As we round the corner and move into 2018, I am well aware that this is the year of my sabbatical! It feels quite miraculous for me to even write this sentence. I want to tell you a little about the sabbatical plan and what it means for me.
One of the significant challenges of pastoral ministry is the consuming nature of the work. Lots of people work hard at their jobs and put in extra hours. Some people are downright compulsive about their work and never quite shut down. This is a particular problem for pastors who feel a great responsibility for carrying forward, not just the work of the church, but the work of God! I will admit that I have a sometimes unhealthy bent toward non-stop working. My family will testify to the fact that I struggle to stop thinking about the church, its ministry and its people in the evenings and on my “off” days. My husband is better at stopping the “church thinking” than I am, but not by much.
Several years ago, the Lilly Foundation’s Religion department began to notice patterns in clergy retention. They found that pastors, 7-10 years into ministry in a given call, would often find themselves increasingly fatigued and sometimes on the edge of burn out. Frequently those pastors would either seek a new call and new start in another congregation or simply stagnate. Believing that longer pastorates are generally good for congregations, the Lilly Foundation decided to offer Clergy Renewal Grants to help congregations provide a time of rest and renewal for their pastors. Those grants have enabled many pastors and congregations to engage anew in happy ministry together after their pastors have had a much-needed time of rest and renewal. This church has been fortunate to have received such a grant and my husband Mike’s church has also received such a grant making renewal possible for both of us at the same time at zero cost to the church. I dare to say it’s a miracle!
So, what’s the plan? What will I do on sabbatical you may ask? Well, it is my delight to tell you about it! My sabbatical is called a Pilgrimage in Relationships. My goals are three-fold: to renew my relationships with God, with myself and with my family, particularly my husband, Mike.
I recently attended a great Seminar with the Center for Congregations, called “Growing Young”, with Dr. Kara Powell of Fuller Theological Seminary, who is also the director of the Fuller Institute. Kara has been involved in a large research project funded by the Lilly Foundation to study churches that are engaged in effective ministry with young people ages 15 – 29. These churches are not only growing, but they are growing young. The statistics about church growth in the United States are not encouraging these days. The number of people who identify themselves as Christians has fallen from 78 – 71 percent recently. Kara says no major denomination is growing right now. So, Kara and her two colleagues embarked on a study of churches that are growing young.
To:The Church Mouse (ick!) and others.
From:The one and only Calvin the Church Cat.
OK Church Mouse, I’ve had about enough of your silly ramblings in the newsletter. And, furthermore, I do not smell as you insinuated.EVERYONE knows that mice smell -ALL THE TIME!Enuf. I am looking forward to all the upcoming Advent events (more cookie crumbs for me). Presbies are always eating and I need to keep up my healthy frame. Sitting on the shelf above the oven is my favorite spot. It is nice and warm.