Josh has now been on sabbatical for one week. And while it’s been wonderful so far, it has really just felt like he’s home for a week of vacation. Today we begin settling into a normal routine. We purposely set the first week as a week of no schedule. Oh, we’ve been busy … painting, ripping up flooring, celebrating Christmas and New Years, eating late dinners, watching movies with the kids. But today, we begin being intentional about resting.
I think many wonder just what a pastoral sabbatical is and why it is necessary. I’ve heard comments about how pastors work just like everyone else, but other professions don’t give you 3 months of rest. I’ve been asked if this is just an extended vacation. Many, many people have wondered what we’re going to DO with three months of “nothingness”.
The truth is there is a difference between a pastor’s or missionary’s job and the typical job in the workforce. He doesn’t just have a regular day job. A pastor is on the front lines of spiritual battle day in and day out. Battle is exhausting. And even the toughest soldier needs time to rest before heading back into the fray. Pastors often struggle to find a day of rest within the week. They don’t usually have the typical two day weekend that most professions offer. And the pastor and his family are on call 24/7. Josh has received calls in the middle of the night to visit the hospital, help an addict resist temptation, or unexpectedly care for a toddler whose parents are in the hospital having another baby. We’ve put dates and family activities on hold so he can minister to a couple on the brink of divorce or diffuse a violent situation. We open our home frequently to counsel couples, singles, and families whenever they are in need. Pastoring is much like parenting. You can’t just leave work at the office to relax at home. Work follows you home.
But it is not a drudgery. When a man and his family are called to this ministry, there is joy even in the disruptions and difficulties. We consider it a privilege to serve those God has called us to. And each and every day we give thanks for the loving care of our church family. Because of their goodness to us, we have been well able to soldier on! They are indeed family to us.
Hopefully that helps to answer the question of why a pastor needs times of sabbatical. Now here’s how we plan to use the three months we’ve been graciously given.
To begin with, we don’t intend to have three months of nothingness. In fact, we plan to have much of a few things: rest, spiritual growth, family time, and fun.
Let me break it down.
REST: I have never seen my husband so tired. The first priority of rest is for him to do things that rejuvenate him. Things like getting out in nature, having quiet alone time, reading, watching movies. Most people don’t know this about Josh, but he’s an introvert. Many of a pastor’s duties require him to play the part of an extrovert and Josh does it well. Most people assume he just loves to be in crowds and around people all the time. But he needs time to recharge.
To that end, he just bought some cross country skis to use here in the Wisconsin snow. We’re planning a trip to California during which he’ll see the Sequoia trees, hike, and revel in God’s creation. We’re using a family member’s house while they are south for the winter as a retreat where Josh and I can both have a few hours each day to get quiet with God. Each of these things will give him the quiet he needs to reenter the pastorate well-charged and ready to go.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH: In a house full of 5 kids, it’s hard to find a quiet corner anywhere or a moment of stillness during which you can just sit and listen to God. To solve that problem, Josh and I are both taking time each day to get out of the house to a quiet place. A place where we can get on our faces before the Lord, pour out our hearts to Him, listen for His voice, journal, read, rest, grow. I think this is the part of the sabbatical I am most excited about! It’s a rare treat for me. We’re also asking the kids to start spending one-on-one time with the Lord each day. We’ve found different devotionals for each of them to use and each morning they will have some quiet time with God. It’s our great hope that three months of this will be enough time to set a pattern and start habits that will benefit them their whole lives.
Josh also has a few special things planned in regards to growth. He will be headed to Israel for two weeks to tour the Holy Land and learn from professors who taught him in seminary. This is a life-long dream for him and he’s so excited to go. He can’t wait to put some of his new knowledge into his preaching and looks forward to the insight he’ll gain into the Scriptures. His other planned activity is the reason for our trip to California. He plans to attend John MacArthur’s shepherding conference for pastors. This will take place shortly before our sabbatical ends and should be an excellent way to stir his blood and excite him to get back in the pulpit.
FAMILY TIME: I assure you, we’ll be getting a lot of family time in three months together! No doubt we’ll be sick of each other at times. However, we are trying to be careful about spending quality time together – not just living in the same house. The kids are homeschooled, so we’ve taken the opportunity to call this our “summer break” and will not be doing conventional schoolwork. We don’t want the kids to be bored or lazy though, so to keep their minds active they are each studying a particular area of interest. One will be studying architecture, one ornithology, one will be baking with me each day, and one will work with lego and erector sets to increase his creativity and ability to follow directions. Beyond this, we’re planning lots of family time. Our trip to California will be in the van. SEVEN DAYS there and FIVE DAYS back!! That’s a lot of time together! However, we’re working hard to plan events along the way that will build memories and will blend into our category of fun.
FUN: This is the thing the kids are most excited about. Of course! We have plenty of fun sprinkled in throughout the three months. While staying at a friend’s lake house, we plan to spend a day in the Dells soaking up wild water fun. While in California, we’ll spend time on the beach – always a favorite for us, we’ll sightsee in L.A., we hope to visit the Grand Canyon, the Sequoia National Park, the San Diego Zoo, and … LEGO LAND!! I think I know what the favorite will be. While at home, we’re having fun doing ordinary things. Playing games, eating yummy foods, laughing together. Tomorrow we have new floors getting installed in the dining room and kitchen. But today, there are just bare boards that will be covered. We’ve given the kids the entire day and a large amount of permanent markers to write verses, draw pictures, and create a massive town and roadway for their cars. They are having a blast! It’s well worth the price of replacing my good markers.
A pastoral sabbatical will look different for each pastor. For us, these goals were the most fitting to accomplish what we need. A pastor with no children at home will not need to plan in as much silly fun time. A single pastor may desire to travel for the entire sabbatical. Another may choose to do a pulpit swap with a pastor from another country – enabling both to receive rest and to travel while recycling previously preached sermons.
The Brumbaughs need this particular sabbatical. And without the support and care of our church, none of it would be possible. It is only through the generosity of our church members that we are able to do any of our fun events and travelling. It is through the goodness of family members that we have a quiet place to retreat each day. It is because of the help of other families that we are able to leave our chickens, parakeet, and house knowing they will be well-tended. And it is only through the many prayers offered on our behalf that we will return refreshed and ready for another thrilling season of ministry. It is our prayer that God will use this time to prepare us for whatever lies ahead and to refresh and awaken the church to revival.