There is a lot of mystery about what a sabbatical is and what it isn’t, and with good reason. Over the years, “sabbatical” has been used to describe a number of things. Sabbaticals range in duration and purpose almost as uniquely as the people who are taking them.
Maybe that is the good thing about a sabbatical. Maybe it is a good thing to be able to tailor the sabbatical to the person who is taking it and what they need. So I wanted to give everyone who is interested a full explanation of my sabbatical, its purpose, duration, and hopes.
Most importantly, this is not an extended vacation. A sabbatical is not for the purpose of a large amount of time off. My sabbatical is almost fully structured. And while there is plenty of flexibility, it is designed to focus around some objectives that will benefit me personally, and hopefully will benefit Real Life for years to come.
In January, 2015, our elders started the process of proactively sending our staff on sabbaticals for the purpose of refreshing and refocusing. We sent my dad in May and Michael Reyes in July. They have been a part of this church since before the beginning. They moved their families here and have sacrificed a lot to be a part of all that God has been up to on the Palouse.
At that time, we set Thanksgiving to New Years as the timeframe I would be looking at taking a sabbatical. What we didn’t know at the time was how strategically significant this time would be for me to take a sabbatical. With all that has gone on in the last eight years, and especially the last year, it is time for some extended prayer and focus for what is going to happen next.
As the dust has settled from the last year, we found ourselves in a position I have never been in before. All of us on staff have put our heads down and plowed through the last eight months. Now that things are firmly headed in the right direction, I have lifted my head to see what is next. And as our amazing staff, who has followed me into the flames for a long time, looked at me for the next hill to climb, I was hit with a hard realization — I don’t know. For the first time in my life, I don’t know exactly what the next hill to take is. We got so wrapped up in the tyranny of the urgent for so long that I have not had time to pray through God’s dreams for the Palouse and beyond.
I need some focused time for prayer and study, and to disconnect from the grind of ministry to get back in tune with the bigger picture of vision and direction for our church. And because of that, this time is perfect for me.
So I will be taking a sabbatical from November 23 until January 11. During this sabbatical, I have a lot of reading to do. I will do some extended writing. I will also be seeing a counselor for myself. I want to be as healthy as I can be. I believe the best gift I can give the church outside of Jesus is a healthy me, and I am committed to making that happen.
During this time, my wife and I will be visiting other churches in order to see other ways people are doing certain things. We rarely have the opportunity to do this, and I believe this will benefit our church on multiple levels. From how we greet people to our service structure to our message delivery, it will be tremendously beneficial for all of us. We are excited to be able to attend a worship service as a family. This is a treat we are rarely afforded.
My wife and I will also be taking our oldest daughter to college. She is headed to Charleston Southern University to pursue a degree in counseling. We are so proud of her for this decision, and while this will be hard, we are excited she is taking this important step into adulthood. She will be connected to a great community there called Awaken Church. They are focused on the same philosophy of relational discipleship that we are.
Obviously, we are going to have the holidays within this timeframe. We plan on seeing family and friends during this timeframe, as well. And we will participate in a memorial service for Kelli’s grandmother who passed away recently.
I love our elders, and I love that they care enough about the health of our staff to make provision for times like this to happen. We want to be sure our staff stays healthy for a long time. I have seen too many pastors who become unhealthy because of the demands of ministry and how little anyone ever actually checks in on them.
While I am away, the church will be in very capable hands. Our sermon series will be Emmanuel, walking through the Advent calendar. The outlines are done and speakers are already selected. This will be a great series and I am excited to hear all that God is going to do in many of our hearts through this time of reflection on the meaning of the season of Christmas.
If you have any concerns about things that are happening, Josh Gray, our Executive Coach, will be available to visit with you. I will be away from all forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I will check email only sporadically. I truly need to disconnect from cyber-life for a time, so I would ask you for the ability to do that. Obviously, if there is an emergency, I will be there. But any other issues can be referred to Josh or Lori Brock. They will be happy to help you with anything you need.
During this time, please pray for me. I love the journey of growth God has me on. And I value your prayerful support and God’s direction as we move forward together in reaching the world for Jesus, one person at a time.
I love you guys.