So before we get too far into this journey, I want to talk about the practicals. Am I stepping away from my work? Am I not doing the podcast? “You’re leaving for two years?!” No. No, I’m not. But we do have a commitment to take a break from the regular routine of things and approach our work in a way where God can refresh us and speak to us, because we’ve postured ourselves to listen in unique ways. Again, for most of our staff, this looks like a defined 100-day journey with cleaner boundaries. My journey will take a more ambiguous shape, but it is driven by the same elements in our Policy and Procedure Manual. What are those elements? Let me share them with you.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Your sabbatical is required to have an accountability structure. This means I have people I talk to on a regular basis about how my sabbatical is going, both inside and outside of the organization. I have two teammates who do this for me internally. Weekly phone calls with Lowell Kosak (ICM’s Director of Spiritual Formation and the champion of our sabbatical efforts) and Jeff Vander Laan (ICM’s Vice President, and no relation to the teacher who influenced me). I also have a new counselor/therapist for the next year and am procuring a spiritual director for year two. I’m excited to talk and share more about this part of my journey.
FAMILY RENEWAL: Your sabbatical needs to bring physical rest and spiritual renewal to your family. Part of the counseling mentioned above will be targeting specific areas we would like to examine and work on as a couple, both as spouses and as parents. We are also planning a big family vacation a couple years from now. It happens to be the confluence of my 40th birthday, our 20th wedding anniversary, and my wife’s 40th birthday—seems like a good time to celebrate. We want to go to the UK and visit the land of our ancestry and talk about our “family narrative.” That should be fun to share, too.
PERSONAL RENEWAL: You need to intentionally make sure you are spiritually renewed during this time as well. I am finally taking two years of Hebrew classes that I’ve put off forever! Our family is going to read the Torah over the first year together. The Executive Team helped me retool my usual event schedule for the year, so some events I will not attend and others I will attend with a different intent and from a different role. Again, you should see here a change in posture and an ability to see and hear things you wouldn’t encounter in other ways.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: You need to intentionally develop and sharpen your professional skills during this time. I want to bring more organizational and cultural alignment to my work. I am always engaging things that help me develop in a “productive” sense; even the things listed above as “personal renewal” actually contribute to my professional development. What I struggle with is actually remembering our counter-intuitive commitment to prayer and intimacy with Jesus. I need to make sure I am committed to this alignment for these two years. The first year, my word for reflection is listening. The second year, my word is gratitude. I will enjoy writing about these reflections.
COVERING THE VOID: Make sure that all your roles will be covered in your absence. Since my “absence” is not as defined, the needs here aren’t dramatic. We’re doing some things to cover some fundraising efforts, but the concern here is minimal.
So those are the organizational nuts and bolts that drive the execution of our sabbaticals. We have those bases covered. What about the biblical principles of the Sabbath Year? We’ll talk about that next time.