This week we continue the interview with Rev. Tim Fangemeier, and get into some more of the details of sabbatical. Read the first part of the interview here.
Tim, you and your team coach pastors and leaders in the world of sabbaticals. How do you help?
- Most of us need someone to give us permission to do this, especially to invest in ourselves and our spouse and/or family. To do something fun for ourselves that’s also rejuvenating. We feel we need to produce “something” that says it was worth it or “I was worth it.”
- It’s just foreign. There’s very few and very little who champion this for our pastors and leaders.
- We just don’t know how! To uncouple from the congregation. To figure out what we want to do with the sabbatical and how to plan it.
- We help think through how to fund it. The Lilly Foundation has a grant… but even without the grant, we help think of other funding opportunities.
Tell me about your own sabbatical, Tim.
I’ve taken two. I actually learned to paint with water colors. I took a class. It’s totally outside my normal world and ministry. But it’s a joy for me today as I’m mostly retired. I paint on cards. I serve in a prison ministry and after a weekend we send cards to the inmates. I use the note cards I’ve painted. My artwork is posted all over prison cells today! It’s a joy I would never have discovered. It brings joy to others.
Let’s talk benefits!
A lot of people are talking clergy wellness today. We used to do a clergy wellness day. A nice lunch for pastors. A great speaker. An afternoon away. We had to admit that “we really didn’t help with clergy wellness.”
Sabbatical makes a difference.
A number of years go we did some research. We talked to 50 pastors who took sabbaticals that we helped organize and fund.
- Virtually everyone reported renewed energy for their ministry.
- There’s a point, I’d say around year 6 or 7 in a congregation, that pastors and leaders feel a pull or pressure to leave. We were convinced that if you want to see a healthy, long tenured ministry, it will be punctuated by sabbatical seasons.
- Almost everyone had fresh perspective and fresh vision to take on the challenges that their congregation is facing.
Do you ever see pastors and leaders abuse sabbaticals?
I’ve championed sabbaticals for a long time. NEVER. The only time I’ve seen anything is when the judicatory tells a congregation it’s time for a sabbatical but it’s really a “problem” that they’re dealing with. Sabbaticals are always about wellness, about promoting wellness.
Tim, I’m seeing more and more pioneers in the PLI family that are saying, “I need a sabbatical.” Working it through with the church leadership, they become champions for others. How can those leaders help you help other pastors and leaders?
- We need to change the culture. We don’t focus on wellness. We keep dealing with problems that result from not focusing on wellness! Tell their peers.
- Encourage their judicatories to embrace it as valuable. Share our website.
- If this gets more traction, and it needs to…. We have a clergy crisis right now. We will need more coaches. I’d love to talk to leaders who’ve taken a sabbatical and want to help others
What about the coaching, Tim?
It’s the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done! You can’t believe the conversations. If you could do anything, what would you like to do? Most of us get trained to focus on what we can’t do. When you help a pastor or leader build a plan that’s going to be an incredible investment in themselves and then see their congregation embrace it for the sake of their pastor’s/leader’s wellbeing, there’s nothing better!
And when pastors/leaders finish sabbaticals? What do you hear?
Many of them thank me for what it meant to their marriage. For their family. Many of them picked up a hobby that they love! They have new energy! I really try to coach leaders to not try to do too much on sabbatical. Invest in themselves. They thank me for it !
Tim, you have been a joy in this interview. Anything else?
PLI is a champion for wellness as it trains leaders around the mission of God and developing skills and character. But, I don’t see much out there that is a champion for pastors and leaders taking sabbatical. Sabbath rest. My fear is that we will keep picking up the pieces and not investing in wellness.
Are you a pastor feeling the need for a sabbatical? Share this blog with your leaders and ask to set up a time for a conversation. Are you a church leader wanting to take care of your pastor? Forward this to him and get the conversation started. And as you have the conversations, take a look at PLI’s Learning Communities. We can help you and your ministry be healthy!
And, if you’ve taken a sabbatical, tell us about your experience in the comments!