What is a sabbatical?

In the March Missions and Ministry meeting I shared with the church that the Personnel Committee has graciously granted me a sabbatical, which I am planning on taking this summer. I’d like to use this newsletter article to share a few details about the sabbatical starting with, what is a sabbatical?
What is a Sabbatical? During a sabbatical the pastor engages in purposeful times of reading, prayer, study, interaction with other ministers, professional development, recreation opportunities, and rest. Sabbaticals vary in length, and they are usually granted after a period of 5 to 10 years of service. A sabbatical every 7 years is common. Most sabbaticals are between two and three months.
As of May 1st, I have been at Bethel for 11 years and the Personnel Committee has granted me 10 weeks of sabbatical time which will begin May 26th.
What will I do during the Sabbatical? During my sabbatical I will be engaging in each of the activities mentioned above; reading, study, prayer, attending other churches, professional development, and rest. I’ve had a number of small health issues that I’ve been dealing with for the last three or four years and I’m concerned that stress could be a factor in some of my medical issues. To address the issue of stress, I am going to meet with a leadership coach from Shepherd’s Staff Ministry here in Richmond and he’s going to lead me through a study of “Pastoral Intelligence.” “Pastoral
Intelligence” is a program that equips ministers to better handle their own emotions and the emotions of the congregation. This study focuses on three areas of intelligence: theological, spiritual, and emotional. I hope this study will provide me with some additional tools to help me to be a better minister and deal with stress more redemptively. Who will cover my responsibilities while I’m on sabbatical?
In terms of pastoral care, our deacons do a wonderful job of ministering to our congregation, and they will be the first point of contact for pastoral care. Obviously, I love and care about our church family and would want to officiate any funerals that may occur while I’m away.
In terms of preaching, I’m putting together a summer preaching series called, “Rays of Hope.”
Each week we’ll have a different minister to bring the message. I’m asking each minister to share their favorite Bible verse, why it’s their favorite verse, the history and context behind the verse, how they’ve aplied that verse to their lives and how we might apply it to our lives. I’m really excited for this series. I believe our congregation will enjoy hearing from someone different each week and you’ll get to see some very practical applications of scripture. The first minister to start the series will be Dennis Green on May 26th. He’ll be preaching on his favorite passage, John 11:25-26. Dennis is going to preach on surrendering your life to the resurrection power of Jesus! Amen to that! In terms of Wednesday nights and coverage for Sacred Circle, I have two former seminary professors scheduled to do two, four-week series. Dr. Scott Spencer will do a four-week study on handling fear and anxiety and Dr. Biddle is still working on his topic for his four-week study. Both of these gentlemen are familiar with Bethel, and I’m delighted they’ve agreed to return for these two summer series. As far as worship planning is concerned, Stephanie Blanton and Bruce Moseley will collaborate each week to organize and craft our worship service. They are already both heavily involved in planning and organizing our services and do a wonderful job. Finally, let me say this, I have a deep love and affection for the people of Bethel and I’m eternally grateful for my call to ministry at Bethel. I want to say in the strongest of terms, I still believe I am called to be at Bethel, and I am grateful, blessed, and humbled to be your pastor.
I’m very excited about our vision process and the direction our church is going. I’m energized by the thought of continuing our ministry journey together. I love and enjoy what I do, and I sure hope and pray that you want me to continue as your pastor for a few more year . I’m 56 and I hope I can retire here at Bethel. My desire is to finish my ministry well. While I love what I do, it does not come without cost. I have likened the pastorate to being on a treadmill. Most of the time my job is at a “walking pace.” The pace is comfortable and very manageable. Sometimes things get hectic, and the job requires periods of intense “sprinting.” There are times when I can get away on vacation and it feels like a “slow crawl,” but I’m almost always available and there doesn’t seem to be a stop button on the treadmill. Because of my health issues, as minor as they are, I do feel the need to find that stop button and get off the treadmill for a short period of time. A sabbatical will hopefully allow me to stop, be renewed and reenergized. Sabbaticals ultimately benefit the church as well as the minister who can reengage with new vigor and purpose. I sincerely thank the Personnel Committee, our Deacons, Stephanie Blanton, and Bruce Moseley for all their help in covering my responsibilities while I’m away. I sincerely thank you, the beautiful people of Bethel, for your grace in allowing me this time. May God bless each of us as we journey forward in faith together.