In 2015, Heidi and I celebrated 25 years of full time pastoral ministry.
In March of 2017 we completed seven years of ministry here at Faith Center. We are thankful for this community, this church, and the fruitfulness the Lord has allowed us to witness while serving here.
Last year the Lord began to nudge us to consider taking a sabbatical during 2017. Heidi and I try to proactively pace ourselves in order avoid the burn out that is typical among pastors. Sabbaticals have recently become common for pastors as they have grown in their understanding of the importance of self-care. With responsibilities that include pastoring, serving as Divisional Superintendents (giving oversight to nine churches), City Council and teaching, we carry a heavy workload and are not immune to the toll that ministry takes. The church council confirmed our thoughts by suggesting that Faith Center should offer this as a benefit every seven years.
What is a Sabbatical?
A ministry sabbatical is a spiritual renewal leave, for the purpose of restoring vitality and health (spiritual, emotional and physical) in spiritual leaders. It is not merely a vacation, but it is instead an intentional time of refreshment and restoration where the leader is released from the stressors and demands of ministry and draws closer to God.
Why a Sabbatical?
There are biblical principles behind a sabbatical:
In Scripture, farmland was farmed for six years and then left fallow on the seventh. The rest of the land restored its health and assured for better crops. (Leviticus 25:1-7) If resting the land was this important, how much more is it important for people?
It is consistent with the principal of Sabbath: Genesis 2:2-3/Exodus 23:10-12
One of the verses the Lord gave us is Isaiah 30:15 which promises “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Pastors are leaving ministry in large numbers – usually because of burn out and a lack of self-care, exhausted by the challenges and difficulties of ministry. A sabbatical is an investment in continued and future ministry; an act of love for the church and one’s family.
Many of our friends in ministry have taken sabbaticals and have encouraged us to do so as well. They report a positive result in their own lives as well as from their churches.
A sabbatical is a re-charge which keeps long-term ministry in mind. We anticipate a renewal of vision, creativity and spiritual renewal. We are committed to a long-term strategy which requires pacing and times of refreshing.
This is an opportunity for the church and our leaders. This is a way to share ministry and leadership. We believe that our current staff will grow as a result of our time off. It is important to us that Faith Center be more focused on Jesus and less dependent on us as Senior Pastors. The sabbatical will help us all better keep that focus.
In some ways it would be easier for us to not take a sabbatical but for us it is a necessary step of obedience. Taking time off is a big step of faith and one that we believe the Lord will honor.
What we will be doing?
Our sabbatical will take place July 5 – August 20th. During this time we will be seeking the Lord for refreshing and renewal. Please keep us in your prayers. We will include a vacation where we will visit our former staff members Curt and Rachel McMurray-Branscomb. We will be spending time at Old Oak Ranch where Heidi is speaking at one of our summer camps and Faith Center is leading worship. Our sabbatical concludeSummer Sabbaths with time with family at our son’s wedding in Seattle. Heidi still will be attending city council meetings. The remaining days of our sabbatical will be given to rest and spending time with other church leaders and friends.
What to expect while we are gone:
The Pastoral Staff of Faith Center is prepared to carry on ministry as usual during this time. They have been empowered to make decisions and to care for the needs of the congregation. We have assigned staff and guest speakers for the weekend services. You will not want to miss these. Heidi and I will not be available to do counseling, weddings or funerals while we are away.
Heidi and I thank the church council, staff and congregation for supporting us in doing this.
We are confident in the Lord, who is the Chief Shepherd and the head of the Church! Thank you for your prayers and your faithfulness, especially during this time. Our prayer is that Faith Center will continue to grow while we are away. We look forward to both the time away and being back with you before the summer ends.
Love in Christ,
Pastors Matt & Heidi Messner
Reading: Alves, David. “A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors: How to Initiate and Navigate a Spiritual Renewal Leave”. Witt, Lance. “Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul.”