Molly and I are excited that we will soon be taking our long-awaited sabbatical, and I’m writing to let you know of our plans. The LBC elders have been part of our planning, and this letter reflects the thinking of our whole elder team.
I say “long-awaited” because our elders approved a plan about 9 years ago that allows for a pastoral sabbatical after 7 years. In our case it’s been 13 years, but in God’s providence we feel the timing is just right.
Why a pastoral sabbatical? It’s been said that “a sabbatical is like Sunday, only longer.” In light of the unique demands of ministry, pastors need a break for rest and renewal. For example, imagine that you’re living at the turn of the last century, when all travel was on horse-drawn carriages. It wouldn’t make sense to wait till the horses were collapsing from exhaustion or starvation to feed them. In the same way, we humans need rest and rejuvenation.
The Presbyterian Church in America even provides guidelines for sabbaticals that dovetail nicely with our church’s guidelines. And recently, Ligon Duncan, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, released a brief video on the importance of pastoral sabbaticals. You can check out the video here.
What are the goals for our 13-week sabbatical?
Rest: For the past 13 years, Molly and I have maintained an unrelenting emotional focus on the work of planting and nurturing Lake Baldwin Church. We are not burnt out, but we do need to unplug and unwind. For example, we’ll have a week at a place in England called “The Retreat,” which offers free housing for pastors in need of a break.
Renewal: While Molly and I seek to maintain a vital spiritual life, we know that we will benefit by having some extended time to read, listen to podcasts, and seek the Lord. Our plan includes a variety of worship experiences in various settings in Europe, such as St. Andrews Church in Athens, Greece. In addition to spiritual renewal, Molly and I also look forward to times of marital renewal. We work as a team and cherish our relationship, and we anticipate that the change of pace will be refreshing. Our time for renewal will also include education as we will begin our journey in Israel, with a guided tour of biblical sites. After that, we’ll trace some of the journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece.
Re-imagining: We’re usually pretty reflective about our growth journey in the Christian life, but we also know that we will benefit from outside input. So we look forward to 3-4 hours of video conversations with a trusted friend in Belfast, who specializes in helping people with their leadership journey. Our learning and re-imagining will also take us to Holy Trinity Brompton, a church in London that is the birthplace of the globally influential Alpha Course.
You might be wondering, how will Lake Baldwin Church be led during our sabbatical? In many ways a sabbatical is beneficial to the church because of the empowering of the church’s leaders. In this current season we have excellent lay leaders as well as a talented and devoted staff team. We are thankful that Joe White will be available to lead in our absence, and we have confidence that LBC will continue to flourish.
There’s one more reason that this timing is providential. Since Joe joined our team in 2016, it has been my hope (and the hope of our elders) that Joe would one day become the lead pastor of Lake Baldwin Church. While that transition is not imminent, we have been engaged in an intentional process of preparing Joe and the church for that future day. This sabbatical season will provide yet another opportunity for Joe to experience the mantle of leadership, and for me to prepare for this new season of transition.
Molly and I wish to thank the elders and the whole church for this opportunity to have a time of rest and renewal. Over the years we have not lost one ounce of vision or passion for our congregation and its mission. While we will be out of town from May 1 to July 31, we look forward to returning and once again working with our staff and our church family to pursue the vision that God has for us.
Some folks are planning a "Bon Voyage" picnic on April 28th after church, and we hope you can join us. It will be catered, so please RSVP to Margarita Walsh so that we can know how much food to order.
If you have any questions about our sabbatical plans or this letter, feel free to click on the link below to send me an email.