Tips for healthy sabbaticals

I am asked reasonable frequently how ministers can make best use of a sabbatical. A second question that almost always follows quickly on is how can they justify it to church members who never have a similar opportunity. The implication being that it is a luxury, a guilty pleasure that shouldn’t really be considered by those who work hard. Perhaps even an indication of laziness. “People in the church will tell me they don’t have that kind of paid leave so why should I?”  

It isn’t uncommon for those who voice this concern to also indicate that they rarely have genuine sabbath in any form. There is a common temptation to use a time of sabbatical to try to compensate for not having had holy margins of leisure, rest, hope and joy in God for a number of previous years. Needless to say such sabbaticals rarely work well for encouraging the soul, marriage and family or for energising the next period of leadership. They are more commonly unstructured, used for col

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The Heart of Biblical, Spiritual Leadership

As I write this I am looking forward to a week of training junior church leaders at Living Leadership's Formation Trainees Conference.

You don't have to look far in the Bible to find teaching about godly leadership, about godly and ungodly leaders, instruction on leadership for leaders and for churches. There are role models and examples a-plenty and lots of images of leaders: hardworking farmer, athlete, soldier, builder, fool, guide, under-shepherd, labourer, workman, servant (and scum of the earth!). Plenty of teaching to help us understand the spiritual gift of leadership (Romans 12:8).

My favourite verses to begin exploring what the Bible says about leadership in Jesus' church are Philippians 1:25-26:

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again you will glory abundantly in Christ Jesus on account of me.
— Phil 1:25-26

What would the imprisoned apostle tell a church he would most like to achieve with them on his release and return? Them making progress in the faith and having joy in God so that they are full of delight in the glory of Christ. This is similar to Peter's description of the persecuted Christians in 1 Peter 1. They were full of "joy inexpressible and full of glory" because they were receiving the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls. It isn't hard to see why a church is effective for God if they are all bursting with joy in Jesus. And it isn't hard to see why a church isn't effective if it isn't.

Of course it begs the question of how to work with people for their progress and joy. What might that look like in practice. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Helping people to delight themselves in the Lord. Helping them love God, love the Son of God, love the Holy Spirit, and to give expression to their love. Leadership is making worshippers
  • Helping them love the Word of God. Which flows from leaders doing so and not coming to the Bible merely as professionals to help others
  • Helping people appreciate the benefits of Christ. Adoption, forgiveness of sins, a home in heaven, entrance into God’s family, freedom from guilt and the curse of the Law, the gift of the Spirit, a new heart, new desires, a Heavenly Father, a great high priest through whom we have redemption. And on. And on!
  • Helping people see the glory of God in the gospel of his grace. Romans 5 says we reign in life by receiving of his grace and the gift of eternal life. Helping them know how to receive and seek God for his grace with them. James 4:6 says "God gives more grace". 
  • Loving people at all times and do them good, especially those in difficulty and distress
  • Having ambitions for where God might take people. Showing them some of what is possible in the Lord if they live and act in faith, especially in world mission
  • Helping others pray. Praying with them. Showing them how we pray. Telling them what we pray for them

 

Bible Reading in a Digital World

What percentage of people in your church have their own Bible? Most, I guess. Many own more than one. What percentage are reading them at home? Regularly - once a week, twice a week, every day? I guess a much lower percentage.

Living in a digital age is clearly having an effect on Bible reading. I don’t just mean having new devices on which it is possible to access and read the scriptures. I mean new devices that distract from reading them. Our new generation have never not had computers, gaming, multiple channels of distraction. They have so many inputs. They don’t need to retain any information because they can google it at any time. 

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8 Principles to Help You Lead Through Change

In times of change godly leaders are the key factor in leading for the positive and minimising the negative impact on the flock. Therefore the key question is: what do leaders need to bring to the table to build trust and confidence in new direction or a new initiative?

Here are a few principles:

  • Leaders help the flock with their core motivations - aligning them to Christ and Christ's purposes through teaching, encouragement and godly role modelling
  • Leaders clarify future challenges and needs with gospel vision
  • Leaders care for the flock when uncertainty comes. We need to be able to express how change will affect people positively and negatively so they know we will help them when they feel weak and afraid
  • Leaders communicate clearly in order to help the flock embrace godly opportunity. People respond to concrete vision not vague vision
  • Leaders build team and gather resources for the task ahead, focusing people with our enthusiasm and joy in God
  • Leaders smooth transition with wisdom and the affection of Christ
  • Leaders expect to absorb angst with prayerfulness, compassion and kindness. In doing so we minimise future distress and disturbance
  • Leaders help the flock celebrate successes and mourn failures constructively

Leaders are always sensitive to the people they have and what goals and timescales for future change are realistic. We cannot change what we do not have the level of trust to change. In addition we cannot change things in Christ-centred ways unless the church shares a Christ-centred, disciple-making view of its purpose. We lead change in order that he is better magnified through the church making disciples. If that purpose is not central we will simply default to running everyone's favourite things.

Bob the Bootmaker - a Parable

Bob the bootmaker finally graduated from boot-making school and boy could he make a lovely pair of boots. He went happily home to his family, waving his boot-making certificate.

"And guess what?" He asked his wife. And then, without waiting for her reply, "the principal called me in and told me that he's found me a leadership position at a great boot-making factory training all the other boot-makers."

His wife was overjoyed. "But it gets better still" Bob said. "They have a flat attached to the boot-making factory which we get rent-free as part of the salary package."

Within weeks Bob and his family were packed up, moved to the boot factory and happily settled in the new flat. (Being totally honest, it was a little too close to the factory and Bob's wife secretly wondered if it would mean he was never really off duty).

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