The gift of sabbatical

From Our Leaders


October 4, 2017 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 19
Introduction by Garry Janzen, Reflection by Aaron Roorda |

A couple of Mennonite Church British Columbia pastors have been given sabbaticals this year. I would encourage all of our congregations to find a way to give their pastors a sabbatical. It is a win-win situation for both the congregation and the pastor. While it is vital to establish the discipline of Sabbath rest in order to find a weekly rhythm of renewal, it is also significant for pastors to be given sabbaticals for the sake of their ministry focus renewal.

Aaron Roorda, associate pastor of Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack, has put together a reflection on his experience. A study leave is often couched in the language of “sabbatical,” and he has been able to get the best of both worlds. But he takes it one step further in recognizing the opportunity of renewal that a sabbatical can be for the congregation.

Garry Janzen is MC B.C.’s executive minister.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about my sabbatical is the word “gift.” My sabbatical was a gift for me as pastor, but also a gift for my church. It was a gift that offered rest but also invited intentional self-work for both my congregation and me. Sabbaticals are gifts that give pastors space to find their identity outside of their role as a pastor and give churches space to find their identity outside of the personality/gifts of the pastor. When this work happens, it most often brings the pastor and church back together in a richer and healthier way.

I found this rest and self-work to be essential to creating the right focal points for my sabbatical time. The sabbatical gave me intentional space and time with my family at the same time as it gave me opportunity to use some of the sabbatical time for learning and growing in my understanding of “pastor” as well as in my understanding of “self.”

I did this by taking two seminary courses, one focussed on spiritual formation for ministry leaders and the other focussed on mental health awareness.

This sabbatical time gave me space for self-rest and self-engagement in rich and full ways that prepared me to re-engage my church and my role as pastor with a new sense of health and wholeness.

I am thankful for this gift.

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