No one can say there is only one way to take a sabbatical. We all are different with different areas that need to be healed. We look for ways in our area, of rest and restore to be able to let go. It can be difficult for a lot of pastoral families to know how to take one. I want to share with you by experience and a collective wisdom shared by much smarter men then us on ways to decompress from ministry. It can be altogether different when your taking a complete break from it all.
Some pastors love solitude. Then there are those that it would drive them crazy to have no one around. We have to take a look at a few things along the way that could fit into most ministers.
After losing my father-n-law to cancer in 2006(which took a toll on my husband) We decided to build a new home in Bolivar, MO. Not long after that my father was diagnosed with cancer. We lost him in 2010. While in the middle of that our new home flooded from a builders mistake. We moved to Carthage, MO.
Starting in 2009 my husband and I renovated an entire 5 acre Island with chapel, guest house and a Mansion with organized groups over the period of one year. The task was enormous. During this time my father passed away with cancer. At the same time we took a 40 year old church with a history of problems. Rallied the group in excitement to do a total renovate of that church building as well. The small church (45) began to grow tremendously over a couple hundred in just a few years. The schedule was packed. It wasn't long before the same spirit took that same group and like minded extended family members, we came up against 3 Jezebels in a matter of two years. It started with one man who wanted to pastor the church with his own vision and wanted my husband to be a hireling. If you know anything about Anthony he is led by the Spirit of God and not by some controlling family board church. We were not their first rodeo. They had hurt many families and other pastors before us. Soon after, that man gave his offense to his mother n law, then she gave it to the whole family and they then gave it to all their family and friends. They destroyed themselves. We will never get an apology. They will take no responsibility and place the blame else where. It was a hard lesson to learn for them, but maybe they can make something right from this and actually do some good. After going through a devastating church split, I decided that I needed to home school my boys. Jezebel number 3 who we found out was working the entire time sewing seeds, the children's pastor. Then of course all the others who couldn't handle conflict had to jump ship.
All the stress took a toll on my health and I learned to slow down and invest into ministries that were closest to my heart. At the same time the parsonage had black mold and we had to move. It was during that time I learned how to say NO. My husband felt that it was Gods will to take the remaining precious group and revitalize a new church plant, rescue mission what ever you want to call it. We entered into ARC program and launched a new work. For a year we safely helped these people to grow and land them into a healing place so they could have a bright future. We love and respect them to this day. We saw how hard it was for them to go through that horrible event. We saw as well the toll it was taking on them to start this new work. There was a lot of new growth along the way and several new families were impacted for the Kingdom. Now....all of this happened within 7 years.
It was time for some real rest. God spoke to Anthony about a ministry sabbatical. We had to make the hard decisions to step away for a while.
We packed in a lot with three sons, three dogs in a small rural area.
We know how to work hard but at the same time we know how to play hard and we do it often. We know to hit a lot of retreats, mini and long vacations, dates, things we enjoy, eating right, healthy sleep and routine. Of course the greatest of these is a healthy Prayer life. We will try to work in lots of advice from some of the best mentors we can find. I do not recommend packing in so much. It just seemed to be the season for it. (Or maybe our stupidity)
Recently I was in a ministers wife retreat and to hear the stories of victory and defeat was astounding.
One of the young pastors wife that was there stated that she had to wear her new clothes
( gift) out in public because if she wore her new dress to church someone would walk up and ask...Did you buy that with our tithe money?
Some of the things pastors face today.
This next list is something we have encountered.
We have chosen to take a full one to two year Sabbatical from ministry.
I want to share experiences, decisions, and mistakes we make along the way of our retreat sabbatical that might help anyone reading that is in ministry looking to take a break.
Steps in taking a ministry sabbatical:
1. Know for sure in complete agreement that this is the next step for you and your family! You can relax in knowing God has caught your attention to step back and just breathe in him and heal.
2. Put your financial house in order so you can completely relax knowing God's got this and where he guides he will provide. Watch God open doors for you during this time. We set aside an amount for our year as well as added to it as we continued to work. I believe he will send you to some of the best spiritual renewing places. I believe he will give you deals on traveling for you and your family. What ever you need listen to the Holy Spirit. He will guide you. Pray for open doors during this time.
3. Have complete closure when you leave your place of ministry. Leave with peace. So peace will follow you. Make peace. If you are still pastoring make sure everything is set up so you do not have to worry about every little thing but can completely cut off and relax.
4. Make a commitment to not set up hoops, challenges, major goals, accomplishments and manage your expectations during this season. Business and full schedules does not equal progress. It was hard for us the first month. We wanted to stay busy. We would find stuff to do. Our capacity was so large that we felt bored, guilty, tired and grieving all at the same time. Get ready...you will have a clash of different emotions. Adjust to give yourself time to set the towel aside and not serve for the entire sabbatical that you walk through. We found a great church for our kids as well as a place we could be renewed and get lost in the crowd. We just sat back and gleaned. We gave ourselves permission to be completely relaxed and let go. It was not easy.
5. Take out a notebook or laptop and set fun time aside to just dream about ways to feed for body, soul and spirit. List one for your spouse as well. Then make some fun ideas on how to recharge and connect to the family. Don't feel pressure in this process. Make it fun and adventurous. You might not be able to do it all, that's ok. Slowly seek to fulfill the major areas that you and your family are needing to heal.
Completely take time to unplug from all the attachments. We took time off from all media. It was a nice break.
Compromise and sacrifice is what you need to look at. Everyone will have to contribute to this one. Not all needs will be met. Not everyone gets to do what they want during this time.
I have to admit one of the emotions I battled with (and there were many) was.... how this life without pastoring was too easy. I felt like I was not contributing to something greater. I remember one time during our sabbatical all I had as a major goal, was reorganize my closet. for the week. I remember thinking.....is this real. Do people only set small goals like this. I must not be normal. I have to admit, there were thoughts of where I resented other Christians and how their lives felt so small to me and they want to complain about not getting involved in church more. This life was beyond too simple. I felt often bored, unfulfilled and useless.
Then I had to repent. Who am I? I want a simpler life but when I have it I can't handle it?
A couple of mistakes we made during our time to rest was, we moved.That was a big job! We finally settled in a great area for my husbands company and just leased a simple home to rest in. We also went on strict diets and our expectations were frustrated at times. I suggest again during a true sabbatical do not make any major life changes.
New York trip.
Lots of family time.
We took an almost two weeks to our favorite part of the US. Fairhope, AL. (Gulfshores, Orange Beach, Seaside, Watercolor)
Church of his Presence
Anthony flew to Phoenix as part of his sabbatical. He took his quiet rest, golfing, and having spiritual focus time.