Sabbatical: Can A Church Planter Take A Break?

I am taking a two month sabbatical this summer from my church plant.  Honestly I’m a little surprised that I’m actually going to do it and I’m not certain how I’m going to handle being away.  I remember during my training and preparation to plant, I heard from several seasoned church planters who all stated the same thing, “your church will survive without you”, “you need to take a break” and “it’s important to take care of yourself.”

I’m pretty good at self-care.  I’ve always honored my weekly Sabbath, I have found ways to budget my time in order to be with my family, I coach my son’s sports teams, etc.  But something happened late last year – I realized that I am really, really tired.  I am not burned out yet.  I’m continuing to find fulfillment in ministry and I’m still passionate about what I am doing, but I can see on the horizon that if I don’t find a way to take a break I might be heading toward burn out.

I have served in ordained ministry now for 10 years and though I have found a pretty good balance in life and ministry I’ve never taken all of my allotted vacation in a year.  The mother church of my plant, where I previously served as an associate pastor instituted a sabbatical policy that gave clergy the opportunity for a three month sabbatical after four consecutive years of ministry.  I was really excited about the opportunity for rest.  However, when my turn for sabbatical arrived we launched our plant and that’s not a good time to be away that long.  Four and half years later, our church has continued to grow and have an incredible impact in making disciples and affecting our community; we are in the process of trying to build a building and continue to reach new areas…and I’m tired.

As I look at 2016 already and think about moving into a building, adding worship services, connecting people and serving a larger area, I want to go into that refreshed and excited, not limping along trying to muster the strength for one more thing.  So in January I asked my Administrative Board for a two month sabbatical so that I could rest.  They granted me up to three months if I wanted it.  My plan is to spend the time doing three things:

  1. Reflect – I want to reflect on the last 10 years of ministry and specifically on the last four and half of church planting.  I want to ask God to help me understand what I’ve learned, how I’m different, what I need to stop doing and what I need to start doing.
  2. Connect – While my wife and I have a very strong marriage and a wonderful family, we need some time for just the two of us to connect and process this church planting experience together.
  3. Rest – I’m not sure I know what this means, but I’m going to try and find ways to enjoy completely unscheduled time.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@revknight” url=”http://bit.ly/1Fkr4uR”]In ministry, specifically in church planting, your vacation time isn’t a benefit; it’s a necessity.[/tweetthis]

I don’t know if sabbatical is in your future any time soon, but I know this – you do need time to rest.  In ministry, and in church planting specifically, your vacation time isn’t a benefit; it’s a necessity. Use it.  Honor your Sabbath time; give yourself a break.  If your church crumbles while you are gone then something is not right anyway.  When I return in August I’ll write a post about what I gained from the sabbatical experience.  In the meantime, I would covet your prayers while I try to get some rest.