Posted by: Tom Gaddis | March 7, 2009

Pastor Tom’s Sabbatical letter to the church

February 2009

Dear Church Family,

 

I would like to share with you about the sabbatical that Susan and I feel God is leading us to take in 2009. We, along with our Foursquare Regional Supervisor, Robbie Booth and our Helmsmen, feel that it would be of great benefit to us and to you as the church family if we took a two months break from our ministry assignments.  We have been privileged with serving here at Father’s House for 34 years come July and feel the need to take a short timeout to regroup, renew, and retool.

 

What is a Sabbatical?

 

The need for a deep and deliberate break from the demands of ministry has historically been known by the name sabbatical. First, practiced by churches and then adopted within academic circles to allow teachers study and research time, it is also an idea currently gaining acceptance in the realm of business. Sabbaticals were named “one of the five new bold ideas for business excellence” in a 2006 report, When Work Works: New Ideas from Winners of the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence. Also, in Harvard Business Review’s 2005 “Annual List of Breakthrough Ideas” for businesses, sabbaticals were described in a favorable light because of their positive long-term impact on today’s companies.

 

The word sabbatical is rooted in the Biblical idea of Sabbath which involves ceasing, rest, worship, play and reflection. Sabbatical in its original form was the ancient practice in Israel of letting the land lie fallow for an entire year after seven years of activity (Exodus 23:10-11). This strategy allowed the earth to replenish itself so that it could continue to bear fruit. Throughout church history ministry leaders have retreated for periods of time to connect in deeper and restorative ways with the Lord. We are simply following in their footsteps.

 

What is the purpose for this Sabbatical?

 

Our time away will be a period where we too can “lie fallow” with the express purpose of returning back to our responsibilities as pastors replenished and readied for a new season of fruitfulness. In my estimation sabbaticals are a strategic act of self-care that empowers pastors to avoid becoming one of the following statistics:  

 

  • Currently, 1,600 pastors in US churches quit or resign from their jobs each month
  • Nearly 20 percent of pastors are suffering from stress or burnout
  • Sadly, 50 percent of pastors become divorced
  • Alarmingly, within 5 years of graduating from Bible College or Seminary 80% of pastors have left the ministry.
  • The average tenure of a pastor in a church today is only 3 years.
  • The average tenure of a pastor’s ministry career is only 14 years

 

While there are many factors for the above turn-over rate, chief among them is the lack of caring for ourselves spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, relationally, and vocationally. Author and pastor, Mark Buchanan writing about his own need for a sabbatical, captures in words my present feelings when he writes in his book, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath,  “Somewhere I got dull. The child got old, the warrior timid.”

 

It was back in 1975 that I began pastoring and looking back I thought I was running a 660 meter race, but now see that it is a marathon! We are simply feeling tired from the mileage and feel the trimming is right to pull aside for renewal.

 

This season of disengagement for two months is not a vacation, but rather a very intentional and deliberate time for rest, repair, restoration and refreshing. It’s to us what dry docking is to a ship. The ship is pulled from the water for a short time so that her hull can be cleaned and repaired and then returned to the ocean ready and able.

 

What will you do during this extended time away?

 

Our general plans are to disengage from the day to day ministry here at Father’s House, as well as, my outside activities as a board member of God’s Country and with the Atascadero ministerial group. During this time Susan and I will be filling our time by:

 

  • Resting
  • Working on character and spiritual soul formation, i.e. working on our stuff
  • Investing in family and friends—building deeper relationships
  • Resting
  • Digesting books that need time to be read and meditated upon for their rich meaning to be garnered. (Tom: I hope to clear off a collection of twenty or more books I’ve been waiting to study.)
  • Learning some new computer skills via classes
  • Writing
  • Traveling
  • Resting
  • Visiting some specific ministries to glean fresh ideas to bring back to Fathers House

 

Further, we are looking forward to connecting with many of our ministry friends at the International Foursquare Convention in Anaheim in May. Something new is happening in the movement and we look forward to hearing the heart of God from our Foursquare leaders at this time.

 

What will be the benefits of this disengagement from work?

 

To intentionally not be involved in the weekend services and day to day life of this church is scary. So I think right off it will return to me a healthy perspective that this church is bigger than Susan and I. By this I mean that the church is more than capable of thriving without us. In my head I know this, but in my practice I am currently much too anxious and driven.

 

So this will be a time to be restored in perspective that He is the Head of the Church, He will build it, and sustain it and I need to just trust Him. Amen.   

 

Further, it’s our expectation to return to the work here refreshed and energized for fruitful labor in the new season that is already upon us here at Father’s House. We are looking forward to hearing Bob Sorge in June and attending the family camp at Lake Lopez. You can expect that when we return we will be sharing with you some of the deeper things that God accomplishes in us during this time away.

 

When will this break from your work assignment take place?

 

After seeking counsel on what should be the duration of our time away we heard from many trusted advisors. Their counsel ranged anywhere from six weeks to six months as suggested amounts of time for a sabbatical. Susan and I feel that we have found a happy medium of two months, and will step into our sabbatical at the beginning of April and return at the beginning of June.

 

Who will be in charge in your absence?

 

Thank God that we have so many capable and fine leaders. The pastoral staff, Jeremy Sizemore and Mary Weber, will be responsible for the day to day issues that come up. Debra Weber will continue to run the office for Father’s House. The Church council—Kay Dow, Robert Velasquez, John Weber, and Chris Hallquist, along with our Treasurer Bud Silva—will be available for any questions regarding the church facilities and finances. And finally our Helmsmen—Scott Morrell, Rex Johnson, Vickie Mears, Garth & Holly Jantzen, and Val Sizemore—will all be available to answer questions, handle emergencies, and, along with the staff, be responsible for the weekend services. During our absence the church will be privileged to hear from several quality speakers beside those from our own fellowship.

 

What can we do to help?

 

Pray for our renewal. Also, please continue to mature in your own spiritual life with Jesus. Plan to stay connected to the fellowship in meaningful and accountable relationships and serve one another. Please know that in no sense of the word is the church on pause. All of us are gifted and must do our part to build up the body, reach out to the community, and fulfill his purposes for our lives.

 

How will we be kept informed?

 

Over the next six weeks we will be giving you more details as things are organized for April and May at Father’s House. Once we are on our sabbatical we will be sending regular communiqués about what we are doing, learning or experiencing—so be sure to become a part of our “Sabbatical blog.”

 

While on our sabbatical, it is our intent to stay connected to some degree with close friends and, of course, family. However, we won’t be available to discuss Father’s House life and community. 

 

Finally, if there are any further questions regarding our sabbatical please feel free to talk with us or with the Helmsmen who we have been processing this idea with us for months.

 

And please know how privileged we are to be called pastors here at Father’s House. We do not take this two month leave with any sense of entitlement or because we feel we have worked so hard that we deserve it. No, we see it as a pure gift to us from this fellowship and from Jesus.  So please know how grateful we are to you for this gift.

 

Sincerely,

Tom Gaddis

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. I love your hearts about this, Tom and Sue, and I love you guys. You leave us with an awesome crew of under-rowers while you’re away.

    (I’ll betcha those two months are gonna fly! 🙂

  2. I know the Lord will abundantly bless you as you seek Him. You both are amazing leaders and spiritual parents. It is time for you to take this time for yourselves. When we moved to Alturas, the Lord had me in a place of rest for the first year. I fought it at first and then began to see His wisdom. I treasure the time I had alone with Him. The year ended with me feeling refreshed and renewed. I look back on that time and draw strength from what I learned now that I’m back “in the army” again. I certainly needed that time to build me up for all the Lord has for our church and me personally now. Be blessed! (and, if you need a place to run to, we have an awesome guest room. We are 150 miles from Bethel, too)

  3. Be Blessed!


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