What's a Sabbatical?

Hi, everyone!

Some of you may have heard rumors that I’m going to be taking a sabbatical this year.  Well, let me set the record straight—the rumors are true.

On December 2, 2014, Northminster’s Session (board of elders) unanimously voted to approve a sabbatical for me from April 20 through July 19.

I know what some of you are thinking:  “I can’t believe Markus is going to get a three month paid vacation!”

Others are thinking, “How are we going to survive for three months without Markus?”

And some of you are thinking, “What the heck is a sabbatical?”

Maybe that’s the place to start this conversation. 

What is a sabbatical?

First of all, a sabbatical is not a vacation.  It’s not a time for a pastor to simply vacate.  Craig Dykstra, Vice President for Religion with the Lilly Foundation, says, “As important as vacations are, something more is needed than just temporary escape (vacate-ion) from the daily grind.  What is needed is renewed connection with the taproots of ministry:  the resource of God’s plenitude.

Ok, well, if a sabbatical is not a vacation, then what is it?

In a nutshell, a sabbatical is a period of time, usually three months, in which the ministry leader and the congregation set aside the leader’s normal responsibilities for the purpose of rest and spiritual refreshment, leading to renewed energy and creativity for both the ministry leader and the congregation.

Whew, that was a mouthful…  Here’s what that means.

It means that the congregation says to the pastor, “Pastor, we want you to be the best possible pastor you can be.  We want you to lead us and teach us and love us with as much energy as possible.  In order to help you do that, we want you take some time away from the regular routine of your ministry.  Take this time away and go spend it with God.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Read some good books.  Rest.  And when you come back, we’ll be excited to see how this time away has drawn you closer to God and prepared you to lead us in our next season of ministry as a church.”

Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be writing a few more short articles like this one answering questions such as:

  • What’s the benefit of a sabbatical?
  • How did the Session arrive at this decision?
  • What does the Bible say about sabbaticals?
  • What’s the presbytery’s policy on sabbaticals?
  • What’s Markus gonna do while he’s on sabbatical?
  • What are we gonna do while Markus is on sabbatical?

My hope is that you’ll have all your questions answered by the time my sabbatical begins.  If you have any questions that don’t get answered, please feel free to let me know.  You can e-mail me or use the contact form on the right of this page.

I’m so excited about what’s next for Northminster and I’m looking forward to many, many years of ministry with you here at Northminster.  This sabbatical is an important first step toward, not simply longevity, but effective longevity for our ministry together as a church.

Pastor Markus

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