Deacon Lisa's Sabbatical
Between June 1st and mid-August, Deacon Lisa is taking a ten week sabbatical. Below you will find two letters: one from Bishop Clark on the purpose of a sabbatical, and a second from Deacon Lisa on her plans for this time.
"Dear Fellow Leaders at HopePointe:
On this first week of May, I write regarding an important opportunity which Deacon Lisa will be taking in June, July and the first two weeks of August. She will be taking a much-deserved sabbatical. The word “sabbatical” has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It has one meaning in the academic community, another meaning in its biblical usage, and still another in many secular settings. In Deacon Lisa’s case, she is being faithful to answer a call from me, as her bishop, as I encourage all the clergy under my care to live out a rhythm of life which the scripture describes to include at least every 7 years seeking refreshment and renewal in her relationship with God in order to continue to be an effective pastoral minister in the Kingdom.
I define sabbatical in simple terms. It means time away from regular, daily ministry for rest, refreshment, sometimes with study. The time can be a few weeks or a few months. The pastoral minister is given paid leave for rejuvenation and, perhaps, deeper study. As the Bishop of the Diocese, I would love to see churches of all sizes provide their full time pastoral ministers sabbaticals, even if it’s only for some extra time added to their vacation.
In my oversight and leadership over the various congregations of our Diocese, I have the opportunity to work with many lay leaders and clergy. Therefore I have a pretty good view of both perspectives. And I am convinced that more church leaders need to insist their clergy and pastoral ministers take regular breaks, even beyond vacations. Allow me to share with you some reasons that I have for this rationale*.
1. A pastoral minister has constant emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. In the course of a day, a pastor can deal with death, deep spiritual issues, great encouragement, petty criticisms, tragedies, illnesses, and celebrations of birth. The emotional roller coaster is draining. A full time pastor needs a break—many times a break with no distractions.
2. A pastoral minister is on 24-hour call. Most pastoral ministers don’t have an “off” switch. They go to sleep with the knowledge they could be awakened by a phone call at anytime of the day. Vacations are rarely uninterrupted. It can be an exhausting vocation, and a sabbatical can be a welcome time to slow down.
3. Teaching Pastors need time periodically for uninterrupted study. It doesn’t usually happen in the study at church or home. There is always the crisis or need of the moment. Church members expect sermons that reflect much prayer and study. The teaching pastor’s schedule often works against that ideal. The sabbatical can offer much needed, and uninterrupted, study time.
4. Pastoral ministers who have sabbaticals view the time away as an affirmation from their churches. I have heard from many pastors who share with me a sentence similar to this one: “I know my church loves me because they give me a sabbatical.” All pastors need affirmation. Sabbaticals can be one way to accomplish that goal.
Deacon Lisa shares below her own view and her hopes for the upcoming sabbatical. Please encourage her in the weeks ahead by asking her to share in person what she hopes God will do with this time for her."
"As my sabbatical draws closer, I give thanks to our Lord for the upcoming time of reflection, restoration, and space to focus on some specific areas of ministry I have desired to focus on, but simply have not had the time. I am also thankful for a Senior Pastor and Bishop who understands the importance of sabbaticals and shepherds his clergy accordingly. I have been asked many questions regarding my sabbatical. Here are some of the most common, along with my answers:
1. Will you be away or in town for your sabbatical? The answer is “both.” Sabbatical affords me some freedom to spend some extended time with my aging parents in Tennessee. I will also be serving at one of the Love Fosters Hope camps this summer, and attending the ACNA Assembly in Chicago. These three trips won’t really be restful, but they each have important purposes I believe the Lord is calling me to. Scott and I will be spending some time with some dear friends in North Carolina, and then I will be joining him on a work trip to the UK (something I don’t usually get to do, given my schedule), and then we will stay an extra week for some personal time. In between these trips, I will be home, a place that is very restoring for me.
2. What will your particular ministry focus be during sabbatical? There are two areas of ministry I am excited to have some focused time for. My first area is discipleship. I will be spending some time improving and adjusting our CORE discipleship curriculum. Having interacted with the curriculum several times now over the past few years, there is some amending and updating to do. I will also be visiting churches who live out an intentional discipleship culture through house churches/pastorates, learning what is and is not working for them. My other focus will be God’s design and role for women in the Church, specifically ministry leadership. I have much reading to do, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have some extended time for study.
3. Will you be worshipping at HopePointe? No. I will be worshipping with other church families during this time. I really need prayers for this “part” of the sabbatical. I am going to miss being with my own church family on Sunday mornings. But I know, even in the midst of aching, there will be blessing in gathering with brothers and sisters from other communities, worshipping with them and observing how the Lord has formed and fashioned their own expressions of worship. One thing I am particularly excited about is the opportunity to worship with our daughter and son-in-law. Bill and Sarah are part of a team who have planted a church in Houston, and they have wanted us to come and experience what God is doing through their community. So, the first Sunday of my sabbatical, we will be worshipping with them! I am also planning to visit and worship with other churches in our diocese, and while traveling, churches I would love to learn from.
The above questions are the ones I have been most commonly asked. If there are any other questions, please ask me. I also covet your prayers as I continue to prepare for my sabbatical. Also, please pray especially for Bishop Clark and Father Bryan. As you can imagine, if one teammate is away, there are additional responsibilities for the others. I am very aware that one of the ways I get to experience sabbatical is through their generous service. So, if the Lord calls you to do so, consider ways you might come alongside them this summer in serving and assisting them. And know that I am so grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to what our Lord will do this summer in and through us all, and I can’t wait to share the stories!!"