On May 23, I will begin a 12-week sabbatical. The focus of my sabbatical time away will be renewal, and study.
Sabbaticals are a common practice in the world of higher education and in ministry. In fact, the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, highly recommends sabbaticals for its rostered leaders (pastors and deacons) every seven years.
Rev. Mark Devries has written that church leaders need “balcony time.” Balcony time is an opportunity to step out of the planning and implementing of programs, and to get a view from above. To take measure of what is going on and to do some longer-range planning. Devries writes that balcony time is an opportunity to work “on” your ministry, instead of “in” your ministry.
A sabbatical is an opportunity for balcony time. It is also an opportunity for rest. It is a chance to change the pace and tone of day-to-day life. And after the last couple years, where it feels like we have all been running full speed, all the time, this will be a welcome change.
I am going to begin my 12 weeks away from the daily work of ministry by spending a week up on the north shore of Lake Superior (one of my favorite places!). This will be an opportunity to take a breath and rest. I am also planning on 3 different 1 week trips to visit other large congregations and their pastors. I want to worship with them, and to have conversations with their leaders.
Large churches are unique, and function differently than other congregations. I want to discover what the future may hold for large churches, and how we can best prepare ourselves for ministry in a rapidly changing world.
I also want to read, and to write. I will spend time in scripture and prayer. I am looking forward to returning from sabbatical with new perspectives and new energy.
I’ll be back in the office on August 15. I am blessed to work with colleagues who will do a remarkable job leading in my absence. I trust them completely. And during the summer, just to spread out the preaching load a bit, we will have four different guest preachers at Trinity.
I am grateful to be a part of a congregation that takes the care and support of its staff and leadership seriously. I’m looking forward to this opportunity and to seeing what God teaches me over these weeks.
If you are interested, please keep tabs on my blog. I will be writing there of the things I am experiencing and learning.
God’s peace friends!
Note: This article was first published in the May issue of the Trinity Messenger.