Sabbatical reflections: the team I left behind
A pastor can’t seize sabbatical. He can only enter it with confidence in a team of leaders who will support and enable his extended absence. I’m thankful afresh for my church’s leaders. They weren’t skeptical about my embrace of sabbatical but encouraged, enabled and joyfully blessed me forward.
I’m three weeks into my sabbatical. I have reflected on what made this time away from ministry possible. I should say who. When a pastor steps away for a season, there’s a lot that needs to be done – some regular, some unplanned.
I took a long walk the other day, with no destination in mind. I laid down on a random bench beside the trail and read a bit in a book I’d brought along. I have loved doing things I don’t normally do – without a schedule or something I need to prepare for.
On the walk back, I was hit with a wave of profound gratitude for the staff team at my church. They are amazing people, servant leaders and Jesus followers. We laugh together, play corn hole together, scare one another “good morning” (ok, I do more of that than anyone), pray together, plan, counsel, evaluate and sincerely seek to lead our church family to grow daily in their affection for Jesus.
I would never feel comfortable on sabbatical without the confidence I have in these leaders. Our staff are incredible, humble leaders. They are not coworkers but family and friends. Our interns – a group of four college students or recent college grads – are also, simply… wonderful. Not only does our team make going to “work” enjoyable, they are refreshing to lead and serve our church family alongside.
They reflect Jesus to me and to our church. They are wise and gracious. We are learners together. We have tough talks on a foundation of respect and genuine love for one another. We seek one another’s good.
In addition to our staff, we have a team of elders at our church that have been humble, consistent and earnestly devoted to ensuring that our church is spiritually healthy and anchored in our love for Jesus. They have met more together in the last eight months than they normally do, and their prayers, discernment and careful discussions have blessed me and our church family.
Then there’s a team of very special people who are weekly leading our small groups. When COVID-19 happened, these leaders adjusted quickly and graciously and began leading their groups on Zoom. It was awkward and yet seamless, frustrating and yet joyful. Their commitment to lead would have expired at the beginning of May (our groups break for the summer). And yet, the vast majority – along with some new leaders! – agreed to embrace an extended season of leadership to help provide community and connection during this time of quarantine and isolation. They have been a blessing to our church!
So while I’m on walks, reading, doing home projects and a bit of travel, I do so with progressively greater gratitude. I’ve had a hard enough time releasing responsibility and stilling my busy brain and dealing with a very burdened heart (more on that later). It is these precious friends, servants and Jesus-reflectors who are leaders in my church who enable me to take this extended break. They continue serving, praying, planning, worshiping, leading groups, teaching, and discipling this summer.
I am grateful.