Boundaries for Sabbatical


A year and half ago, we sat around the big executive table at Acme (our former worship space in the art studio) and talked about the possibility of a sabbatical. A year and half in the life of this church is a lifetime--we are in a different worship space-people have moved, new faces have joined us, our kids are two grades older, jobs have come and gone, I started to like radishes and we applied and received a fat sabbatical grant.

It's all happening.

Specifically, my sabbatical begins August 1. I know that should be followed with a “sigh,” but it actually feels like more of a “gulp.” When my friend, Kara, began a sabbatical-she had this lovely image of putting her church in a boat. She stayed on the beach—and launched them off. They patiently shifted their legs around to make room for some of her baggage and then off they sailed. Way off on the horizon, Kara could just barely see the sail being raised for worship each week. She knew it was happening-but she wasn't a part of it. Because she had to stay on the beach. To rest.

It's a good image.

What it feels like to me-as the pastor who started this church seven years ago-is that I'm sending my kids off to sleep away camp for the first time. Up until this point-it's been me. I've been the main influence-the person tending to the needs and the dreams and questions. And now, you are going to have other influences and people to tend you. Now, there are amazing camp counselors who know things. Different songs and ideas swimming in heads and hearts. A whole different rhythm to the week. Teeth brushing and showering? It's camp-do whatever you want. (No really-do whatever you want to). You will change and grow-and I'm going to change and grow and it will be beautiful. A tiny bit scary, and mostly beautiful.

I've been thinking about sabbatical boundaries for myself for the last 18 months. Let's just say that it's complicated. I was a at party last week, and the host introduced me as, “This is my pastor. Well, and friend. And neighbor. Oh, and boss.” I laughed, because it was all true. It's true for most of us—we have multiple layers of relationships. So, a few clear guidelines for August-Oct are necessary.

1. Social media: I'm taking a full on break from facebook. You'll all keep the fb dream of memes alive while I'm gone.

2. Email: all work-related email ( will get an auto response that says I am unavailable-give the names of the people who are available-and instruct you to resend it in November. These emails will also automatically delete on my end. Doesn't that sound terrifying? What if people don't resend it? What if I miss 1000 opportunities? Well, yes. Those things will happen. But my work is actually stopping for 3 months—it's not just on delay. I am fully setting it down.

3. Will I be at worship or Wild Week or Beer and Hymns in the Fall? No. But you will be and it will be amazing.

4. What if there is a crisis? What if someone needs pastoral care? We have two amazing pastors who are covering for me and they are available. Pastor Angela Pastor Phil Also, you can do this for one another. Look around you-this community is filled with skilled listeners and prayers. Lucky us.

5. Can you still talk to me when you see me? Yes, of course. I'm traveling nearly the entire month of August (Enneagram 7's dream). So, this won't really be a thing until September. Invite me to social events? Etc? Yes. Sure. Just no business talk.

6. What about my family? Well-they are their own agents and this community is such a vital force for them, too. You will likely see them at worship and events.

7. Texting me or calling me. Don't. Not even to ask me a question.

8. I am doing two speaking events that are 100% business. These are exceptions and extraordinary and just happen to fall within the sabbatical. In August, I am traveling to Iceland for a pastor's event-they asked me to talk about the theology that supports Humble Walk and how we do experiential worship. They other is Why Christian? in September.

9. Periodically, I will send a blog post about how things are going on my end. Remember, I am not dead. I am just on break. And I am coming back (it's actually written into the grant agreement that I return for a minimum of a year).

Like Ross and Rachel, we're on a break. Like Ross and Rachel, we will get back together.

10. Pray for me. I will continue to pray for you.