Organizational guru Peter Drucker observed that the four most difficult jobs in America are, in no particular order:
- President of the United States
- University President
- Hospital CEO
I’m not sure if that is true, but I can agree that ministry is a unique calling. We are charged with caring for souls, our work and worship become indistinguishable, and we serve in a profession that is always ranked at the bottom of “most respected” lists, just above “car salesman.”
Last month, according to stats, 1,700 pastors left the ministry. 1,300 were terminated without cause. Ministry is tough work, and often unappreciated.
I believe that to stay in it for the long haul, minsters need periods of rest and Sabbath to hear from God, restore your soul, and remain fresh. This is not a new thought; I preach this stuff constantly to our team. I expect that taking care of our own lives comes before taking care of others. We can only lead and shepherd others as we have led and shepherded ourselves.
Our staff leaders are expected to minister from a deep spiritual base, yet the never-ending wear and tear of ministry makes it difficult or even impossible to maintain that base. Statistical evidence backs up our belief that regular sabbaticals are a primary way a church can honor God by helping its pastors avoid burnout, discouragement, and moral failure. Our congregation becomes the beneficiary when staff leaders invest long, productive seasons of ministry in one place.
My goal is that all full-time staff would take sabbatical time during their tenure at Pulpit Rock for the purpose of rest, restoration, and recharging for the next season. I would also like to explore how to do this with long-tenured, but part-time, staff as well.
This November through January, Jonathan Cleveland will take his first ever sabbatical.
Much more than a vacation.
While a sabbatical is a time of rest and should include family, it is an active rest, characterized by developing intentional strategies for dealing with those areas of life and ministry that are sapping a person of their strength and effectiveness. Upon their return, a person should have a renewed energy and passion for our ministry, and specific plans about how to begin a new season with healthier, more God-honoring patterns of engagement. We have a team working with us to plan out how Jonathan can best accomplish these purposes.
It is a risk.
Any time we get away and hear from God for a morning, a day, a mission trip, or even a sabbatical, we expose ourselves to the great dangerous risk that God would speak to us and lead us in new ways. But I don’t want to deny rest from our people out of the fear that God might speak to bring change. As Senior Pastor, I have a responsibility to lead my staff into health and longevity.
My experience has been that when people quit after sabbaticals, it is often because they haven’t taken regular ongoing Sabbath time for rest and reflection. The sabbatical becomes the first time they get extended time to hear from God and it’s the first time they’ve had their head above water for years or decades.
That is why healthy, ongoing rest is crucial. You can’t store up rest and hearing from God.
Written by Thomas Thomspon