another game of 20 questions (but, don’t worry, there aren’t even close to 20 questions)!
What’s the topic this time? My sabbatical!
In nine weeks, I’ll be stepping away from ministry for a three month break. I’ll be doing some traveling, getting some family time, and doing a lot of heart work. I’m really looking forward to it.
I understand that for many people the idea of a sabbatical is a strange and foreign idea. Some people hear that I am stepping away from the church for three months and wonder if I’m in trouble or if I’m thinking about leaving Trailhead. Others assume the term “sabbatical” is just religious-speak for an extended vacation to make it sound more spiritual or something.
So, without getting too much in the weeds, I’d like to answer some common questions and clarify what is (and what is not) happening as I move toward taking this break.
What is a Sabbatical and what is its purpose?
Sabbaticals are common in two professions – education and ministry. In education, professors can take a sabbatical year away from the classroom to work on research, writing, and travel. Often the purpose in those settings is to free up the educator from the daily burden of teaching to further their scholarship so that they become an even more valuable educator.
For those in ministry, it’s similar – and while some pastors will take a sabbaticals from active ministry to write, most sabbaticals are not focused on producing – they are focused on resting. The practice is modeled in the Old Testament when the Israelites were commanded to let a field lie fallow for a year after producing crops for seven years. The year of rest allowed the field to be replenished with nutrients so that it would be even more fruitful in the future.
The purpose of my sabbatical this summer is to take an extended time away from the regular rhythms and demands of ministry in order to get some rest and renew my energy and drive in the gospel.
What will you be doing on your sabbatical?
I’ll be doing a number of things on my sabbatical. I’ll be doing some traveling – taking a family vacation, getting some time away with Lauren, traveling out to California to spend time with my brother and parents. This will be fun because I do love the adventure of traveling, but these aren’t just escapes. They are intentional trips for reconnecting with the people I love and seeking to be fully present in these life-giving relationships.
I’ll also be spending time resetting my personal rhythms of worship and spiritual formation. I’ll be spending time in the word and prayer – not to write a sermon or to intercede for the church or to solve problems, but to renew my joy of being loved by God. Being productive is a wonderful thing, but the goal of the sabbatical is to get me out of “producer” mode and remind me again what is to just be a son to our Heavenly Father.
There are three critical stages for a successful sabbatical: decompression, renewal, and reentry. The first phase is Decompression and it’s exactly what it sounds like – taking two or three weeks to let the stuff that is wound up tight in my heart relax. All of my mentors tell me the same thing: it’s essential to get some distance from Trailhead during this time (or that spring won’t unwind). So, I will not be at our gathering – not because I don’t love Trailhead, but because walking into the building and being in this space triggers certain heart responses that are geared toward production for God and for others instead of resting and responding to God. I’ll be worshipping, but in spaces where I can simply “be” without feeling any responsibility to “do.”
The second phase is Renewal and it’s the heart of the sabbatical. The goal of this stage is a renewal of connection with God as his son. There’s no way to rush this part or to force it. I spend time reading good literature, playing outdoors, reading my Bible, journaling, and seeking to engage those things that awaken my wonder and gratitude.
The final stage of Reentry describes the final couple of weeks of the Sabbatical, in which I’ll start reading and responding to some emails, meeting with leaders, and worshipping again at Trailhead to start transitioning back into a ministry mindset.
Who will be leading the church while you are out on sabbatical?
Well, Jesus, of course! Duh!
And, of course, the incredible leaders he has raised up to lead along with me. We have a phenomenal team of elders and a devoted staff. I have absolutely no reservations about stepping away for three months and leaving all the leading to them. Any pastoral needs or organizational challenges will be well-met by this dedicated team of leaders.
Will this derail Trailhead’s reorganization and hiring plans?
No. We are working diligently now to make sure our plan is in place before I step out in May. As I’ve discussed in previous newsletters, with Brian stepping out to plant a church and Dan shifting his attention to leading Compass Counseling, we are looking at the biggest staff reorganization we’ve had. We are doing our best to lay the groundwork necessary for these transitions before I leave.
When exactly is your Sabbatical?
My sabbatical will start on Sunday, May 23 and will end on Saturday, August 14.
What if I have other questions or concerns?
No problem! Just ask!
So, a basic good rule of life: when you have questions or concerns, start a conversation with someone who actually has the knowledge and authority to answer your question or speak to your concern! You won’t offend us and we won’t bite, so feel free to contact me or any of the elders with any questions or concerns you may have (well, about anything in the church – not just my sabbatical!).