As you read this, I am in Oxford for a month of study leave. Why a study leave? (I am glad you asked.) South Main has a generous sabbatical policy for all of our ministers. We believe sabbaticals are an important part of our retention strategy and an important component in ministerial health. We are not the only ones who believe that; the Lilly endowment did a deep dive into what causes churches to become unhealthy. The accurate oversimplification of their conclusion is: (1) unhealthy ministers make for unhealthy churches and (2) burnout leads to unhealthy ministers. So the Lilly endowment began a grant program (we received this grant to fund my sabbatical in 2011) as a way to help churches remain healthy. That is to say, Lilly believes in sabbaticals not as a way to help ministers (though they know sabbaticals do that), but as a way to help churches.
As Pastor at South Main, I am allowed a 3-month sabbatical every five years. It turns out it is harder to find the right time for a sabbatical than you might imagine (or at least than I imagined). So I worked with the Personnel Committee to shift the plan: beginning this year instead of taking a longer sabbatical every 5 years, I will take an annual study leave for the month of July.
My objectives for this leave are to read, to attend a preaching conference, and to plan my preaching through August, 2024. The Personnel Committee and I believe this time away will help me lead better in the near term because I have time dedicated to planning and to minister better and longer because I am actually taking consistent opportunity to rest, renew, and rethink.
This year I will return to Oxford where Truett Seminary has a small apartment they provide to pastors and scholars for just such times away. On the front end of this time away Missy and I are taking a few days of vacation. On the back end, I'll return in time to attend my first meeting on the Baylor Board of Regents in Waco from July 26-28. I'll be back in the office on July 31 and look forward to seeing you in August.