I stepped away from my church plant for two months this Summer. I went on sabbatical in mid June and returned to church in mid August. It has been a wonderful time of renewal, reflection and rest. Before I left I wrote an article here talking about how the last four and half years of church planting had made me tired and in need of some rest. On the other side of my time away now I want to take a moment and let you know how everything went – for me and for our church plant.
Since this is a church planting collective I will spend the majority of the post on what happened with the church while I was away. In short, she did extremely well. I had arranged for an array of guest preachers and testimonies from folks within our congregation. This worked very well; it created a nice mix of new voices and familiar voices for the congregation during my time away. Our worship attendance did dip a little but honestly not that much more than the normal Summer dip. Our small groups continued as usual, and our mission ministry thrived during my absence preparing food packs, sending mission teams, starting new local missional partnerships, etc. Our church had a great Summer of worship, and actually took strides forward in mission – all while I was gone.
I had been worried about what would happen to our ministry in my absence, but what happened was that we witnessed the fruit of the discipleship and leadership development that we have worked so hard to develop since launching our church. As if the sabbatical wasn’t a gift enough, to hear how the church not only survived but grew much of the ministry we were doing, was an enormous and gratifying blessing.
For me personally the time has been invaluable. I have had a chance to rest, to spend a great deal of quality time with my wife and kids, to read* (a lot) and to pray and reflect. I have rekindled a passion for what drew me to ministry in the first place – a deep desire to know Jesus more and share Him with those that God places in my life. I have connected with my wife in new ways and had a chance to laugh and dream again about what God will do in us and through us next. I have played with my kids (and even played like a kid) laughed, snuggled, and simply been present.
Now as I look out at the Fall I am excited about the possibilities, I am excited about the impact we will be making in people’s lives. I have the energy to do what needs to be done and make the changes that need to be made in our ministry. In my first article about all of this I asked the question, “can a church planter take a break?” and I now know that the answer is an unequivocal yes! If we are doing our job well then the church will be fine and, heaven forbid, might even continue to move forward in our absence.
*Here is my sabbatical reading list if you are interested:
John Wesley: His Life and Thought, Timothy Crutcher
Finding My Way Home, Henri Nouwen
Reading Scripture As Wesleyans, Joel Green
A Long Obedience In The Same Direction, Eugene Peterson
David and Goliath, Malcom Gladwell
The Class Meeting, Kevin Watson
Turning Points: Decisive Moments in Christian History, Mark Noll
Jesus: A Theography, Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola
The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson
The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, Jeff Benedict, Armen Keteyian (this last one is admittedly a little different from the others, but it’s really good if you are a college football fan)