Posted by: Susan Gaddis | April 29, 2010

Ministry Burnout

I recently read an excellent post titled “A Cool Look at Burning Out” by Paul A. Qualben at In it he describes three stages in the burnout process documented by Cary Cherniss in his book, Staff Burnout.

  1. The honeymoon stage, in which enthusiasm, commitment, and job satisfaction eventually give way; energy reserves begin to drain off.
  2. The “fuel shortage” stage, characterized by exhaustion, detachment, physical illness, anger, sleep disturbances, depression, possible escapist drinking or irresponsible behavior.
  3. Then crisis-pessimism, self-doubt, apathy, obsession with one’s own problems, disillusionment with one’s career.

Qualben also looks at the type of personalities most likely to experience burnout and suggests ways to counter burnout. It’s a great article for those of you evaluating your own burnout situations and wondering if a sabbatical would help. Check it out here.

Let us know what you think of the article and if it helps in your evaluation of your own ministry and/or of your need for a sabbatical.

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | April 15, 2010

Why You Need to Stop and Getaway

Susan and I caught our breath this week by getting away for a couple of days to Solvang and Santa Barbara. Time away from a season packed with ministry, life, and busyness has a way of making my dog-eared perspectives crisp again.

Some seasons you know are over—the rain stops, the last game is played, the sneezing subsides, and the taxes are done. But in other seasons sometimes we have to stop and call out, “Season’s over. Time for a break.”

But saying “no” to busyness and “yes” to taking a break is counterintuitive.

“Busyness,” warns theologian Barbara Brown Taylor, is an “imposter virtue. Real virtues,” she writes, “make one feel like doing good, but imposter virtues make one feel good about doing bad. Busyness keeps us from lingering on anything long enough to engage it at any depth. Busyness convinces us that there is always something else we need to be doing. Busyness exhausts, embitters, divides, and demoralizes.”

I find that ceasing my busyness and calling a season to a halt is an act of courage and faith. It’s courageous because I stand up to the many activities that promise to make my life more important and more justified. I say, “See you later.”

It’s an act of faith that there will be a later and that in the meantime my heavenly Father will use rest to prepare me for the season yet to come. Selah.

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | February 27, 2010

The Doctor is In

As a good spiritual doctor, I’ve wanted to give sound advice to a friend of mine going through a divorce. She’s very smart and doesn’t need counsel. She just needs people to be there for her.

Sometimes words just won’t do. I’ve found that emotional support moves best through hugs and listening. Oh, and humor.

I passed on some sage advice to her that is applicable to others who might be suffering in the aftermath of betrayal. The doctor is in and advises that in your time of upheaval and sadness to avoid the following:

Jack Daniels and his cousins Jose Cuervo and Jim Beam

Loaded weapons—knives, Kalashnikovs, anything with the words “semi automatic” on the label,  and blow guns 

Women’s Magazines with titles like: Perfectly Normal Women Who Stalk Their Ex’s

Old Movies such as Death Wish, Hang Em High, or Kill Bill

Blues Music (If you’re already in the Mood Basement why dig deeper?)

Bomb-Making-Made-Simple Internet articles

Other Women’s magazines with titles like: The Last Time I Saw My Husband, He Was Walking Down Lover’s Lane Holding His Own Hand

Country and western songs:

                    He Got the Goldmine, and I Got the Shaft

                    If I’d Shot Him Sooner, I Would be Out by Now

No, the best advice around for any staggering from the wounds of a Judas, a Brutus or What’s-Their-Name is: “Never return evil for evil.”

What have you prescribed to those suffering from betrayal?

Posted by: Susan Gaddis | January 24, 2010

Two Great Resources

Lately several friends in ministry have contacted me about taking a sabbatical. It seems we are not the only ones who have burnt out in ministry. One of the best books I’ve read on this subject is Mad Church Disease, Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic by Anne Jackson. Humorous, but filled with valuable information, this book will motivate you to take that sabbatical you have thought about.

Another resource I’ve passed on to others is the website of On January 4th, 2010, Barbara Pagano wrote a post on about results of a study by the Louisville Institute showing the benefits of a sabbatical for both a pastor and a congregation.

“Finding: A solid majority of both the sabbatical takers and their congregations report a significant, enduring post‐sabbatical strengthening of the pastor’s ministries of teaching and preaching.

  • 94% of congregational representatives indicate that they perceived their pastor to have been refreshed or re‐energized after the sabbatical.
  • 90% of congregational representatives believe that the sabbatical strengthened the pastor’s commitment to their congregation.

Much to our delight, a strong majority (75%) of congregations report that granting their pastor a sabbatical significantly benefited their churches.

These are awesome statics to quote when I encourage folks in ministry to take a sabbatical. Read the article here and then explore for more interesting posts on sabbaticals. And check out Mad Church Disease for more great research results and information.

Posted by: Susan Gaddis | January 7, 2010

Getting Serious About a Sabbatical

Elizabeth waves from the cockpit of "Revival"

Our guest author, Elizabeth Pagano, co-founder of yourSABBATICAL’s, a company that helps employers develop sabbaticals, offers helpful information for individuals and companies interested in sabbaticals in this post.

Grab some coffee, sit down and enjoy this short introduction to the world of sabbaticals. Then take some time to explore yourSABBATICAL. I found some great information at her site that is helping us plan our next mini-sabbatical–actually our 2010 four-week “vacation,” but I like the sound of “mini-sabbatical” better!

Getting Serious About a Sabbatical

by Elizabeth Pagano

My sabbatical was spent with my mother sailing a small sailboat for six months. We left after 9/11 and navigated 2,000 miles from Pensacola, FL, to the Northern Antilles. It was just the two of us. The time away from land life had a significant impact both on us as individuals and on our relationship. And it was the foundation for our business partnership.

Already in business together in leadership development consulting, we became intensely curious about what was being done in corporate America to provide sabbatical opportunities to employees. How can others experience the benefits of a significant block of time away – not just a vacation – and, if businesses also benefitted, perhaps they would support employees in this meaningful, holistic way. Thus began our work and research, which has been recognized by The Conference Board as a model for the future.

Sabbaticals began in the ministry, of course, followed by academia in the early 20th century as a way to compete for talent with industry. They’re not an entirely new concept in the business world – they were first offered in the 1960s by McDonald’s and have been a fairly common offering in the technology sector since the 1970s, starting with Intel.

Our mission at is to make sabbaticals a part of every career ladder and a component of the new way of working. Instead of putting off a meaningful break until retirement, why not retire a few years later and use that extra time to experience sabbaticals at regular intervals throughout a career?

In addition to working with companies to create sustainable sabbatical programs for their employees, our team works with individuals to design sabbaticals that truly help them step up in their careers – not just step out. Through enlightening assessment tools and insightful evaluation, we can guide you through all phases of a successful career sabbatical, from negotiating a leave and planning your work coverage to integrating your sabbatical experience into your leadership practices and personal brand.

Elizabeth Pagano
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Posted by: Tom Gaddis | December 24, 2009

His Kingdom Will Never End

I find myself reflecting after a night of caroling at a local convalescent center. A team of us handed out poinsettias, prayed with some of the residents, and chatted with others about their life.

Wally, and Daisy—alert, alive, and full of stories, particularly inspired me.

Wally poured out a torrent of information on his visitors. It was one of those one-sided conversations where the person is starved to share and be listened to.

His smiling face gave no clue of the hard life he had experienced—war, divorces, amputation of his leg, and the eminent loss of his Medicare.

Daisy loves chocolate. Her eyes twinkle as she selects choice pieces for us from her hidden trove.

But sadly, a number of men and women we met are invisible. No one sees them. No one will be visiting them during the holidays. And it causes me to wonder how a person can come to the end of their life and have no family or friends?

This all got me thinking about getting older. Like everyone I met tonight, my outward man is wasting away. To think otherwise is folly. The evidence has been stacking up. My sons now swim faster, run harder, and can easily pound me at arm wrestling.

And wrinkles. Forget crow’s feet, some mornings I wake up looking like the whole crow.

But I find comfort in a particular phrasing by the angel Gabriel as he breaks the news to Mary that she’s to give birth to a baby named Jesus: “His kingdom will never end.”

Never end—I like that. This means, among a thousand other things, that the problems and struggles we face have an end. But his kingdom will never end. Old age is made irrelevant when you’re going to live forever.

Wally was asked tonight, “Are you getting any presents for Christmas?” His response was priceless as he pointed towards heaven: “No I’m not, I have the greatest gift you can have.”

Have a Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | December 17, 2009


On a rainy night last week, a team of us from Father’s House stood out on the sidewalk of a Christmas event and invited total strangers to share any personal struggles needing prayer.

People showed amazing honesty in writing about their needs on prayer cards. Some were jobless or homeless; others had breast cancer, addictions, or were going through marital breakup. Others had experienced the unexpected death of a spouse, a child . . . and on and on.

Real people with real needs. No, desperate. Desperate needs. 

I don’t know about you, but when I’m immersed in the messiness of human heartbreak, tragedy—ministry to people—I sometimes find praise involuntarily rising out of the deep within me, “Thank you Father for rescuing me, sanctifying me, and keeping me.” Often this overflow is in whispered tones, while at other times it’s an out loud and simple, “Praise you Jesus.”

It never comes from feeling a sense of superiority or a “better than” attitude. No, these dear ones remind me that like them, I too have been in awful places and in desperate need of Him. And so I praise Him when I remember how he has rescued me—sometimes again and again.

So have you praised God for his rescuing work in your life today?  Or are you in one of those seasons of A.D.D.—Alleluia Deficit Disorder?

I like this Christmas meditation by St. Augustine. And while it’s not a spontaneous spill-over from our hearts, it very well may work like one of those cardio paddles you see on TV that jump-starts a heart. May our hearts start again flowing with His praises:

Rejoice, you just, it is the birthday of the Justifier.
Rejoice, you who are weak and sick; it is the birthday of the Savior, the Healer.
Rejoice, captives; it is the birthday of the Redeemer.
Rejoice, slaves; it is the birthday of the one who makes you lords.
Rejoice, free people; it is the birthday of the one who makes you free.
Rejoice, all Christians; it is the birthday of Christ.

Merry Christmas and praise to the Lord!

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | December 11, 2009

Avoiding the Christmas Machine

Rummaging through an old file of Christmas notes I found this piece sent to me by a pastor friend, Larry Briney. This is Larry’s reminder to us, to not let what I call the “Christmas Machine” (gift shopping, holiday gatherings, card sending, house decorating) chew up your time for reflection on the true meaning of Christmas:

“Though I repeat the Christmas story and sing Christmas carols, but have not love, I am like sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.

If I receive many Christmas gifts and understand their monetary value, go to church on Christmas, believe in the mystery of His birth and the song the angels sang, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I have the faith to battle Christmas crowds, but have not love, I am nothing. Even if I give Christmas presents to the poor—shop ‘til I drop for others, and I have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient and kind, even in Christmas traffic. It is never jealous or envious, even if others get nicer gifts. Love does not demand its own way and hardly notices when Uncle Joe eats too loudly, and Sister Sue doesn’t help with the dishes.

Love bears all things in silence, believes all good things, and hopes under all circumstances, not just under the mistletoe. Love endures. 

Love never fails. Holly and mistletoe shall fail. Christmas carols shall cease and if there be any snow, it shall vanish away. But when He Who is Perfect comes, earthly celebrations will cease.

When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus. I thought of Christmas as a child. But when I became an adult, I put away my childish ideas and worshipped Jesus.

After all is said and done, three things last beyond Christmas: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.”

Have a Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | December 3, 2009

Old Books and Wide Laps

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”—Emilie Buchwald

More and more I’m finding myself drawn to books that are old; books whose words are like red oak, seasoned over time. These are authors of history shaping importance. People such as Augustine, Benedict, Luther, Calvin, Loyola, and Teresa are some of the laps I’ve crawled up on, slowly learning to form their words in my mind.

Sabbath days and early weekday mornings are ideal times for this. Though some of what these historical people say is blurry—traveling over my head—many of their words are plain to my thinking, giving a perspective, wisdom, and shedding light on my today.

I’m thinking that in blogs-to-come of bringing you face to face with these great souls and keen intellects of the past. All offered in the spirit of the child who has discovered Goodnight Moon or Prince Caspian and desires his friends to share in the discovery.

Which older books and authors have you read in part or totally? What mark have they left upon you?

Posted by: Tom Gaddis | November 24, 2009

Jimmy Stewart Moments

Have you seen the 1965 movie classic, Shenandoah? The year is 1863. The Civil War is engulfing Virginia landowner Charlie Anderson (Jimmy Stewart) even though he doggedly refuses to take sides in the conflict. In the midst of his life and family being torn apart by the war, we come to a scene where the family is gathered around the dinner table with Jimmy Stewart praying:

“Lord, we stop to pray for this food. We cleared the land. We planted the crop and harvested it. We cooked it. If it hadn’t been for us it wouldn’t be here. But we thank you for it anyway. Amen.”

While most people would never pray this way, many think this way. Failing to see the invisible God behind the visible—paychecks, groceries, houses, cars, clothing—a gradual slide is made into thanklessness. It’s always been so.

During her wilderness journey, Israel lived by God’s direct provision with daily miracles of manna, water, shade, etc. God was their primary source for everything. But in the land they were entering, they soon would be living by His indirect provision—well water, planted vineyards, covered patios, etc. God then used secondary sources to provide for His people.

My theologian-friend, Don Pickerell, reminds us, “Secondary sources can imply a false conclusion about life, as Deuteronomy 8:17-18 warns, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

Like me, do you ever have Jimmy Stewart moments—confusing the two ways of God’s providing? Here’s a better prayer as we gather as families around our dinner tables this week:  

“Lord, we stop to pray for this food. Because of your blessing we’ve been given the strength to earn the money to buy it and the very hands to prepare it. And had it not been for your grace we wouldn’t even be here. So we thank you. Amen”

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