Sabbatical Plans

Our church has a generous sabbatical for pastors: three months of sabbatical and a month of vacation after seven years of service. The purpose of sabbatical is to rest (by being apart from the regular work of ministry), to be renewed (by doing something that makes your heart sing), and to reflect (by spending time listening to God and others).

My sabbatical will be from May 3 to the end of August and my theme is Pilgrimage and Practices. This year I have personally focused on spiritual practices in small groups, spiritual direction and retreats. So, rather than doing something for God on sabbatical, I want to practice being with God in places that inspire and teach us.

In addition to completing seven years of ministry at SBPC, Amy and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in June, turning 50 this year, and celebrating 20 years of ordained ministry. Our sons are both out of college, in or headed to grad school and Connor is also getting married next week!

Amy and I will share this sabbatical together, giving us an extended period of time to live an adventure in this banner year in our lives. Our marriage will benefit from our time together traveling, exploring, discovering, praying, worshipping, celebrating and resting together.

With all that in mind, we are excited about what we have planned:

·         A group pilgrimage to Israel, visiting the biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, with 22 from our congregation. This is our first trip and I know it will be life changing!

·         A month near Assisi, Italy, home of  St. Francis and St. Clare, who grew in their love for the world as they grew in their love for God. This is where we will be planted for a month and experience the rhythm of life in one small village.

·         Two courses in Orvieto, Italy, on medieval culture, art, architecture and theology offered through the Fuller Seminary Brehm Center for Worship and the Arts. We are excited to learn and pray in community with other students.

·         Preaching in Kiev, Ukraine, and Moscow, Russia, with our Chancel Choir and learning from our partners who are meeting needs of their communities with the love of God.

·         A week at a spiritual retreat house at the Northumbria Community in northern England--a community inspired by the 7th century monastic community on the Holy Island of Lindesfarne--sharing meals, prayer, and worship in a daily rhythm.

        Two weeks in Scotland, where Presbyterians find our roots in the Scottish Reformation and McClenahan's find our roots as Scotch-Irish who emigrated (with the Presbyterians) to the colonies in the early 1700s.
          A week on the island of Iona, Scotland, where St. Columba spread Christianity from Ireland in the 6th century. We will participate in the spiritual community that gathers at the historic Abbey.

·         And, four weeks of vacation interspersed throughout the four months.

A sabbatical is a spiritual discipline. There are many reasons to postpone because there is so much happening in our lives and in the life of our church, but we are trusting God’s timing and His provision.

This is also going to be a growing experience for our congregation and for our staff. You all will have a chance to learn from other voices. The message series, “Companions for the Journey,” will give pastors and other staff the opportunity to teach on biblical characters whose lives help us to live faithfully in the journey. Each of our pastors will take on my day to day responsibilities for leadership and Pastor Barry Moller will be acting head of staff in my absence. We have worked hard to develop our Strategic Plan for Ministry Year 2011, which begins July 1, and Session has developed a comprehensive plan for meetings in my absence.

In the next few weeks you’ll hear more about the many opportunities that you’ll have to grow, serve, and worship through the spring and summer, including Come Build Hope, Kids Games and the Luis Palau CityFest and Season of Service. We will all have stories in the fall as we share with each other what God taught us while we were apart.

I’m grateful for the opportunity for this life-changing adventure, both for us and for our congregation. Please pray for our safety, for God to be at work, and for all of us to grow in our love for God, for each other and for the world.

In Christ,



  1. Mike, glad to hear you've got such a rich sabbatical coming. The Italy piece sounds wonderful. I can picture you on Lindesfarne (trooped around that island on my sabbatical in 2007). Was on Iona twice. Once in 2006 (with my dad) and another time in 2007 (alone). Combed just about every inch of that island. I'm immensely jealous. If you get a chance to hike on the mainland...choose Glencoe and the little inn called the Claichaig Inn. Spectacular. Here's a link to the little ebook I wrote about my sabbatical travels and the lessons God taught me...shaping a missional spirituality.

  2. Dear Mike,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs and have admired your artwork!

    The Seven Spiritual Practices that are in the bulletin that you preached on before you left:
    Pay Attention: Pray: Read: Ask: Write and Reflect: Give Thanks:

    Is this something that I can include in the children's book series "Kids Helping Kids Through Books?" This is a perfect list of activities to include.

    Just want to get your permission or if you got this information from somewhere else.

    So sorry to hear about your friend. I lost my childhood best friend to a car crash and one of my adult best friend's-my mom- to intravascular lymphoma cancer. It is hard to loose people that have touched your life in such a big way. I will definitely pray for peace for their friends and family.

    Colleen Ster


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