Sabbatical: Week 1

Every 7 years of pastoral ministry, our church gives its pastors a 12 week sabbatical.  This used to be common place for pastors, but due to changing culture, shorter pastoral tenures, and lack of resources, the sabbatical is becoming more and more rare.  Because of this reality, I do not take this sabbatical for granted.  In fact, I have spent much of my first week wrestling with my survivor's guilt about it.  

But more than my survivor’s guilt, what I really feel is an overwhelming sense of love and care from the the church I love and care so much about.  

As I spend these next few months on “break” from my day job as a pastor of a local church, I am jumping head long into some much needed soul care, professional development, family fun, and ministry reboot. Here are my goals:

Soul Care:  With out a soft heart towards Jesus and the church, it is impossible to do good ministry.  And even more than doing good ministry, it is impossible to live the full and abundant life that Jesus offers us.  My current pace of life has left my a little ragged spiritually, and I am taking this opportunity of a slow down to spend some much needed time with Jesus.  Reading, journaling, hiking, writing, and just old fashioned quiet and reflection is what is in store.  

And so far in week 1 I have noticed that my spiritual chops are a little atrophied.  I feel like a warrior who has been on the front for a little too long and a good meal and warm shower are a distant memory.  This week, as I have journaled and read through the gospel of Luke, I am reflecting that I am in need of a spiritual warm meal and shower.  So, for this week, I am going to do just that.  Not try and be productive in my walk with Jesus, but simply to rest.  Soak up God’s goodness, share life, express my heart, and pray for my family, friends, and church.  We will see what a week of rest does in my move towards restoration.  

Professional Development:  After 20 years of student ministry, I am hanging up my hat.  20 years of living daily with students has been my life’s calling and it is still my heart.  I love young people and know that the future of the church is in their hands.  They are real, honest, and more and more lost.  I long to leverage all that I have for this next generation.  But in this next season my role in that is different.  I have hired some incredible staff and now I get the pleasure of loving them, supporting them, and clearing obstacles and raising funds so they can care for students and love them right into the family of God.  

Over the past couple of years my job has transitioned and I play a much more executive roll in our church.  And while I love this new role with all my heart, my old work rhythms don’t work and there are plenty of new skills I must learn.  This week I am heading to MN to meet with some pastor friends to do just that.  I am going to learn from some of the best how to develop strong staff culture, manage a larger team, and communicate scripture in a dynamic and compelling way.  I can’t wait to be challenged and encouraged with a week of professional development!

Family Fun:  I love being a pastor!  It is my life’s calling.  And if I am honest I haven’t quite figured out how to separate life and ministry.  For me they are all jumbled up into one and the same.  Every book and mentor shakes their head at me, and I totally get it.  I shake my head at myself.  I do need to figure out this balance.  And for the next 12 weeks the “work” part of my call is put on hold.  And this leaves some intentional time with my family.

Week 1 was just that!  Every night I got to have dinner with my wife and kids.  A week of that was pretty strange.  But we had great morning devotions, and even better dinner conversations.  I was able to “sit heavy” and enjoy hearing all about their lives at school.  I capped off the week taking my kids backpacking in Desolation Wilderness.  What a treat!  We hiked 20 miles and climbed over 4,000 feet of elevation.  I couldn’t be more proud of my kids.  That epic adventure was week 1.  I have some special day trips and overnights planned with each kid and my wife and a road-trip all together to wrap it up.  I love my family so much and look forward to a season of being present, being fun, and experiencing the joy of being a husband and dad.  

Ministry Reboot:  I have eluded to this already.  Even though, technically, I have been a lead pastor for almost three years, It hasn’t been until this last year that I have experienced a true change in calling.  After two decades of being the one doing hands on student ministry, I have finally transitioned fully to my new role.  This new role has me managing staff, preaching more, and overseeing a couple of specific ministries.  

I love my job and my new role!  But I have brought with me a lot of bad habits in my boundaries, some unforeseen baggage from my time in student ministry, and warped understanding of who I am.  I am going to enjoy spending these few months wrestling with God, processing this with my wife and friends, and get after the work that needs to be done so that I can be the pastor my church deserves and do the work that Jesus longs to do in and through me.

A Weekly Reflection: For my own records, my mom, and whomever else reads my blog, I will be posting a reflection once a week as to the progress on one or all of these fronts.  I hope that over time, I will be able to look back and see the movement and healing of the Holy Spirit as I do the intentional work of abiding closer to the vine!  If you think of it, please pray for me, my family and my church while I am on this journey.  

I may post additional thoughts along the way, Mondays will be devoted to reflection and preparation.  Now off to the land of 10,000 locks!  I hope I can catch some sweet flow while I am in Minnesota.