As an achiever and someone who likes to be busy, the idea of a sabbatical sounded more like torture than life giving. However, after just a few years of leading, I soon realized the benefit of working "on" the church and not just "in" the church. We work in the church by preparing sermons, leading meetings, and caring for people. We work on the church by taking a stepping back to learn and reflect. Therefore, after seven years as Lead Pastor, I decided it was time for me to take a step back to learn from others and to reflect on my life and the church.
What Am I Doing?
My sabbatical isn't perfect. It's seven weeks long, but has a few interruptions that were unavoidable. However, I don't feel like the interruptions will affect my overall goal to learn and reflect. Sabbatical legalists would probably sneer at me though.
People who have done sabbaticals before told me that you should do whatever it is you feel like doing. So far that's been the case. I flew to South Africa to learn from PJ Smyth and Godfirst Church. That was a tremendously rich time of learning. The 32 hours on the plane gave me plenty of opportunity to reflect. The rest of my time has been spent on the road with my family...half the time I am relaxing, the other half I'm using to write down what I'm learning. When I get back off the road, I plan to visit a couple other churches and their leaders. I had planned to visit several more, but realized that for this sabbatical to be effective, I need more time to process what I'm learning before I get back into my routine.
I'm just about half way through my sabbatical and I am already convinced that I'll do this about every seven years. I may even try to build in something every year for a couple of weeks. The creative space and time to reflect is so helpful. If you're a Senior Pastor, I would recommend you do the same.