I am SO EXCITED that I have been appointed for an 8th year at Medina UMC! I feel you and I have grown a lot over the last seven years and have seen God do some pretty incredible things! God has used you to bring out the best in me and I can only hope and pray that He’s used me to do the same in your life. Thank you for the way that you love me and my family. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Thank you also for understanding and granting my need for a Sabbatical (Study Leave) over the Summer.
Last Summer, I talked to our District Superintendent about taking a Sabbatical. He told me that the technical word that the United Methodist Church recognizes is “STUDY LEAVE,” but whatever you choose to call it… the principle of taking a Sabbatical is taken from the word “Sabbath.” Sabbath is a Biblical Word. In Exodus 20, the command to keep the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments and it had to do with rest and renewal.
The concept of the Sabbath doesn’t end with just the seventh day. God commanded the People of Israel to let the ground that they farmed to observe a Sabbath rest every seven years (Leviticus 25:1) and it’s from this principle that we derive the whole idea of ministers taking a Sabbatical.
Isn’t it amazing that REST is so important that God actually had to command it, but the fact of the matter is that most clergy don’t know how to rest and take care of themselves as illustrated by the facts.
- At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit. (Church Resource Ministries -1881
- More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month (Marble Retreat Center 2001)
- 80% of pastors believe the pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families (Life Enrichment Ministries – 1998)
- 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. (Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development)
- 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. (Mark Driscoll, “Death by Ministry”)
- 40% have no opportunity for outside renewal like a family vacation or continuing education. There is a very clear relationship between the amount of time a pastor takes for personal renewal and his satisfaction in his job. (George Barna -2002)
- More Statistics can be found at this LINK.
** Don’t get freaked out by these statistics. I give you these statistics only to point out that there is a very real crisis among ministers that I believe is largely due to not taking a weekly Sabbath day and a Sabbatical every seven years… and NO, I’m not thinking about leaving the ministry or anything like that! I just determined not to become a statistic.
Last summer I read a book by Wayne Cordeiro called, “Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing You Passion.” It really served as a wake up call for me. It made me reevaluate the effectiveness of my ministry. It forced me to wrestle with the realization that I am not as PASSIONATE about ministry as I was when I was fresh out of Seminary. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I am not saying that I have lost all the passion for ministry, I’m just not as passionate or intense as I was when I first started out in the ministry. Cordeiro recommends a three-month Sabbatical after every seven years of consistent ministry. I have found that a three month Sabbatical is unrealistic with kids in school, therefore with the District Superintendent and the Pastor Parish Relations Committee’s permission, I will be taking a two month (8 week) Sabbatical from June 21st through August 21st.
Cordeiro writes, “Sometimes we get so busy rowing the boat, we don’t take the time to stop and see where were going…or what we are becoming.” My goal this summer is to take the time to see where I’m going and what I’m becoming in Christ. These are some of my goals:
1. SPIRITUAL GOAL: To read through the entire Bible in eight weeks. I’m going to try a different translation (NKJV). My goal is not to study it, but to allow it to study me… I don’t want to master it, but I want it (through the Holy Spirit) to master me. I want to be fed by it and at the same time always stay hungry for it.
John Wesley called himself a, “Man of One Book,” referring to the Bible. Yeah, I could lug around a ton of books on the latest and most current things happening in ministry… but what can they offer that the Bible can’t.
2. PHYSICAL GOAL: To exercise and take my physical fitness to the next level. Most of you know that I try to walk or run on a regular basis and consider myself somewhat fit, but I want to see if I can take it to the next level (without hurting myself).
Why physical goals? I believe there is a very STRONG correlation between that which is physical and that which is spiritual. That is… they both affect one another. I want to come back to Medina not only with tons of spiritual energy, but physical energy as well.
3. Finally I also want to RECONNECT WITH MY FAMILY in a whole NEW way, in a whole NEW setting. I realize that sometimes the life of the minister is often hardest on the family and I want to kindle and renew my love relationship with my wife and kids.
I have started a blog that I will be journaling and posting pics of my summer sabbatical experience. You can find it at www.stegemueller.com
You can rest assured that I have the pulpit taken care of when I’m gone. I have worked hard to fill the pulpit with 8 capable people who will do a wonderful job and I will be praying for each of them throughout my two month Sabbatical.
I also had a meeting with the Nurturing Group (Lu Harrison, Sandra Dabney, Clara Ann and Debbie McWilliams) to make sure that everyone is taken care of emotionally and spiritually. In the event of an emergency or any questions in general, Clara Ann McWilliams has volunteered to be the contact person to make sure your needs are met. Her phone number is (830) 589-7754.
Finally, I want to encourage you to take care of yourself as well. We have been SO BUSY the last two summers that maybe it’s time to ease up on the reins. Rick Warren says, “The purpose of the church is NOT to keep the saints busy.” Let us all use this summer as a time to catch our breath and allow the Lord to renew us.