A Season of Preparation
On May 8th, just after celebrating at Beach Baptism and a couple of days in planning meetings, I will be taking my first sabbatical. This sabbatical, a three month change of pace, place, and focus, has been a little over a year in the making.
In addition to being a very intentional and specific season for myself, this sabbatical is also “test driving” an Executive Sabbatical Program that will be actively available to ministry leaders throughout our staff team.
Over the last decade, a few of the Church leaders whom I respect most, some of whom have cared enough to invest personally in my life and in our church, began to take sabbaticals. Often taking their first sabbatical in their 60s, they came back from their season of “a different kind of work” in a state of well-being and excitement for the future that was enviable. The common sentiments, from some the hardest working people I know, was something like, “If I had known how much a sabbatical would help me and my ministry, I would have begun a routine of sabbatical 20 years ago.” As a person at least 20 years their inferior, I took note.
At first, I knew that I was in no way ready for such a season—I was too immature. A sabbatical is not a break; it is a season of a different kind to work, the internal kind of work that we often avoid by doubling down on external work. I knew that I did not yet have the wherewithal to enter such a season with reasonable hope of actually returning rested, focused, passionate, and spiritually filled and prepared. Now, a bit further along the way, I feel ready and have felt ready for the last year or two.
So with the Governing Board’s full approval, and with private funding from a number of folks who have contributed seed money to the Executive Sabbatical Program, I will spend my sabbatical following a path of four interwoven themes that will take me to the jungles of Colombia with a dear friend, to Ethiopia on a journey of discovery with my family, to Kenya for a bit of R & R with close friends and ministry partners, and finally to the National Parks of the western US for a road trip with my bride of 20 years to reflect, prepare, and breathe a bit.
The aforementioned themes are elements that I have found to be the most helpful in my focus, passion, and personal and spiritual well-being. Enjoying the beauty of creation is definitely the spiritual pathway on which I most intimately connect with my Creator. Seeing the Church in all of its beauty and diversity around the world reminds me of the scope of God’s heart for the world and the lengths to which he will go to make his love known to mankind. Spending time with the poor in our world reminds me that we live in world that yearns for hope and healing and that it matters whether or not the Body of Christ thrives. Finally, time with my family is the treasure of my life. I would not imagine a season of renewal and preparation that didn’t include sharing such an experience with them.
I am exceedingly excited about this summer, I am supremely confident of the posture of our church family while I am away, and I am already looking forward to returning in August to be a part of all the awesomeness as we move forward into the future God has for us as a church family. Should you be inclined to pray for me while I am away, please pray that God will accomplish his purposes in my life over the next three months. I have an idea of what I hope the sabbatical will be about and what I need; I am approaching this as a season of preparation and am hoping to return fully submitted and fully fueled for the next stretch of life and ministry. However, all my plans are obviously subject to God’s plans, and I would covet your prayers that I will be sensitive and adaptable so that I don’t lose time being distracted from his plans for my time.
Thank you for your prayers and thank you for helping make Summit a church family that is truly worth loving and well worth coming back to!
John Parker is Lead Pastor at Summit Church.