Several years ago when the Administrative Work Group developed the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship Employee Guidebook, provision was made for the coordinator and associate coordinator to take a periodic sabbatical study leave. The Employee Guidebook’s “Sabbatical Leave Policy” states that the sabbatical shall provide the employee with “…the opportunity for a time of study, renewal, and growth that will enable [the employee] to continue to best serve the mission and ministry to which they have been called.” The policy supports two core values of KBF, namely: Lifelong Learning and Effectiveness. So as I come to the close of this sabbatical leave, let me reflect on my time and its benefits to me and to the organization, understanding that the four major components of a sabbatical are: study, renewal, growth and benefit to KBF.
Study was a major component of the sabbatical and this was achieved in abundance. Study was accomplished through individual reading, taking a seminary class, achieving all assignments in the class, and research and writing of a book on interim ministry. The reading for the class included seven books as well as numerous articles. Writing the book on interim ministry required study and research of the subject as well as the discipline of writing. The working title of the book is: Building Bridges During the Interim: A Workbook for Congregational Leaders. As I write this report, the initial manuscript is complete and in the hands of a half dozen first readers (who are providing critique). I hope to receive this critique, make needed changes and have the workbook ready for a publisher within a few weeks.
In addition to reading for the class and research for the book, I also took this opportunity to read several books on the history of the United States, one focusing on the Civil War and others focusing on the period during the formation of our nation.
Renewal of mind, body and spirit is the second major component of the sabbatical. This was accomplished in various means—foremost was just being away from the day-to-day responsibilities as Coordinator. I was able to disengage from those tasks and pay attention to rest, renewal and study. I appreciate Josh Speight and Shannan Posey for taking care of KBF responsibilities during my absence. I have been in touch with both of them via telephone and email on several occasions but, for the most part, they have taken care of day-to-day tasks, allowing me to enjoy the sabbatical with few interruptions. However, during the sabbatical I had contact with several churches needing ministers and also with several ministers who were in process of making a move (all needed conversations).
I also found this to be a time of renewal because of family time. My wife, Connie, was able to travel with me so we have had good quality time during this sabbatical. My general pattern was to block mornings for reading, writing and study and for us to use afternoons and evenings as times to visit area sites such as Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg or Yorktown. Additionally, we had good visits with our daughter and her family (including two granddaughters) because of their proximity to Williamsburg and Richmond.
Growth has been a vital component of this sabbatical. The intensive class, “A Systems Approach to Congregational Leadership,” brought new insights and perspectives. I found the lectures by Dr. Israel Galindo to be quite stimulating. I also found participation in the class small groups to be growth producing. The required reading and other class assignments, as well as several guest lecturers, all added to my growth.
The discipline of writing was growth producing. For a number of years now, I have been involved in helping congregations build bridges between pastors. To date, I’ve served over 25 congregations as an interim pastor or as a “bridge to the interim.” The time to research, reflect and write on this subject was growth producing in that it allowed me opportunity to organize my thoughts and formulate these more fully. Knowledge gained in the seminary class was incorporated into the book that I wrote. The discipline of making this application was, in itself, growth producing.
Benefit to Kentucky Baptist Fellowship is an important component of the sabbatical. The first benefit is that KBF will have a coordinator that has grown personally and professionally. The new knowledge and insights that were gained during this time will be applied in numerous situations in the future. The specific application will come as I consult with congregational leaders and, specifically, as I provide assistance to congregations during the interim. The book itself should provide KBF congregations (as well as congregations beyond Kentucky) with a needed resource.
I am grateful to Josh Speight for his leadership during this time. I am also grateful to the council of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship for allowing this time of renewal. I eagerly look forward to my continued role with KBF as I return from sabbatical.