As we engage in ministry there are ebbs and flows, seasons of work and seasons of rest — because, let’s face it, ministry is hard work. Elders are only allowed to serve in their role for six years, and then they must take a break for at least one year. Most of us will serve in a role within the body for a time and then step back for a time while another volunteer steps in to carry the load.
The periods of rest and renewal are more difficult for the full-time ministry worker, when times of professional growth have to be crammed into a 24/7 commitment. This is the practical basis for offering a sabbatical to our ministerial staff. We ask them to step back for a time and experience renewal in their relationship with the Father and pursue personal spiritual growth.
Jesus modeled this behavior during His public ministry by getting away from the crowds and concentrating on His relationship with the Father. Perhaps when He sent the disciples out to experience ministry on their own He experienced a longer period of spiritual refreshment.
The Elder Board began seriously pursuing the sabbatical model over the last couple of years. Our goal is to give our pastors this break every six years. Pastor Martin has been faithfully leading and shepherding us for 19 years without this opportunity. Pastor Brian has also been asked to begin planning for his own sabbatical next year.
We are asking Martin to take this break with specific professional and spiritual goals. We are convinced this is good for him and good for all of us at Elim. The Evangelical Free Church declares that taking sabbaticals is a “positive trend reflecting increased awareness of a series of work/rest cycles found in the scriptures. Observing them is a healthy practice that assures sustainability in ministry.”
Martin will be away from Elim from May 1 through July 31, 2013. Pastor Brian and others will fill the pulpit during this time. Brian will lead the staff and day-to-day ministries, while being supported by a host of people, including the Elders and all of us at Elim. We ask for your prayers for Martin and Kim as he is away from us and for the staff and Elders as they fill in.
Elim is experiencing a time of health and growth, and it is my prayer that we put into practice what Martin has modeled for us. We trust we will welcome him home in August healthier and stronger than when he left.
From Pastor Martin:
The big question is, what will I do on this sabbatical? In addition to getting some rest and some much appreciated “wind therapy,” I will go through some life coach training which deals with the integration of the spiritual, relational, professional, and personal dimensions of a person’s life. This training will be a benefit to my ongoing ministry at Elim as well as to other consulting opportunities that may cross my path in the future.
Second, I will seek out a pastoral prayer mentor. It has been my desire to deepen my prayer life and to better shepherd Elim toward becoming a “house of prayer.” There are a couple of opportunities that I will explore to find the person who will best equip me to fulfill this vision.
Third, I will visit some churches which have a clear strategy for discipleship. I want to continue to sharpen my strategic understanding for growing passionate, persevering followers of Jesus. This is our mandate; therefore, it must be our mission.
Fourth, I will immerse myself in reading the Gospel of Mark multiple times in preparation for preaching this Gospel beginning October 6.
One final question must be answered: “Do I plan on staying at Elim after I return from this sabbatical?” The answer is yes. I have no plans for leaving and have no intention of using this time to look for other ministry opportunities. Kim and I love this body and we look forward to having many more years of growing disciples at Elim.