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SKMB On Mission Together: April 27, 2022

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Yup, I’m Ready for my Sabbatical!

SKMB Discipleship Coach – Luke Etelamaki

We are a few days away from packing our van up and heading west for a three-month sabbatical with our family. To say we are excited would be an understatement. I know that we aren’t the only ones looking forward to an extended break as many other leaders and pastors are looking to catch their breath and rest after the marathon of the last few years. Others of you know you are in need of a sabbatical and you have your sight set on a future to get a well-deserved rest from ministry.

We have approached our sabbatical as a gift given to us from our church that we want to steward. As we begin to think through it, both my wife and I have felt a little lost. We knew we needed to rest but had no idea of where to start when it came to planning a sabbatical. So, I spent a fair bit of time over the past year talking to other leaders, pastors, and counsellors about sabbaticals and through those conversations gained some insight into how to best invest in this time of the rest. The SKMB website also has a good resource.

Maybe as you think about your future sabbatical, you feel a bit lost too. I want to provide you with five things I found helpful as we planned our sabbatical.

  • Discover Your Goal

My first thought when we found out we were going on a sabbatical was fear. The question that kept running laps in my mind was, “What am I going to do for 3 months?” The question I needed to wrestle was, “What’s my goal for the sabbatical?” In the book Sabbaticals by Rusty McKie, he suggests three questions for us to ask to help distill our goal for a sabbatical.

  1. What do I need?
  2. What do I want?
  3. What do others say?

By humbly listening to trusted family, friends, and mentors, we can begin to see themes come out that will help us best see how we can plan a sabbatical that will best serve us.

  • Create A Plan

There is a famous saying, maybe you have heard of it, “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” This is so true when it comes to our sabbaticals. To really get all we can out of our sabbaticals, we need to plan them out. This needs to take place on two fronts. The first is our plan for refreshment. How are we going to rest? Again, Rusty McKie has some good questions for us to ask to help us think through this.

  1. Reorder – How will your schedule promote refreshment?
  2. Revive – How will your soul care promote refreshment?
  3. Rejuvenate – How will your health promote refreshment?
  4. Recreate – How will fun promote refreshment?
  5. Reconnect – How will your relationships promote refreshment?
  6. Rethink – How will your sabbatical promote a new lifestyle?

We also need to plan for our leaders. This is wide ranging and can cover things like policy around what decisions can be made when you are gone to who’s covering the various task that you normally do, to what happens if there is a crisis when you are gone. Thinking through these things and having a written plan will not only help put your leaders or staff team at ease as you’re gone, but will help you to be at ease as you are away. Remember, the more you plan in advance, the better the transition to sabbatical will be and the more you will be able to rest.

  • Get A Head Start On Healing

Most of the time, as we enter a sabbatical, we do so with a limp. This is especially true for anyone who is taking a sabbatical after going through the past two years. We also enter our sabbaticals critically aware of our own personal issues and this adds to our limp. We have our own mental and emotional hurts or trials, along with our own sin issues. We can look to a sabbatical as a time to where you will start to heal up and deal with heart issues.

My encouragement is to get a head start on this by starting to see a counsellor pre-sabbatical to get it all on the table. One of the big reasons why I think this is important is because there will be somethings that will come to the surface in your pre-sabbatical counselling that you can work on over your sabbatical. Which brings me to my fourth point.

  • Invest In Sabbatical Counselling Or A Spiritual Director

If you know me, I am a huge proponent of pastors seeing counsellors and have talked about this at length in other places, so I won’t get into that too much here. When we think about sabbaticals, there is usually an investment made into travel and rest and that is so good! But one area where I think we need to invest time and resources into is our spiritual and emotional health through biblical counselling. One of the best things you could do is get a counsellor that will help you work on you. A counsellor can help you heal, help you know what areas of life and faith you need to spend time focusing on and provide some.

  • Have A Blast

This seems like a no brainer, but I think it can get lost in all things sabbatical. Make sure you have some fun. For us, this meant involving our kids with the planning process of our time away. Bailey and I also have made some plans for us to have some time away without kids. As we head out on a break from ministry, and as you prepare for one, I want to invite you to hear Jesus’ words to us from Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”