I get tired of hearing the same preacher Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. In two years (from 1998), I’ll have been at Berry’s Chapel seven years. In the year 2000, if I could have three months off to travel, listen to other preachers, rest, and do some special study, it’d be a great blessing to me.”
That was my answer to a question one of the elders asked me a few weeks before: “Jerrie, what could we do besides giving you a raise that would encourage you?”.
It was my second request for a sabbatical. Several years before I asked for a month off to spend some dedicated time with my family. The elder leading the meeting replied, “That’d be nice. Does anyone have anything else to say before closing prayer?” That was the end of that.
The elders at Berry’s Chapel announced in a family meeting in January 2000 I’d be taking a sabbatical during June, July, and August. In my absence, John Parker preached at morning services. Jim Bill McInteer spoke at evening services.
Besides three meetings and another speaking appointment already scheduled, I didn’t preach or teach classes during the summer.
While I was off, Gail, Mother, Daddy, and I traveled West, something we’d been discussing for years but never took the time. We carried our oldest granddaughter on her 12-year-old trip, a special treat we the did with the rest of the grandchildren in the coming years. We had a family vacation in the Smokies. Childhaven had their fifty-year reunion. We rented a van and traveled with Jerrie Wayne and grandchildren to Gail’s home where she grew up.
August 11-18 I rented a cabin at Natchez State Park for a week in isolation. I didn’t turn on a radio, tape player, or TV. I made one call a day to Gail to check on her and the family. After rising at 6:00 a.m., the rest of the day, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. was spend reading, studying, praying, and thinking. I worked on presentations for a lectureship. I learned more than in any conference I ever attended.
A treat I anticipated and enjoyed was worshipping with 29 different congregations. With the exceptions of the three meetings I held, we only visited two congregations twice.I get tired of hearing the same preacher (me) Sunday, after Sunday, after Sunday. — Jerrie Barber Click To Tweet
Observations on my Sabbatical
- The rest-break was valuable. I averaged eight hours sleep per night for June, July, and August. Back and sciatic pains which had bothered me for some time disappeared. I told the church, “I thought I was getting old, but I just needed a few nights of good sleep.”
- I enjoyed being unorganized. We only made one reservation in advance on our trip to the West. Daddy would often ask, “Where’re we going to spend the night?”. My answer, “I don’t know. We aren’t there yet.”
- I wouldn’t want to do what I did that summer continually. It was fun and relaxing, but I didn’t get many jobs marked off my to-do list until I started setting the clock and making specific plans. I could get stressed traveling all the time. I learned what I already suspected. I don’t want to retire as long as I’m healthy. I enjoy what I do. I realized that in 2000 at the end of my sabbatical. I still feel the same way after nine years of interim ministry. Gail and I take mini-sabbaticals between interims.
- I like to be organized. I like to-do lists, a time to get up, and specific responsibilities
- I studied some during the summer: reading, memory work, and typed forty sermons on my computer to continue to develop later.
- I looked forward to returning to my regular work. The first Sunday morning back, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. excited and anxious about the day.
- I experienced an alternative to burn-out or moving, which is often from overload without seeing an alternative. It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal. It’s harder to preach for a congregation the longer you stay. Old sermons are depleted. More activities and tasks are accepted. There is less time to do more.[tweetthis]It’s my observation many preachers move because they see no other way for relief and renewal.[/tweetthis]
The break is a way to start over. It occurred to me that some members may go to another congregation for similar reasons. They’re active and take on more and more jobs. They don’t know how to resign or rest without guilt. The only way they know to get relief is move and start over. I believe there’s an alternative – take a break.
Following the summer of 2000, we had elders and deacons who took seasons of rest from three-six months. They reported similar feelings of renewal.
The most cost-effective way I know to get a new preacher is to send your present preacher away with a plan to refresh and renew. Suggestion: consider this every five to seven years. The plan needs to be his, not yours. You may make suggestions. But you can’t tell another person how to relax.