Some Thoughts on Sabbatical Re-Entry
This week I step back into the pulpit after a two-month sabbatical. I’ve been back in the office for two weeks now, but this will be my first Sunday back in the pulpit.
What does one preach on after a two-month sabbatical? The answer: rest. In fact, we’re going to spend four weeks on this topic.
Now I know how that can sound coming from the guy just stepping back into things after a 2-month sabbatical, right? Some of you reading this might be thinking, “Yeah buddy - must be real nice - I’d probably love talking about rest too if I just had two months off."
I get that. I totally get that. But even if that’s what you’re thinking in your head right now, it doesn’t make this any less true:
Some of you need a break and you don’t even know why.
Rest: A Cultural Problem
I probably don’t have to work real hard to prove this too you (all the stats are out there), but our American culture doesn’t have real good categories for rest.
One exception I actually learned of recently: Hudl, local company in my city, offers it’s employees essentially a paid, 2-week sabbatical to anywhere in the world after 5 years of service. They even call it a “sabbatical."
Some of you are now thinking, “That’s it, I’m quitting my job and going to try to go work for Hudl!" But our response to this “anomaly” only further proves that our culture is really jacked on this idea of rest - we don’t have good categories.
How People Respond to Sabbaticals
Before going further, let me just say that the people of 2 Pillars Church have been overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging with regards to our sabbatical. It is truly a pleasure to be a part of a church that values pastoral sabbaticals. We are blessed.
With that said, coming back from sabbatical myself, I’ve encountered a few people (from outside of our church community) who, maybe not in so many words (and in a couple other cases, in many more words) conveyed that attitude of “must be nice."
But do you want to know how the overwhelming majority of people have responded? They’ve said, “We didn’t think you would come back.” I’ve had—no exaggeration—over 15 people say something like that. Three quick examples:
One person in our neighborhood, before we left, came over in tears… afraid that we would come back after our sabbatical and move away.
Another person told me after we got back that they had a dream that we didn’t come back!
Lastly, another person we’re close to in our larger neighborhood remarked when seeing us for the first time again, “boy we’re so glad you came back..."
Why These Responses?
But why do so many people respond this way? A simple answer: many pastors go on sabbatical and never return to their pre-sabbatical ministry role. Many of the people I’ve encountered have made comments along the lines of “glad you came back” because, they’ve known pastors who have gone on a sabbatical and didn’t.
Even with all of that said, this is really important to understand:
Pastoral sabbaticals (whether the pastor is paid or unpaid) are a regular, normal, and healthy thing for healthy churches.
And even when a pastor comes back from a sabbatical and quits… that’s still healthy because the sabbatical revealed the fact that that pastor wasn’t healthy. Something was off. Whether it was his health, his pace, his marriage, his walk with God, or his calling—something was off. And the healthiest thing for that pastor could be, to step back (and possibly down) in order to address that lack of health.
I’m truly excited to be back and engaged in our church family and I’m truly excited to begin preaching four weeks on rest. By God's grace, the one word I have to describe our sabbatical is "restful."
I truly want to genuinely say thank you to the other two pastors at 2 Pillars Church, Pastor Adam and Pastor Cheech who championed, encouraged, and supported my sabbatical (and covered a lot of extra ministry “things” while I was away) and I also want to thank the body of 2 Pillars Church as well for their prayers, support, and encouragement.
Pastoral sabbaticals are a regular, normal, and healthy thing for healthy churches… and it’s been really, really good.
Or to say that a snarkier way, it has been nice!
I’m glad to be back - and I’m not going anywhere.