What is a sabbatical?

I want to remind you of something we do here at MCC. You’ve heard us talk about the importance of the Sabbath Day. The principle is found throughout the Bible, but it always points back to the creation account (Genesis 1:1-2:3) when God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. The idea is so important that God included it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11). We have been hardwired by our Creator to work 6 and rest 1 and violating that principle can damage us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I think it's interesting when biblical truth shows up in corporate America. Over the last several decades businesses have included the practice of a sabbatical for their employees. Companies like McDonald’s, Nike, Intel, American Express, IBM, AT&T, and others have seen the importance of investing in their employees.

The academic and agricultural worlds have long practiced this as well.

In the church, a sabbatical leave is one way that leaders care for the pastors of the church. Sabbatical leave is a carefully planned period of time in which the pastor is granted time away from his/her normal responsibilities to shift gears in order to rest, renew, and refresh. A sabbatical/renewal leave provides the pastor an opportunity to reflect on his/her call to ministry, relationship with God, and with the church they are shepherding. It is expected to benefit both the pastor and the congregation.

In 2018 I was the first staff person at MCC to take a sabbatical. I said then that “Although I will be the first on staff to do this, I will not be the last.” Our elders worked to create a policy for the rest of our staff to allow them to quiet their soul and listen to God. I can’t tell you what it means to be part of a church that cares so much for its leaders.

Rich McKinley is preparing now for his January 2-February 9 sabbatical. I will share more through the rest of the year about his time away and how you can help him with it.

Sabbatical Frequently Asked Questions

Part of the reason for our deliberate pace in December is a reflection of how God has called us to live our lives all year round (it just seems more difficult to pull off in December).

I am thankful for how our leadership cares about our staff. Here are some FAQs.

What are the goals of this sabbatical?
Sabbatical leave is a time for our pastors to shift gears to rest, disengage, study, reflect and spend time with his/her family to return to ministry refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. Also, it is a time for MCC to examine and to explore new ways to serve, grow, contribute and possibly to lead.

The sabbatical time has 4 purposes:
1. Release and Relinquish: During his sabbatical he will disengage from all ministry and leadership responsibilities.
2. Rest and Recovery: “Rest” means more than ceasing from all activity. Rather, Rich will concentrate on what restores him emotionally and feeds him spiritually. He has already begun to collect books that will help remind him to stop and listen to God.
3. Reflect and Refocus: He will be listening for what God might be saying to him, scheduling extended time alone with God.
4. Realignment and/or Reassignment: Asking God: “Father, what changes in my life and ministry would You like me to make as a result of hearing from You?”

How can MCC be part of Rich’s Sabbatical?
To be sure, it is taking a while for Rich to wrap his head around not doing what he’s done almost every day for 39 years (at MCC for 22 ½ years). Certainly, he has had days off and even vacation time which have been great opportunities to rest and be with family and friends. But truthfully, MCC is never far from our staff’s mind even on those days. To be 100% off the grid from MCC will be challenging but he understands the benefits enough to work hard to make that a reality.

To be sure, a Sabbatical leave is a time designed for pastors to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and spend time with family in order to return to minister refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. In addition, it is a time for MCC to examine your own lives as members of the body of Christ, and to explore new ways to serve, grow, contribute and possibly to lead.

Here are 2 more Frequently Asked Questions:

How will Rich’s responsibilities be reallocated?
He has worked hard with Mike and our Elders to be sure that his responsibilities will be covered during his absence. His responsibilities will be covered before he leaves and anything that is ongoing will be covered by ministry teams as much as possible with Staff stepping in to cover for any issues that might arise. If you have any questions you can email [email protected]

Is there anything I can do to help?
By the way, this is one of the reasons MCC is a special place. Thank you for your heart in this. Here are some ways you can help:
1. DO encourage him as he prepares for his time away.
2. DO pray for Rich every day from January 1 to February 9. Ask God to speak to Rich to remind him that he is not what he does (pastor) but is His child.
3. DON’T contact him during this time. That sounds odd to say but the idea behind a sabbatical is to experience a complete disconnect from pastoral responsibilities. He has carried those every day for almost 39 years. Most people have jobs they can walk away from at the end of the day and not think about it until they go back to work. That is not true of ministry.
4. DO let us know if you want to be part of his ministry areas. You can contact [email protected] for the next 3 weeks. It would be a great surprise for Rich to come back to the office and find out he has new people looking to serve in his ministry areas.

MCC’s foundational belief is that the Church is led by Jesus and the Holy Spirit through people who have been given the necessary gifts for the roles for which they’ve been selected. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for our staff and leaders who allow God to work through them to make MCC a place where people feel safe investigating Who Jesus is and Who He will be in their lives, and for those of us who follow Him to help others become disciples. It will not be surprising to find that, in Rich’s absence, God has raised up more people to lead and serve Him. Perhaps He has already been prompting you.