Sabbatical Rest

Hello GRC!
Last year, at this time I explained about Pastor Peter’s upcoming sabbatical, and this year is Pastor Josh’s turn.
A brief history of the sabbatical policy here at GRC:
  • 2010 – The GRC Diaconate, with the assistance of the Session, formulated a new sabbatical policy for its pastors: a 10-week sabbatical, every 5 years of service.
  • 2015 – We adjusted the policy to include Associate and Assistant Pastors: 8 weeks and 6 weeks, respectively.
It was, and still is, a long-term investment in the spiritual and emotional health of GRC’s pastors.  The purpose of the sabbatical is proactive, not reactive. It enables pastors, who are committed to GRC for the long-haul, to replenish their minds, hearts, and souls.
This will be Pastor Josh’s first sabbatical. He begins on June 10th.  Along with his 6 weeks, he is adding personal vacation time and a week of intense, formal study.  He will return August 15th.  A sabbatical is not extra vacation time.  Yes, there will be catching up on family time, but most days he’ll be eagerly, and in a uniquely relaxed fashion, spending time in prayer, Scripture reading, and reading books to stir the soul, to stimulate the mind, and to recharge his mental/spiritual batteries.
As a seasoned deacon, I have an “insider’s perspective” on our pastors’ lives.  Both Pastors Peter and Josh, along with their families, have embraced their callings and appreciate the nature of this privilege.   However, with this privilege also comes extraordinary responsibilities:
Pastors can’t ever just get away for the weekend.  Every weekend is strictly planned around the church calendar, ministry obligations, and vacation weeks. Usually vacation involves only one Sunday away. We recognize the toll this can have on family life.
On a weekly basis, pastors are involved in or brought in on difficult counseling situations.  Do you know how many marriages are on the rocks?  How many people are mired in depression?  How many interpersonal conflicts require mediation before they get ugly and spill over?  Too many to count. Please hear me…Pastor Josh really loves his job and never complains!  One of the roles of the diaconate is to care for its pastors, but working 6 days a week, and 4-5 evenings a week, with heavy stuff to address will drain anyone.
Pastors feel the burden of your growth in Christ, of the church’s overall health, and of leadership dynamics.  They KNOW they’re not a savior.  They KNOW they’re just an instrument in God’s hands.  But they take that leadership responsibility very seriously.
The next sermon is always there.  That’s why weekday holidays aren’t rest for pastors.  The same work still has to get done.  Sermons are finalized on Saturday nights.  That’s why Sunday afternoon is the pastors’ non-negotiable haven from the demands of the church, unless it’s a true emergency.
Pastor’s wives also benefit greatly from sabbatical.  They are juggling home, marriage, children, and their involvement in church ministries.  Pastors are on call 24/7 and the majority of everything else falls on Cedar and Betsy.  The sabbatical helps to maintain a healthy husband-wife relationship.  I would encourage the congregation to always be mindful of our pastors’ wives and the demands placed on them.
I think it’s very important that we as a congregation realize we have a role in caring for our pastors.  Let’s make sure we all understand the burdens they and their families carry. Let us be the congregation that recognizes the all-encompassing world of pastoral ministry and be proactive in our aiding them in maintaining healthy, spiritual, family, and church dynamics.
Feel free to reach out to me directly, Mike Mitchell if you have further questions/concerns about sabbatical.
Grace to you,
Mike Mitchell and his wife, Lynn, both serve in the Diaconate.  They have been members of GRC since 2006.