by Kevin Hardy, Pastor of Student Ministries and Young Adults at Fort St. John Alliance Church
“What did you do? Did you just lay around and watch sports the whole time?” Those are of a couple of the questions I was asked post-sabbatical, not unlike the question sometimes posed to me while I am serving in pastoral ministry – “What do you do exactly?”
However they are shaped, sabbaticals are about spiritual rest and renewal. With that said, all sabbaticals are different and while I did do some lying around and I did watch some sports, my three months off this past summer did have an intentional threefold focus – spiritual growth, experience/development, and rest/refocus.
It can be hard to unwind and completely unplug at the beginning of a sabbatical because you are freshly removed from ministry responsibilities. In my case, I tried to take the first week to completely rest and spend time at home with my wife and daughter. The following weeks included my ordination interview, which was obviously in the back of my mind until I had completed it, but was such an encouraging and affirming time and a good way for me to be reminded of my calling even as I embarked on time away.
In the experience/development vein I was able to attend a couple of conferences that peaked my interest. One was focused on Christ and culture while the other was simply about what it means to be a minister of Christ. Some may think, “Why would you go to those conferences on your sabbatical?” And the answer is simple…even though I was not currently pastoring in a vocational manner, I was and am still, a minister of Christ and I did not want to forget that. In addition to the conferences, I was able to read a variety of books dealing with areas that were beneficial to my soul, leadership, and ministry.
In regards to spiritual growth, it was just nice to be able to enjoy time with God. I got to spend unhurried time with Him in prayer and reading that refreshed, recharged, and grew my relationship with Him. It truly was a blessing and has been the fuel to keep me going even as I’ve returned for our fall kick-off and upcoming ministry year.
And yes, I did lay around a bit and watch some sports. Someone jokingly said to me during my time off, “Hey, you sure timed your sabbatical at the right time. You get to watch the NHL playoffs and the World Cup of soccer!” All I can say to that is simply, “Yes, yes I did.” Those were great gifts to a sports fan like me that I certainly enjoyed.
Lastly, but most importantly, I got to spend time at home being a husband and a dad. We all know ministry life can be busy and that we need to be intentional in carving out and protecting time with our families, but it was so good to have much longer time at home with them and on vacation to decompress, slow down, and relax and enjoy one another. Most days were pretty ordinary and filled with changing diapers, preparing food, cleaning up, and going for walks or to the lake, but I sure treasured and will continue to treasure those days as I look back at a truly refreshing time.