Pastor's Sabbatical FAQ's
What happens on a pastor's sabbatical?
We stop to recenter our identities in Christ
Twice a year, in January and July, some of the ministries in our church take what we call a “Rest Month.” During this time, we pare our activities waaaay down so that as a church, we can remember that we are loved and valuable to God and each other, not because of how hard we work or how much we do, but because God says we are loved and valuable.
The sabbatical is a bit like a pastor's version of Rest Month. We take sabbatical after a certain number of years to remember our value and our identity as beloved children of God beyond what we do or how hard we work. Since our call centers on pointing others to Christ, it's important for us to take time and recenter ourselves on who Christ is in our own lives.
We stop to renew our creative energy
In some ways, sabbaticals are like cross-training for athletes. It's a different kind of work that enhances our regular activity. Sabbatical is a way for us to take some time to refresh ourselves in God's grace and truth so that we can bring it back to the Church with fresh perspective and new eyes. During sabbatical, many pastors take time to visit other churches, have conversations with other leaders and mentors, read and study new resources, and try some new creative endeavors (like engaging a new hobby) to keep our minds elastic and learning.
We stop to connect with family
The traditional work week in the United States is Monday to Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off. Since we work many Saturdays and almost every Sunday, Pastor Brynn and I both take Mondays as our sabbath days. The tricky thing is that our spouses do not have Mondays off, so time with our families has to be very intentional, usually taken at other times during the week. Our families are incredibly sacrificial when it comes to when they spend time with us, but given the nature of our weekly responsibilities, they often work around our schedules to see us. Full days off together can be few and far between.
Sabbatical is one way to reconnect with our families on their schedules. Since we believe our first ministry should be to our families, this is a major priority when it comes to sabbatical.
So…Is Sabbatical Just Like a 3-Month Vacation?
A 3-month vacation would be nice! But no. While vacation time is built in to the sabbatical plan, as is time set apart to rest and play, a Sabbatical is really time to do a totally different kind of work.
Pastors spend a lot of time offering guidance and counsel to others, so we believe it's healthy for us to take a step back and receive guidance and counsel from other pastors, counselors, and spiritual directors, both for our own direction and growth, but also for the direction of our church. Conversations like these are also built in to the sabbatical plan.
These seasons also provide a time for uninterrupted study, something our schedules can sometimes work against. Since we want to lead in a way that reflects prayer and thoughtful study, a sabbatical can offer time to disconnect from regular routines and responsibilities so that we can focus on more concentrated reflection.
What will Pastor Brynn be doing on Sabbatical?
A few months ago, Brynn submitted a detailed sabbatical plan that was approved by the overseers and her husband - it was meant to be thorough, but not overly ambitious, with lots of time built in for quality relationship building, rest, and play. I'll just share a few highlights here.
Her sabbatical theme is "Savor," and will focus on slowing down in order to be fully present to find the joy of the Lord in every moment. She will be taking a few trips - silent retreats at a local monastery, an epic 10-year anniversary trip with her husband, and a trip to visit her family of origin on the West Coast. Additionally, she's going to spend time re-envisioning a two-part Soultraining Workshop to be offered to our congregation, the other Highrock Network Churches, and our denomination! She'll also be meeting with wise counselors and mentors, spending time with friends, and working out on a stationary rower.
Brynn will be worshiping at Highrock some Sundays, but will spend some time visiting other churches in order to gain creative ideas and insights, and re-imagine some of our offerings at Highrock.
Good News for Highrock?
Our dream is that unless Jesus decides to come back sooner, our church will outlive us - we hope this community will multiply for the next 200 years!
My hope is that Pastor Brynn and I can both serve Highrock for a significant part of that. And the good news is that pastors who take sabbaticals typically stay in ministry longer and at their local churches longer than pastors who don't.
The hope is that after taking a few months to recharge, we'll have a newly refreshed and rejuvenated pastor, and that when she returns, she will have new energy and perspective to point us toward Jesus all the more.
So Pastor Aaron...how do you feel about all this?
Pastor Brynn is a dear friend and I'm used to working with her in the next room, constantly available for me to interrupt at any moment for brainstorming and debates about Greek grammar and Hebrew syntax #ourofficeissofun.
In all honesty, I'll really miss seeing my friend and ministry partner every day! Looking forward, that really feels like it will be the biggest challenge.
Beyond that, I know how profoundly enriching and engaging this time was for me, and I'm excited that she'll have the opportunity for this change of pace!
What if Brynn shows up on a Sunday?
RUN AWAY! RUN FAR AWAY!
For real though, we are Brynn's worshiping community, her church family here on the North Shore. So thankfully, she’s not going to cut us out of her life! While she will be worshiping with other church communities some weeks, she'll also be with us some weeks this summer. You may also see her at community events like our Partners' Meeting, the All-Highrock Get Together, and may even pop into VBS.
When Brynn and Aaron come to church, please respect their time off and treat them as you would any other family who comes to our church. In fact, Pastor Brynn's name tag will just say "Brynn" to reflect that. Please don’t bring any concerns, opinions on church matters, or pastoral care issues to her attention for now.
The staff, overseers and I would love to connect with you over those things in the meantime, but for now, please think of Brynn as a member like any other member.
That said, if you have good news - you just got a new job you're excited about, had a conversation with someone about Jesus, gave birth to a baby, etc. - feel free to let her know! We love keeping her on the loop on how God is moving among us and I know she would love to celebrate with you.
Beyond that, though, please save any church business or pastoral care concerns for me and the overseers - or, if it can wait, until she returns on August 7th. Keep in mind also that she will not be checking her HRNS email during these three months.
Brynn is my friend! Can I contact her to hang out?
Of course! Brynn is particularly fond of dinner parties. So if you consider Brynn a friend, feel free to get in touch with her to hang out - to have a glass of wine, to sit on the beach, or to go for a picnic on Ocean Lawn! Know she will be spending a significant chunk of time traveling, so she may not always be available. But we are her community and she loves invitations, so don’t be shy to reach out. I’m sure she’ll jump in when she’s free. Her personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, please be mindful of the content of your conversations and allow her to be your friend and to break from being your pastor in this time.
Should I expect anything different in terms of pastoral care?
Not particularly, but I will be juggling quite a bit more than my normal load, so please be patient with me if I’m a little slower to respond!
My schedule will also be a little more full than normal these next few months, so it may take some extra time to schedule something. Please don't let that hold you back from initiating time together - I would love to see you!
Additionally, our staff team and overseers would love to meet with you. The amazing Maria McCracken will be assisting me this summer with a lot of my administrative responsibilities, so don’t be surprised if you ask me a logistical or administrative question and I defer you to her. You're also welcome to start with her - email@example.com.
How can I support the Church?
I love that you asked!
Keep our church in prayer during this season, that God would use this time to strengthen us as a community. Pray for Brynn and her family as they spend some more intentional, set apart time together. I’d love your prayers as I spend time with my own family during an abnormally full season.
Sometimes when pastors go on sabbatical, church members take the time off too. This is actually counter-productive since these seasons are culture-defining seasons, used for the long-term health of our community. This is a time to continue development as a healthy congregation without being too dependent on one person or personality. So whenever you are in town this summer, we’d encourage you to make it a point to be here on Sunday mornings and continue being a place of hospitality for those who join us for the first time.
This is a new challenge for us! Though one full-time staff member is on sabbatical, the Gospel and our church are not. So if you’ve been waiting to jump in and join a ministry team, now is a great time to do that. We’ll need all the willing hands we can get. If you’d like to join a ministry team for the first time, we’d love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help hook you up.
Probably not a surprise - the word sabbatical comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, from which we get our word sabbath (to cease or to rest). Taking a sabbath has become an essential part of my personal weekly rhythm, and I know it can make a difference in whole communities when we make it a practice.
So if you’re able, I’d encourage you to take one day off every week this summer for a sabbath. A sabbath is different from a day off - this isn't when you change the sheets and take out the trash. This is a day set apart from normal rhythms and routines simply to enjoy who God is and celebrate life. If you have little ones, I know finding times like these outside of normal routines can be tough, but invite them into it if you can! Make it a family renewal day and do something fun and refreshing together. Set an example for your kids of what it can look like to work hard and then rest well and with intention.
So many in our church have been so faithful to give regularly this last year and we’ve established some really awesome new habits, giving both our time and our financial resources. Thank you for your faithfulness to be a part of God's work here on the North Shore! Please continue to remember Highrock in your giving throughout the summer, even if you're traveling, so that we can continue to do the work of ministry God has called us to do now and into the Fall.