What Is A Sabbatical and Why Am I Taking One?


Beginning on Thursday, October 1, I will be taking a two-month sabbatical. I want to thank the elders of LowCountry Community Church for not only making this break possible, but strongly encouraging it. As a person with workaholic tendencies, it would be my style to just keep pressing on. But there are good reasons for God’s command to regularly practice the principle of Sabbath rest.

You may have a few questions. For example,

What’s a sabbatical anyway?

A sabbatical is an extended time off and away from pastoral duties and responsibilities for reflection, refreshment, renewal and a “rekindling of the fire.” A sabbatical is rooted in the Biblical concept of Sabbath which involves ceasing, rest, worship, play, and reflection.  It is an opportunity to experience the gift of renewal that God offers each one of us. 

A sabbatical is not an extended vacation, nor is it just continuing education. This is a time for me to receive spiritual nourishment and a change in perspective, to deepen my relationship with God, and to spend time in intentional reflection.  

When did LowCountry Community Church start a sabbatical plan?

In 1999 the elders adopted a sabbatical policy. We all realized that ministers can never be healthy enough with all the work and demand that they are under emotionally and spiritually without one, so we instituted a plan for our pastoral staff.  The Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence at Samford University (AL) says, “The average pastoral leader spends 50-55 hours at work each week being a public speaker, community leader, administrator, family therapist, hospital and nursing home chaplain, wedding and funeral director, employer and employee.  Even family time is often interrupted by a crisis in the life of a church member.  All of this leaves little time for worship, spiritual reflection, extended study, physical fitness, or simply rejuvenating rest.  In our busy, consumer-oriented culture, experiencing the ‘holiness of time’ may require the shifting of space.”

The point of the sabbatical is not to deal with burnout in ministry, but to prevent it from ever happening. This is the fifth sabbatical I have had here in over 21 years at LCC, and I am absolutely convinced it’s been these times of refreshment and rejuvenation that have kept me here in the saddle, while the average length of tenure for an American senior pastor is approximately five years.

What's going to happen at LCC while I'm gone?

Everything is going to go right on. Our pastors and staff are here to ensure that ministry will continue to run like clockwork. LCC pastors Bobby Thompson and Ben Lowery will be preaching our church-wide series called, “Real God.” I’m thrilled that you are going to hear God’s voice on Sunday mornings through other personalities.

What am I going to do on my sabbatical?

Planned rest for the body. Meaningful activities for the spirit. The pursuit of God for the soul.

Will you see me at church?

Nope. I am going to be attending other churches during the sabbatical time merely due to the fact that once I walk on to our campus, work starts for me. As much as I love you all, I find it impossible to detach from being your pastor, even for a moment. Visiting other churches allows me to see what else God is doing in His Kingdom and to learn from other teachers without worrying about how the service is going and what I should be doing. I’m also looking forward to sitting in the congregation as a normal person and being fed for a change.

Is this all just a scam to let you interview for another church?

I just thought I'd throw that question in there, since it always pops up. No, I have no intention, no plan, no desire whatsoever of going anywhere other than LowCountry. As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to retire from pastoral ministry here at LCC.  Now, of course God has pulled the rug out from under me before, so I never say never, but it's certainly not on my agenda. So, no, let's kill that potential rumor. I'm not going anywhere and don't want to go anywhere else.

Why am I really going to go away for two months?

Surely, there must be some really juicy reason behind all of this! Witness Protection Program? No. One month of deeply intense counseling? Probably wouldn’t hurt, but wrong again. Being able to attend Clemson’s home football games and not have to drive back to Bluffton at three in the morning? Unfortunately, no again. The fact-of-the-matter is that all work and no play makes Jeff a very dull boy. A friend asked me a while back, “What do you do for fun?” and I didn’t have an answer. I am going find some fun stuff to do. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes observes that if the axe isn’t regularly sharpened it becomes dull and requires more effort. As always, Scripture gets it right. When we go too long without practicing the art of renewal, we enter into a situation of diminishing returns. So, it is good thing for all of us – you, too - for me to take a break: to be quiet; to rest; to receive; to learn; to listen. 

I hope this clarifies why I’m going away for a short time. I trust you realize that church is still church, even when I'm gone. I’m presuming that you will back me up and support the church by attending faithfully while I'm away.

I hope my time for a break will not alter the way we relate to and support the life and ministries of LCC. It is, in fact, the strength of our church that makes it possible for me to be away and know that the same great things to which we’ve become accustomed will continue undiminished by my absence. Be supportive in giving, in service, in love, and encouragement to all who serve Jesus here at LCC.

If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to ask me, Pastor Jason Best, or any of our elders.

Thank you for loving me and my wife, Darlene, and praying for me while I am away.