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A Creekside Sabbatical

By Steve Gregg

One of the things that I appreciate so much about serving at Creekside is that I am part of a team of pastors.  There are many reasons and benefits for it (a topic for a future letter) but one important advantage is the ability to schedule regular times of extended sabbath every five years for our pastors.  In proof of how quickly time flies, this summer marks the 5-year anniversary since Mike and Courtney Roop joined our church family, and starting this Monday, May 31st Mike will take his first two-month sabbatical as a pastor at Creekside.   

There are many ways that sabbaticals can be done, but at Creekside there are four main components: Rest, Renewal, Reflection, and Review. 

One of the key components of our pastoral sabbaticals is a time of rest for the pastor and their family. Though serving a church is a wonderful blessing it can also be exhausting on many levels, especially emotionally and spiritually. Our sabbaticals are intended to be a time for the pastor and his family to get an extended time away to rest and catch their breath.

Having your spiritual life tied to the life of a church community is both encouraging and draining all at the same time. Pastors serve every day out of the resources of their own spiritual walk and personal time with Jesus -- at least that is our goal. The reality is that there are days we do that well and other days where we struggle. In both cases it is healthy for pastors to take extended time to disengage their personal faith and spirituality from their “9 to 5” job and be reminded that they are first and last a Christ-follower, not a ‘professional Christian’. 

Pastoral ministry can very easily become all about teaching the next lesson, preaching the next sermon, dealing with the latest crisis, or sitting with the latest hurting congregant. A sabbatical gives the pastor a chance to take several steps back and reflect on their ministry from a distance, allowing for a better perspective in just what it is that they are called to.  Our hope is that this time allows our pastors both to see how Christ has used them in the life of the church over the previous five years and provide time for them to start to dream and pray about the future. 

While the components of rest, renewal, and reflection involve the pastor and his family, this fourth component involves the elders. During pastoral sabbaticals, our elders conduct a 360-degree review to provide feedback to the pastor on their return. This includes (1) feedback from the church on how they have been a blessing and helped people grow in Christ, (2) ways in which the pastor can grow as a shepherd, and (3) ways in which he can better serve the church over the next 5 years. 

I have had the privilege to do two of these types of sabbaticals. It has been a very helpful exercise for me to lay aside my role as a pastor and just be a dad, a husband, and a child of Jesus. Candidly, it is not always comfortable or easy.   As well as being moments of sweet rest, sabbaticals often end up being a time of deep soul work in unexpected ways.  So, I sincerely mean this when I say please pray for Mike and Courtney and for their time away from the church this summer. Pray for rest, renewal, and reflection, and pray for Christ to use this time to refine them in deep and lasting ways. Mike and Courtney, we love you and appreciate you so much! You will be missed, but we are grateful for you to have this chance to be together as a family. Have a great summer!!