[This is Part 2 of 2 – read last week’s Part 1 article].
So what does a pastor do on sabbatical, which can be infrequent for most pastors and non-existent for many? One pastor I know left NYC on the first day of his sabbatical, went to Scotland where his family rented a place and didn’t return until the week his sabbatical ended. Others make the sabbatical an extended vacation time. If a pastor receives a grant, lots of travel and unique experiences are possible.
My upcoming sabbatical is a 10-week benefit provided to the Senior Pastor. I’ll add a couple of weeks of personal vacation and a single week of study leave to keep most of my remaining “away” time in a single stretch. I’ll step away from the day-to-day responsibilities of pastoral leadership, starting on May 19 and ending on August 18. You’ll occasionally see me in worship with the family but I’ll also take advantage of the unique opportunity (for pastors) to visit some other churches, including some pastored by my friends.
Much of the rest or ceasing, from the Hebrew word Shabbat, comes from the lack of deadlines, especially next week’s sermon. Evenings free of meetings, phone calls, visits. Saturdays to spend with my family, Saturday nights to watch a movie or play a game, or just linger after a meal. We won’t become hermits: we love to extend hospitality and invite people over regularly.
During the week, I’ll do lots of reading. But as a seasoned ministry friend once urged me, I’ll carefully avoid being ruled by a sense of productivity or accomplishment. I may put down my book and go for a bike ride with one of my kids. Or meet a friend out for lunch. I’ll aim for some structure and discipline, not because it’s my job or because it’s professional, but because discipline is a part of spiritual growth in any season. So Bible reading, study, and meditation will be rich, daily practices. I look forward to mental and emotional “space” to linger in prayer.
Cedar and the kids will receive the priority of my attention. I won’t have to say “No” because there’s a Session meeting that night. Or an emergency that came up. Or a sermon that’s leaking into my day off. My reading, my podcasts, my articles, and conference videos can wait. We’ll spend time in Vermont to catch up with Cedar’s family.
Lord willing, my reading, which will be plentiful, will stir my soul and stimulate my mind. It’s something I really relish about sabbatical! I’ll have the “non-urgency” to reflect deeply on what I’m reading, to let it sink in and change my heart, or open up my mind to new aspects of God’s truth. Any and all reading will sharpen my preaching and my pastoral leadership. And yes, I’ll enjoy a few novels along the way!
I won’t be checking email – at all. This presents a good opportunity to exhort you to consider if there is someone within the GRC family who might be able to help you out, who’s not an elder, pastor, or other formal leaders? Even when I’m around, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask me, because I’m standing there in the Fellowship Hall after the service, a question about the children’s ministry, the paint color, or why in the world we’d give wheat pasta to our Father’s Cupboard families (I’m joking about that one, sort of :>). I won’t be there. Usually – trust me – usually, there’s someone better to ask anyway! And if you see a gap in ministry, or in managing the facility, or in volunteer duties, perhaps you might consider simply stepping in to meet the need!
Would you pray for me throughout the summer?:
- For a rich, deep, repentant, worshipful time in the Bible
- For depth of prayer
- For physical, emotional, and spiritual refreshment
- For the depth of our family interactions. We’ve moved past playing Candyland. I long for the depth of conversation with my kids, who ages span 14 to 21 years old. Cedar and I will enjoy continuing to delight in the rich love that the Lord has given to us.
Last thought: a few GRC families recently shared with me that they’re ready to return to in-person worship. I’m hopeful many more of you will decide the same in the next few weeks, so we can see each other’s (mask-covered) faces!
Grace be with you,
Peter Wang is the Senior Pastor.