Last June my church offered me a sabbatical – a time for rest, education, and reflection. It was kinda like being given an elephant. Sounds like a great gift at the time…but umm, now what do I do with it? Just how should I plan my pastor sabbatical?
So there I was, sitting for my annual review with my lead pastor and executive pastor. We went through the usual review of goals and key performance indicators for the last year, etc.
And then they shocked me by saying that the church wanted to bless me with a long-overdue sabbatical after 20 years of ministry – 15 with our church, and 5 working in a leadership role with our denomination, the Wesleyan Church.
Our church has a very generous policy of offering pastors a sabbatical every 7 years. The board set the policy 4-5 years ago, when it gave our lead pastor a 3-month sabbatical. In addition to his sabbatical, a couple of other staff pastors have since enjoyed 1-month long sabbaticals. And now, it was my turn!
At the time my sabbatical was given, I was kinda beside myself. On the one hand, it sounded like an incredible gift and blessing, but on the other hand, I had no clue where to start in planning my sabbatical.
What would I want to do? Where would I want to go?
Here are the basic pastor sabbatical planning guidelines my church gave me:
- The goals of a pastor sabbatical are rest, education, and reflection.
- I needed to write a proposal of what I wanted to do during my month-long sabbatical, and submit it to my lead pastor, executive pastor, and a board member for approval.
- Once they approved the plan, the church would allocate a pre-determined amount of money (based on my salary) for approved sabbatical expenses (in addition to my regular salary and benefits which would still be paid during the time I was off). I learned that money allocated for a pastor’s sabbatical expenses becomes taxable income for the pastor. Uggh!
So, it was 4 weeks off, regular pay and benefits, plus extra money for education, travel, etc. Sounds like a wonderful blessing!!
Now what??? How should I plan my pastor sabbatical?
It took me 5 months to decide what I wanted to do for my sabbatical. Over last summer, I considered all kinds of ideas:
- Take my family on a vacation
- Spend focused time in reading, meditation, prayer, and journaling for spiritual growth
- Reflect on my life, ministry calling, goals and dreams for the future, and what I’d like the next season of life and work to look like
- Go on a Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise with the wife of my youth
- Take a trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land
- Plan a big adventure in India with a ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India
- Do a Spanish immersion program in Mexico City (Necesito aprender mas español)
- Just sit on a beach somewhere warm, with a refreshingly cold adult beverage…umm…Coca-Cola…in my hand
- Focus on some of the “pastor side hustle” business ideas that have been percolating in my mind a while
- Try some unique or different things that would both feed my creativity and my soul
I knew I didn’t want to over-program myself. I just wanted to settle in on a few key things for this four-week experience, which would fly by pretty quickly, I was sure.
Eventually, in mid-November things came together REALLY quickly.
Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, announced on his 48 Days Radio Show that he and his wife Joanne were hosting the “Acres of Diamonds Cruise” to the Caribbean in late April of 2019. (Not familiar with the “Acres of Diamonds reference? Keep reading and I’ll explain shortly…)
Dan and Joane have hosted these cruises for several years, and I have always thought it would be great if my wife and I could join them sometime.
I first got acquainted with Dan and his “48 Days to the Work You Love” resources and workshop back in 2004 when I became a licensed “48 Days to the Work You Love” workshop facilitator.
So I knew that spending time with Dan and Joanne on this cruise, along with other like-minded entrepreneurs and creatives, was sure to be a catalytic opportunity!
But by the time I really took notice of the cruise opportunity, the registration and payment deadline was just one week away! I needed to work fast to write my proposal, submit it, and get it approved, before I could commit to the cruise. This could take weeks!
So I prayed, “God, it would be absolutely amazing if someway, somehow it would work out for us to be able to go on this cruise.”
Then I got to work writing up my sabbatical proposal and contacting Dan’s travel agent to let him know I was interested…if God could make all the details come together in time.
So, did our (cruise) ship come in? Or were we left sitting high and dry, watching it sail off into the sunset? Please check out my next post to find out what happened next!
Acres of Diamonds
If you’re not familiar with the Acres of Diamonds reference, it’s an old story about an African farmer who heard that other farmers were making fortunes by discovering diamond mines.
So he sold his farm and went off searching for diamonds for the rest of his life…but never found them. Physically worn out, and emotionally despondent, he threw himself in a river and drowned.
Some time later, the man who bought his farm happened to find a unique rock – a crystal, he thought – in a creek bed on his property, and he brought it into his house.
One day a visitor picked up the stone and asked the farmer if he knew what is was. The farmer said he figured it was a crystal. The guest corrected him and said it was actually a diamond – and the most impressive one he had ever seen.
Turned out, this farmer’s fields were full of these diamonds – and his farm became one of the most productive diamond mines in all of Africa.
These diamonds had been sitting under the first farmer’s nose all along. But he had no idea, because he didn’t know what diamonds looked like in their rough state!
If ONLY he had first taken the time to prepare himself by learning what diamonds in the rough looked like, and then took the time to search out his own property for diamonds, he would have become the wealthiest of men.
It’s an old story, but it’s still just as relevant for you and me today.
How many times do we go off searching for new opportunities, instead of honing and maximizing the gifts, talents, and opportunities that are already right under our noses?
Do you need help in clarifying your own “Acres of Diamonds” opportunities? Want to talk to a fellow pastor who gets you, understands your money and life frustrations, and is dedicated to helping you “win” more in the things that REALLY count?
Click to learn how just 90 minutes with me will help clear your confusion, give you greater clarity and focus, and get you moving toward the next level in your life and work! >>> http://www.moneywisepastor.com/work-with-me/<<<