Theme: On Rest and Sabbaticals

April 23, 2018

Friends,

The Training Team of the POTE is back with another Newsletter aimed at encouraging content for you and your ministry. We exist to serve, equip, educate, and encourage you where the Lord has called you. We hope to accomplish this by passing along articles, reviews, resources, and other items that you might find helpful.

For this edition, our writers have taken on the task of encouraging you with the subject of Rest and Sabbaticals. We have some articles we hope you will take the time to read below. Enjoy them as an appetizer for the upcoming POTE!

And as always, we invite your suggestions as to content for the Newsletter. Send us links to articles, brief reviews of relevant books, information about websites and training activities, and schedules and brief summaries of training you have found helpful in your ministry. All items for the Newsletter should be sent to PastorJT@BellevueEPC.org.

 

Upcoming Equipitry

 

At our upcoming Presbytery of the East this week, April 27-28, at Guinston EPC, Rev. Dr. Rob Norris will be delivering our afternoon Equipitry session. His topic for the session will be “Ministry Without Miracles,” sharing some of what he has learned from the Lord in his ministry. Please pray for Rob as he prepares his message for our edification. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Upcoming Pre-POTE Workshop

 

September’s POTE
Rev. Dr. Zack Eswine
You don’t want to miss this! Before the Fall presbytery meeting (September 21-22 @ Covenant EPC) Dr. Zack Eswine will be presenting a pre-presbytery workshop on “Equipping our Preaching to Reach and Teach 21st Century Neighbors.”  Zack will be covering ideas from his book Preaching to a Post-Everything World and a new book he is working on.The workshop will take place on Friday morning, 9 a.m. to 12 noon.  During the Equipitry in the afternoon Zack will be speaking on “Pastor as a Human Being: Recovering our First Love as Pastors” drawing on themes from his award winning book The Imperfect Pastor.

 

Articles

 

Why Sabbaticals
By TE Steve McLeanI am writing this article from Dallas, TX where I am on a three month sabbatical.  This  fourth sabbatical I have had in my 31 years as the pastor of the Argyle Presbyterian Church.  These sabbaticals are one of the reasons I have been in Argyle for so long and continue to be excited about the ministry there.  As excited as I am about these sabbaticals, the leadership and congregation of APC are just as excited.  They have included sabbaticals as part of the Terms of Calls for our pastors.Let me tell you how we got started on this sabbatical journey.  In 1992 as part of a major building project we read an article that stated, “One half of pastors who begin a major building project don’t stay until the end of that project.”  The article went on to talk about the added stresses a building project puts on a pastor leading many to resign early and either go to another church or to leave the ministry.  Not wanting to see that happen, our Session began to explore the idea of giving me a sabbatical at the end of the project.  That is when we read an article by Eugene Petersen advocating for pastoral sabbaticals.  Petersen said that one of the reasons pastor tend to move in the 5-10 year time frame is “relational fatigue.”  He said that the size of the parish a pastor cares for is 3-4 times the size of the congregation, since he or she picks up hospital visitation, counseling, funerals, etc. for all the parents, siblings, children and friends of church members who are not affiliated with a church.  After 6 or 7 years of caring for this many people, a pastor becomes relationally fatigued and starts thinking about staring over fresh.  Petersen suggested a way to allow you pastor to start fresh and still stay at the church is to give sabbaticals every 7 years.

So our leadership and congregation decided to give me a 3 month sabbatical in 1994.  It was wonderful for me, but what surprised us was how wonderful it was for the congregation.  They had the chance to experience a different style of leadership from the retired pastor who took my place and to flex spiritual and leadership muscles that they didn’t get to when I was around.  When I came back from that sabbatical the Session said that they wanted to put the next one on the schedule and to start putting money in the budget each year for it.  And that is what we have done.

When I began at Argyle I interviewed a couple of pastors who had had long term, effective pastorates to find out why.  One of the things that both of them said was “regular sabbaticals.”  I would affirm that one of the reasons I have been able to stay in Argyle for 31 years and to keep growing as a pastor is the four sabbaticals I have had.  If you would like to know more about sabbaticals and what I have done on them, feel free to contact me.

 

 

Tuesday POTE Book Group Review
of “The Rest of God”

By TE Matt BlazerTuesdays at 1:30 are a strange and near-sacred time. I sit with other pastors and we talk politics, or suffering, or communion, or the reality of rest for those of us in vocational ministry. “The Rest of God” is our current book and it is a faithful companion to us as we learn to rest as God ordained before the Fall, as he prescribed before the 10 Commandments, and as our minds buzz with full inboxes, unfinished sermons, and counseling appointments waiting for us later in the week.The Follower of Jesus can be convinced go never rest and yet that is not our design. Buchanan, using wit and wisdom, exposition and humor, gently draws us back to the Fathering Heart of God who has purchased our rest in the work of Christ and directed us to Sabbath. We seek diversion, but He has purchased rest for our souls. WE are easily distracted,  and the Holy Spirit draws us back to our new hearts of flesh and to rest that God will indeed continue to maintain the world, our ministries, this solar system and the universe – without us lifting a finger one day out of seven.

The vague nature of our work (is a sermon ever finished?), makes Buchanan’s book essential to our flourishing as His followers and His Kingdom workers. I am deeply blessed by the book, but moreso by my sisters and brothers who gently press into one another’s temptations toward busyness and away from rest. Whether you can make it to Book Club or not, I highly recommend “The Rest of God” which reminds us of the loving care of our Father.

 

 

The Six Blessings of A Sabbatical
TE Ken GlasierA Sabbatical is a time of rest for a pastor and for the congregation. The “attachment” between a pastor and a congregation is given a period of time for identifying any unhealthy dynamics that have crept or leapt into the pastoral relationship. In other words, the congregation needs the Sabbatical as much as the pastor.Here are some of the ways my time was invested during my Sabbatical, my time of “R and R”.

Rest – Lots of late mornings and frequent naps in the first few days.

Relying – Disconnecting from the day to day life of The Orchard prompted me to focus upon relying on Jesus. The “Catch 22” in ministry is to become so focused on the doing of serving Jesus and, yet, slowly relying less and less upon Jesus.

Refocusing – I was blessed with a trip to Israel led by Christian musician and teacher, Michael Card. The trip to Israel was a great time of refocusing upon the grace of God to His people. Our theme in the 10-day trip was the Hebrew word, “Hesed”, God’s grace, mercy, loving kindness, goodness and being there for His people. Of the many places in the Old Testament where the “hesed” of God is declared, Exodus 34:6-7 is a great representation of God’s heart for His people – The Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty”. God’s “hesed” is both grace and justice. Information about these Israel trips with Michael Card can be found at his website – michaelcard.com.

A member of our fellowship also graciously cashed in some frequent flier miles and opened up a reservation at a time share in Hawaii so that Helen, my wife, and I could get a week away. A Sabbatical is important for your spouse as well. Although Helen’s work schedule kept her from some aspects of my Sabbatical, the time of rest was important for her. We were home together in the evenings more often. We worshiped together at other churches in our community.

Reading – Here is some of the reading I was able to do during my Sabbatical.

The Psalms – these poems and songs were the focus of my reading of Scripture. The Psalms contain the majority of the places where “hesed” is used in the Old Testament – see Psalm 136.

Other books – Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson; In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis by Kenneth J. Stewart; Life in the Presence of God: Practices for Living in the Light of Eternity by Kenneth Boa; Healing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation by Dan Allender; Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry by Charles Stone; Hero Maker: Five Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders by Dave Fergusson and Warren Bird.

Rhythm – My Sabbatical was also a good time to take a long look at the rhythms of my life. I had time to reflect on the pace of ministry.  Being rested, I discovered how good it feels to be… rested. My daily, weekly, monthly, yearly schedule post-Sabbatical is focused on managing my energy more than my time.

Restoration – I also took the Sabbatical as a time to reacquaint myself with physical exercise.  My experience in ministry shows a pattern of neglecting my own physical health while helping others with their spiritual needs. A set time of walking, stretching, and relaxing is proving to be of great benefit to me in many ways.

I realize the limitations you might be facing if your congregation doesn’t see the value in a Sabbatical for their pastor(s). Direct your leadership to do a simple Google search on the benefits of a Sabbatical for Pastors. There will be an abundance of resources available.

Maybe you are a solo pastor with your energy being given to almost every aspect of the church. Your church needs a Sabbatical from you! Let others lead. Let others preach. Let others offer pastoral care. Sabbaticals are a great way of affirming that Jesus is the head of the Church!

 

 

Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Conference
By TE Bill CliffOver the past month, the POTE book discussion group has been reading “The Rest of God” by Mark Buchanan. In it, he makes the case for both keeping the Sabbath as a day and allowing a Sabbath attitude to change our perspective of everything we encounter. This struck a chord with me. The concept of a Sabbath attitude reminds me that God is all-powerful and sufficient, and I am not. I have limits. I need rest and recharging. I need to trust that God has the world, my church, and my family under control even while I am resting.So how does this relate to attending a conference?

This is where a Sabbath attitude comes into play. Where observing Sabbath once a week is vital to spiritual and ministry health, stepping back from ministry responsibilities for several days or a week requires the pastor to acknowledge that God’s church will continue to function without him/her. God is ultimately the one who gives life to the church even when you are absent.

As an EPC pastor, we have been given the opportunity to take two weeks of study leave. There are many good options for using the time. But I would like to recommend using some of that time for a ministry conference. I recently returned from the T4G (Together for the Gospel) conference in Louisville, KY. Here are my Top 10 reasons why this conference was so valuable.

  • 10) Travel with another pastor. Definitely makes the trip go faster!
  • 9) Change of pace from the normal ministry schedule.
  • 8) Hear some great speakers.
  • 7) Gather with co-laborers from around the country and world. Singing with 12,000 other pastors/students is pretty great!
  • 6) Free books! What pastor can resist that?
  • 5) Receive more than you give.
  • 4) Eat some delicious regional foods. BBQ anyone?
  • 3) Attend a break-out session specific to your ministry needs or interests.
  • 2) Time spent with God dreaming about what He might be working out in your life and ministry.
  • 1) Realize that you and I are not indispensable in the church.

There you have it – my Top 10 reasons for attending a conference. My hope is that you resonate with one or two things on the list and make plans to attend a conference. And do so with a Sabbath attitude that places our powerful God in His proper place.

 

 

 

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