Lessons from a Sabbatical


Taking a Sabbatical is a privilege. Most people don’t have the time nor resources to take an extended time off. I want to thank the Conference and the team that made it possible for us to take nine weeks off.

Our Sabbatical centered around four important elements: Renewal, Family, Insight, and Direction. So for the next three weeks I want to share a few things I learned while away.

First, the lesson of rest and renewal! The essence of a Sabbatical is rest. The Hebrew word “Shabbat” means to stop or cease, literally to quit working. For me, that’s a big deal. I’m a doer. My worth comes from my work. Mark Buchanan says that, “Our work culture is defined by productivity and accomplishment…we have a system that says, ‘Produce, or be labeled as lazy’” (The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath). A Sabbatical forces a person to stop and rest.


Growing up, many summers were spent visiting my relative’s farm in Central Alberta, Canada. They were dairy farmers, but grew large crops for feed. Every year I noticed that certain fields were left “empty.” I remember asking my uncle about the barren soil, and he explained that fields were left dormant to allow the soil to replenish itself. It is called “fallowing.” Even today, with all the advancements in farming, land is still fallowed from one to five years to restore the soil (agamaerica.com).     

That’s a great picture of Sabbatical. It’s a time to be “dormant” by leaving the routines of work in order to replenish your life. So, how do you do that during a Sabbatical?

  1. You stop working. Vacations recharge our batteries for work, but an extended time allows us to take a deeper look at our lives. I was able to “let go” of things largely because of the leadership of the Conference; Nancy in the office, along with a team that were willing to fill the gaps while I was gone. During my Sabbatical I didn’t even read my ministry emails. There were a couple of things I had to address during my time away, but they were handled and I still felt I had a complete break from the concerns of work. 
  2. You take extended time with God. I was able to spend extended time away with God. I had more time to devote to prayer time. Even the churches we attended and pastors we talked with gave me spiritual refreshment. I did read during Sabbatical but felt God spoke to me more in the quiet spaces than my to-do list. There is nothing sweeter than experiencing the love and presence of God.
  3. You take care of yourself. I actually lost about 5 pounds during the Sabbatical. (My wife says I’m bragging). We walked about 8-10 miles a day and I even joined a gym while in Scotland. We tried to eat healthy. I tried to establish some rhythm during Sabbatical but didn’t get stressed out when my routine didn’t always go as planned.
  4. You deepen relationships. I was able to truly relax and enjoy time with family and some old friends. I’m glad that my wife is my best friend. We spent time together walking, playing games, entertaining grandkids and brainstorming ideas for our retirement years. We realize only God knows the future, but it is nice to know that we are mostly on the same page with our future goals. 


Are you thinking of taking a Sabbatical? Our Conference offers specialized coaching in this area. You can contact Tom Hurt at Coaching@ThePacificConference.com. A number of us are willing and wanting to help those of you planning a Sabbatical.

Also, I’ll be sharing more about my Sabbatical at the next Superintendent’s Zoom meeting, October 14th at 9:00 AM (Pacific Time).

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