February 15 I will begin a six-month sabbatical. What does that mean? Nothing so exciting as the last time I took one (2001-2), but I expect it to be just as fruitful and in some of the same ways. Here's the basic model, per The Navigators. Excerpts adapted from their 60-page manual on the topic:
Sabbatical: A Season of Refreshment
When we use the word “sabbatical,” we are not talking about a vacation but a guided process where we deliberately trust God for the unfinished as we disengage from normal ministry and leadership involvement for a period of time to allow for serious evaluation of life and ministry. The thought is captured by Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.What Will You Do During Your Sabbatical?
Phase 1: Release and relinquish – exit from leadership and ministry responsibilities
During this phase, before the sabbatical begins, the staff member disengages from ministry and leadership responsibilities and establishes a sabbatical plan – an initial framework reflecting priority needs. Ministry responsibilities are delegated and others are recruited to help with the sabbatical (e.g., an adviser and a support team).
Phase 2: Rest and recovery – establish margin and manage pace of life
This does not mean ceasing from all activity, but ceasing from regular ministry activities and, where possible, other stress factors. It is recommended that staff members make a full break from ministry activities in order to keep the sabbatical a priority focus. (Though some communication and administrative responsibilities typically continue.)
Phase 3: Reflect and refocus – experience God and self in new/deeper ways
This is the work phase of the sabbatical. Extended time alone with God for reflection is the focus of this phase. During this phase the staff member should be asking the question, "Lord, is there anything you want to say to me?"
Phase 4: Realignment and/or reassignment – empowering for maximum contribution
This is the application phase of the sabbatical. During this phase one ask, "what changes in life and ministry should I make as result of what I’ve heard from God?" This implies a review and reaffirmation of calling in order to experience maximum contribution in the next season of life – whether returning to the current ministry role or changing ministry role.
(Note: I understand The Navigators suggest putting everything on the table – not promising or assuming a return to the same ministry assignment following sabbatical. Which is good since it's now clear that our ministry will have disintegrated – not ceased to exist exactly, but broken apart into several new, probably more functional entities and having shed the team identity and office - while I'm gone. So, while don't think I'll have any lack of job opportunities, I will need to make some choices before my return.)
Phase 5: Re-entry / re-engagement
In this phase the staff member transitions back into ministry [hopefully refreshed physically and with a reaffirmed sense of calling, purpose, and perspective!] It is suggested that staff members coming off of sabbatical work half-time for the first month and avoid major ministry responsibilities for the first four months.