I am just now beginning my 2nd day back to work after a wonderful vacation. We started out by having my parents come to town and watch Vivian and Jackson, while Stacy and I stayed a couple nights at Island Lake, a local Christian Camp run by Crista Ministries. The wonderful ministry offers their facility to pastors free of charge. While there, we headed off to the camp’s dirt-bike course and both learned how to ride, and fall off of, motorcycles.
We also spent time with my parents in Snohomish, went to Seattle to meet our newest cousin, Declan, traveled to Portland and spent time with Jon Kauffman who is affectionately nick-named “Uncle Awesome” and went to the Portland Aquarium with Stacy’s cousin, Denise, and her two kids, Carson and Emily.
The trip concluded with a mini-family reunion as my Uncle Rob and Aunt Sally (my dad’s twin brother and wife) flew in from Tennessee, my cousin Andy from Idaho who was in Seattle for some business training, and Rob and Sally’s son and daughter-in-law, Jay and Chris, all gathered at my parent’s house for a wonderful barbecue. And after dinner all the guys went to a local shooting range and had some more fun there.
The vacation concluded with a trip to Seattle to watch the Seattle Sounders defeat our arch rivals, the Portland Timbers, in a 1-0 soccer match.
I also completed 5 books of a six book series that was simply pleasure reading. It as a lot of play crammed into a short period of time – but what fun we had! And now I return to my church home and my responsibilities as pastor, well rested and revitalized.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all who stepped up to cover for me in my absence.
Returning with such renewed spirits and energy reminds me of the Biblical idea of Sabbath. At the very creation of the world itself, God laid down a plan for his people to take opportunity to create again, that is to re-create, or as we often see it written a time for recreation. In God’s plan this was to happen 1 day out of every seven. For centuries this day of recreation was observed on Saturday, at the end of the week.
The day of observance changed to Sunday because that was the day that our Lord rose from the dead and it so it become most natural to celebrate life and to rest in the peace and hope of God on that day.
This idea of re-creation is important to us because it is very easy to devalue the importance of rest. I would be tempted to blame it on the modern age, where cellphones and e-mail make it possible for work to follow us wherever we go. But when we turn to scripture we can easily observe how this forgetfulness to rest has plagued mankind for as long as we have been able to misconstrue taking a break for being lazy. And when we work to excess without our needed, God-directed time of peace, we create for ourselves a situation destined for burn out.
To use my own profession as an example we can turn to this article in the New York Times, first published in 2010. According to studies done by Barna Institute, Fuller Seminary and Focus on The Family, it has been found that 80% of seminary and Bible School graduates who enter the ministry will leave the profession within the first 5 years and 50% of pastors admit that they would leave the ministry if they felt they had comparable job skills in the secular field. And a very interesting statistic from the research of psychologist Richard Blackmon states that the average cost to churches for dealing with mental breakdowns with clergy is four percent higher than any secular industry.
As ominous as these numbers seem… they can be even higher for those in youth ministry, especially regarding those who end up leaving the profession.
Fortunately, just as God gives us direction in His word for how to regulate our work week, so too does He provide us even longer lasting guidance. God taught the people of Israel that every 7th year they were to celebrate a special time of rest. A time where they refrained from work so that both they, and their land, might be renewed. This was a time to forgive debts, to free slaves, to celebrate and to trust in God’s provision. The way this has been applied within our modern churches has been to offer a sabbatical time of rest to pastors.
Your elder board is aware that our own Chris Cummings is approaching his 7th year of full-time employment with our church. His gifting and faithfulness is unquestioned and his use by God to bless our church is obvious to all. Because we care for him and value his ministry, we are eager to extend to him an opportunity for a 3 month sabbatical. (As Chris works primarily with our youth, it may help to think of it in terms of a teacher getting a summer break – except this time, Chris’ will come after 7 years). The hope will be to offer this time of retreat and re-creation in such a way that it can be a blessing to him and his family with as little impact on church ministry as possible, although there is no getting around the fact that they will be missed.
Things are still in the works, and feedback from the church body is certainly welcome.
Blessings and Shalom,
While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord said to him, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the Lord every seventh year. For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is theLord’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year. And don’t store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest. But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own during its Sabbath. This applies to you, your male and female servants, your hired workers, and the temporary residents who live with you. Your livestock and the wild animals in your land will also be allowed to eat what the land produces.
Leviticus 25:1-7 (NLT)