This past Sunday, we hosted a panel discussion to learn more about the theology and experience of Sabbatical. You can hear that dialogue under the top menu "What to Expect" and then selecting "Recent Sermons" and choosing the panel dated 2.26.17. Following the panel we held a Question and Answer session in case anyone wanted to follow up with the panel participants and learn more about Sabbatical. The Q&A Session is transcribed below:
Question: How important do you think it is for Dan to connect with other pastors, peers, or others who have walked in his shoes during his Sabbatical?
Brent: I think it’s very important. I think its important for him to hear the feelings people have as they go, and especially to hear about the feelings that have come up as people re-enter. He should talk to several people who have experienced it.
Manny/Will: yeah, it’s easier for me as peers are built in. It’s healthy to connect with them.
Question: What about a spiritual advisor? How does that process work, to find the right person?
Will: I had a spiritual director I met with every month, and 3 times in 6 months, I met with a supervisor. Both were really helpful. It was part of the pre-planning.
Brent: That’s part of my role. To make sure as Dan goes, we’re walking through what his plan is, how he can find the best fulfillment through that. I think it is important not to legislate what you want him to do, but to allow him to do what God is calling him to do. Some guys really find rest in deeper study, something specific that is going to benefit the church that is part of their work, but is a whole different feeling. I think as a leadership team, you know clearly what he’s doing, but also meet with him when he gets back to hear what God has taught him before he shares back with the whole congregation.
Manny: certainly in academia, that’s the standard, a written plan and a follow up story.
Amy: What I love in your story is that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. We can lay out any plan we want in the world, but we need to hold it with an open hand. It may look very different from what he even thinks once he gets into it. God might have something very different in store for him than Dan knows even now. It might be hard for him to even see what God might have in store for the time because he’s still mired in the daily tasks.
Brent: Is Lisa still going to work?
Board: Yes. Setting those boundaries will be tricky.
Question: I thought y’all did a fine job up there. Brent, you’ve been through this before, did people leave the church?
Brent: Not in my situation. There are times people don’t like anything the church does and they’ll use any excuse to leave. But my church thrived while I was gone. My staff was young and chomping at the bit, excited to lead, and they did great while I was gone.
Will: My experience made room for my successor, because God changed my vocational direction during my sabbatical. Going into it, I would have freaked out about that, but God used that time to change my heart and raise him up. It was wonderful to watch. My current role is clearly what God wanted to use and if I had stayed in my old role longer, it would not have been as good.
Question: Can you press more into your transition experience? A lot of us feel like North Harbor is on the verge of a significant promotion through the growth that has been taking place in depth and numbers of folks, NH is about to “level up” and this sabbatical may be an opportunity to facilitate that shift in the way God wants it to happen.
Will: We often ask a pastor, “I wonder where the church is going to go next?” And with the pastor taken away, we have to ask, “I wonder where we’re going to go next and what’s my role in it?” And I think that’s a critical question we’re wrestling with now and don’t know how to deal with it. Dan is a strong leader even if he doesn’t look like it, and yet he’s tired and his vision is somewhat cloudy. So we’re all in that. So i think it could be significant to see what happens with this sabbatical time.
Question: I totally get the idea of trust, but from a financial perspective, in planning for the future, should we expect less giving? We can trust God, but how should we plan?
Brent: Theology: Pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing. You need to tell the congregation how important that is. Help us pray that God leads this church where it needs to go in Dan’s absence, serve and give in ways God leads in this time. We believe that God has lead us in these paths, but its only going to work if we do this together. Don’t isolate finances out of it - but emphasize that it is part of the whole Body Life.
Amy: My experience on the board is that you probably can’t plan for this one. Whatever most statistics suggest, it’s never the case at North Harbor. We go down when we should go up and up when we should go down. We’re a unique being. We’re going to step up into Jesus in ways we never have, so giving could go through the roof. Our history lets us know that God is still in control, it’s going to go the way its going to go. Our rhythms as a church are going to change as much as Dan’s will as a result of this Sabbatical.
Zoe: I think people are chomping at the bit. I’ve seen the Spirit moving, people’s hearts enlarge and burst and they’re dying for an outlet for their love.
Brent (praying to conclude): Father, I thank you so much for all that You are and all You’re doing at North Harbor. I thank you for the love for Jesus and the love for other people are the book ends of ministry here. I pray that you would increase both. I pray that the leaders and partners in ministry might experience the deep love of Jesus. As we love Him, we might love others and they might see Him through us. I trust you that for this church, for Dan and Lisa, for the concern that has lead to this day, and in Dan and Lisa’s absence, that they might sense Your love and presence right now. Amen.