Several of you have asked me what I will be doing on my first Sabbatical after 18 years of pastoral ministry. I know some are asking as you look ahead to your own sabbatical, while others are just curious how I intend to grow and mature threw it. Let me first start with what I am not doing, then moved to the things that will be my focus for the next 2 months.
What I am NOT doing:
My pastors out of love for me have relieved me from all pastoral duties at church, banned me from church (in a nice way), and forbidden me to preach anywhere or write a book for the next 2 months. Sounds like they know how to make me rest. This is also to try and remove the many deadlines that often define my life on a weekly basis and I am trusting that alone with bring about some needed rest. My family and I intend to gather with God’s people in some different churches around the area where we know we will hear the Word faithfully preached and enjoy fellowship with God’s people. Now on to what I will be doing with hopes to grow and refresh my soul…
What I am doing:
1) Delight in my wife. Plenty of date nights. Caring for her. Studying her. Learning from her. Laugh with her. Reflect on the last decade of ministry with her. I have realized she needs this time as much as I do. I intend to make it a benefit to her soul, by God’s grace.
2) Enjoy my kids. Never have I had such an extended time where I can focus on time with my kids. I need to make sure they are not only a primary focus, but that my heart is taking in this time with them and truly enjoying them, freed from much distraction. This is to avoid many pastors greatest regret. The pool, parks, some time out of town, reading, wrestling, laughing, riding bikes, and whatever else they want to do. What a fun age they are in and I see it going fast.
3) Be intentional with spiritual disciplines. I intend to have times of reading God’s Word that are long and cover and large portion of a text. I spent most of my time “starring at the trees” and for this break I will allow “the forest” to feed my soul and take much of it in. I also plan to have intentional times of prayer for the sake of my own soul and seek guidance on a vision for our church for the next 10 years as so much as been focused on these first 10 years.
4) Be consistent with physical disciplines. I hope to sleep 8 hours a night, do my normal workouts of 4-5 days a week, and stay disciplined with eating so to lose this last 10 pounds hanging around that doesn’t need to be there.
5) Be mentored by a faithful dead pastor. Dead pastors from different moments in history can teach us about pastoral ministry in ways modern pastors cannot. This is why I have chosen the great 18th century English Particular Baptist Andrew Fuller (1754 – 1815) to mentor me during this time. I am very excited about this! I’m sure there will be some Fuller wisdom show up on the blog in the near future.
6) Be taught about preaching from a faithful living pastor. I have chosen Ted Donnelly, who pastored in Northern Ireland for over 35 years until his health recently made him unable to preach and pastor anymore. He is still living and is known in the UK as one of the most gifted, spirit-filled preachers in the last half century. I plan to listen to many of his sermons and learn, as well as allow God’s Word to feed my soul in the process.
7) Keep up with Practical Shepherding stuff. I still intend to keep up with some of my PS tasks such as blogging, some pastoral mentoring, a few conference exhibits, and general oversight as we continue to move in this exciting transition to expand.
8) Visit my pastoral mentor’s grave. My pastoral mentor, Jackson Boyett was being buried with his wife, Barbara, 18 months ago while I was burying a young deacon in our church. I was unable to go and participate in the remembrances of the Boyetts after their fatal car crash. I plan to make a short trip to Austin, TX and see his successor who is a dear friend of mine and was sent from our church; then visit the grave, and continue the grieving process for my own soul.
9) Play golf. Relaxing, yet humbling for most of us. Layers of reasons this is good for my soul.
10) Rest. I typically don’t rest well, but if I come to the end and my wife and I do not feel refreshed and rested, we have defeated the purpose of this gift from our church. Whatever will help me rest from the rat race of my regular labors and refresh my soul is what I will do.
Allow this list to work as a template to know how to pray for me if you so choose while I am on sabbatical. For those looking forward to an upcoming sabbatical, I hope this begins a helpful conversation between you and your fellow pastors on what would be the best way for you to benefit from a similar gift my church has been kind enough to give us.