It is weird to be on the other side of the sabbatical. Loads of planning and coordination to pull the venture off, the actual sabbatical, and now back to grind and figuring out what a new normal will be. Here are some random thoughts, and again another push why pastors should take a sabbatical.
You’re more tired than you think
In interviewing people who went on a sabbatical, this was a common phrase stated. So, I wasn’t too surprised when I realized I was more tired and fried than I thought I was. We need rest, and sometimes we need TONS of rest. Be tired is often a good sign that we hopefully worked hard.
You’re more broken than you hoped
Sabbatical is that wonderful time in the mirror when all your brokenness jumps out at out. This can happen in many forms. But the cessation of activity allows you to evaluate deeply where you’re struggling and need to change. Often this isn’t because of some volitional sin. We wear out and can slowly get off track.
You’re better than you realized
This may sound like a contradiction, but there are moments when you look back and realize that you handled things better than you thought you did. You accept the outcome, and you realized you did all you could do. This allows you to see strengths, and it gives you confidence to move forward.
You’re not as essential as you think, and more important than you realized
Life truly can go on without you. At the same time, people realize the void that you fill. This builds appreciation on all sides. It’s healthy to see a church work hard on mission without you. It’s also important to help people see what you do. It’s better together, but a brief season apart helps all.
You’re a big deal to God
This is truly the bottom line. All this combined leaves you with an incredible appreciation for the grace God grants you to pastor, despite the errors and exhaustion. But that’s not the point. You get to spend more time just being with the one you work hard for. It allows you to see that “God has this, you’ll be ok.” This isn’t because you’re superman. It is because God chose to be your friend, and despite who you are and because of who you are, God loves and uses you. Time with God is THE reward of sabbatical.
The bottom line:
Pastors, going on a sabbatical is essential for your ministry. Not because you’re tired, broke, need to see strengths, or help appreciate your role. You need to go on sabbatical because you need to trust God and be with him. To draw deeply from his grace. A layman, who was initially a skeptic or critic of sabbaticals, said this: “Then I realized, do we really want a climate of pastoral ministry where we don’t help pastors meet with God.” No conference or course can take the place of our ultimate source. Pastor, you need God.