Why I Took a Sabbatical

I rarely talk about my service at church. It seems too much I am bragging about what I do there. After all, Christians are meant to humble ourselves, just as God is humble. (And if you think you have humility, you probably don’t. As C.S. Lewis says, humility is not thinking of yourself less, but thinking less of yourself.)

However, every now and then, you have to break your silence so that you can encourage others by your example. OR, you serve as an object lesson of what not to do.

The other objection: I’m not even a minister. I’m certainly not a professor. Why is this lay person taking a sabbatical?

The simple reason: I needed it. A sabbatical isn’t an extended vacation;

 a ministry sabbatical as a period of time . . . when ministry leaders and congregations set aside the leader’s normal responsibilities for the purpose of rest and renewal toward sustained excellence in ministry.

A ministry sabbatical is not an extended vacation nor is it an academic sabbatical that normally involves extensive study. A ministry sabbatical is a release from the routine of the call for the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being of the ministry leader.

In June 2011, I started serving as an usher at my church. In 2013, I stepped forward to be a team leader for the 11 AM service. The church volunteer coordinator asked us to serve every other week. In 2015, I stepped forward again to lead the other team after losing several good leaders. Thus, I was there every 11 AM service and continued to do so until July 2018.

Why did I need a break? Because I was tired and there were signs of fatigue. In baseball, a pitcher needs relief when his shoulders start slumping and when he throws more balls and wild pitches than strikes. In music, you know when the musician plays false notes. In ministry, and as a leader, the signs are allowing things to slip, being proud in subtle ways, and worse, turning service into just another thing to do on a Sunday morning.

My counselor said this: the definition of profanity is to make the sacred into something common. Much like how we use the F*k word which turns a beautiful act of physical love into vulgarity, it is very, very possible to turn church service – a holy act – into something common. How? You show up because you’re “supposed to”, and your acts are just part of a checklist. It becomes no different than a movie usher at the local AMC 21 directing me to the next showing of Jason Bourne.

I needed time away; not to read more books (although I did), not an extended vacation (although I did end up traveling), but just rest. Thus, for 2 whole months, I stopped ALL volunteer activity. I visited other churches to hear other pastors preach.

I experienced the following

Releasing frustrations by writing in my journal and going before God.
Rediscovering who I am and what God says about me
Resting on Saturdays and Sundays; instead of hurrying from thing to thing, i could sit and enjoy my backyard.

That quote – the goal is to restore excellence in sustained ministry – that’s what I was looking for. I’m still processing everything. In 2019, I am stepping forward to lead a different team at the same church.

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