Sabbatical: Can A Church Planter Take A Break?

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“Winning never feels as good as losing feels lousy,” said Pat Riley, the former NBA coach. Likewise, preaching a great sermon never feels as good as preaching a bad sermon feels lousy. My worst attempts at preaching have given me far more pain than my successes have brought me joy, and here are some of the factors that contribute to a homiletical flop.

I am taking a two month sabbatical this summer from my church plant.  Honestly I’m a little surprised that I’m actually going to do it and I’m not certain how I’m going to handle being away.  I remember during my training and preparation to plant, I heard from several seasoned church planters who all stated the same thing, “your church will survive without you”, “you need to take a break” and “it’s important to take care of yourself.”

I’m pretty good at self-care.  I’ve always honored my weekly Sabbath, I have found ways to budget my time in order to be with my family, I coach my son’s sports teams, etc.  But something happened late last year – I realized that I am really, really tired.  I am not burned out yet.  I’m continuing to find fulfillment in ministry and I’m still passionate about what I am doing, but I can see on the horizon that if I don’t find a way to take a break I might be heading toward burn out.

I have served in ordained ministry now for 10 years and though I have found a pretty good balance in life and ministry I’ve never taken all of my allotted vacation in a year.  The mother church of my plant, where I previously served as an associate pastor instituted a sabbatical policy that gave clergy the opportunity for a three month sabbatical after four consecutive years of ministry.  I was really excited about the opportunity for rest.  However, when my turn for sabbatical arrived we launched our plant and that’s not a good time to be away that long.  Four and half years later, our church has continued to grow and have an incredible impact in making disciples and affecting our community; we are in the process of trying to build a building and continue to reach new areas…and I’m tired.

As I look at 2016 already and think about moving into a building, adding worship services, connecting people and serving a larger area, I want to go into that refreshed and excited, not limping along trying to muster the strength for one more thing.  So in January I asked my Administrative Board for a two month sabbatical so that I could rest.  They granted me up to three months if I wanted it.  My plan is to spend the time doing three things:

  1. Reflect – I want to reflect on the last 10 years of ministry and specifically on the last four and half of church planting.  I want to ask God to help me understand what I’ve learned, how I’m different, what I need to stop doing and what I need to start doing.
  2. Connect – While my wife and I have a very strong marriage and a wonderful family, we need some time for just the two of us to connect and process this church planting experience together.
  3. Rest – I’m not sure I know what this means, but I’m going to try and find ways to enjoy completely unscheduled time.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@revknight” url=”http://bit.ly/1Fkr4uR”]In ministry, specifically in church planting, your vacation time isn’t a benefit; it’s a necessity.[/tweetthis]

I don’t know if sabbatical is in your future any time soon, but I know this – you do need time to rest.  In ministry, and in church planting specifically, your vacation time isn’t a benefit; it’s a necessity. Use it.  Honor your Sabbath time; give yourself a break.  If your church crumbles while you are gone then something is not right anyway.  When I return in August I’ll write a post about what I gained from the sabbatical experience.  In the meantime, I would covet your prayers while I try to get some rest.

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Adam is the Senior Pastor at Coker United Methodist Church in San Antonio, TX and previously the planting pastor of Christ Fellowship UMC. He has served churches in Lubbock, Houston, and San Antonio. Adam is passionate about the Wesleyan movement and it’s focus on evangelism, discipleship, and mission and he tries to lead Coker UMC in that same tradition. Adam holds a Bachelors Degree from Texas Tech University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and he is an ordained Elder in the Rio Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church and the Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry for the conference. He is married to Brittney and they are the parents of Rylan (6) and Laurel (3).

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