Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Honor the Sabbatical and Keep it Holy

I think the relationship between full-time ministry and necessary “sabbaticals” is really important - and really complicated. Kurt Schuermann says (pg. 114), “The landscape of ministry is littered with the wrecked careers and shattered lives of people who believed that they could function without giving into the need to escape reality.” It was really fascinating to learn that it takes ten years for experts to consider us “accomplished” at any give task – while at the same time acknowledging that after ten years of full-time ministry, many pastors are exhausted and ready to quit. Just when sociological and cognitive-science research says that they should be at the “top of their game,” these pastors have nothing left to give. I know that PB usually takes the entire month of August off from church: no cell phone, or even checking e-mail for a month! Elbo's parents are full-time missionaries; they take really regular sabbaticals/furloughs, paid and financed by their supporters at home and by their missionary organization. They once took eight full months off!

But all this emphasis on sabbatical is an interesting thing: my father works at his desk job fifty weeks a year. He has done so for as long as I’ve been alive! Excluding federal holidays, he works consistently with only two weeks vacation - year-in and year-out. How is it that he is able to function with only two weeks vacation, when Elbo’s parents once needed eight months? I can imagine a difference in stress loads, and I’m sure that the mission field requires a greater degree of flexibility, and more working with people. Is that commensurate with the degree difference of vacation time needed? It seems that 21st Century, America has both a perverse fascination with, and a phobia of, relaxation and leisure. We point to European societies with long vacations admirably, and then turn around and highlight African societies that have almost none.

When it comes to Sabbaticals, what is the balance? How can we find it?

Grace & Peace