Our Denomination (The Evangelical Church) has a wonderful policy for all salaried Pastors to receive a paid, three month Sabbatical every 7 years of full time ministry. Some churches support the policy, others do not. I only wish I had read this book before I went on my last Sabbatical. Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World was brilliant, especially Rule #2: Embrace Boredom. 
I have heard it said it takes 21 uninterrupted days for a Pastor to disengage from being a Pastor. Vacations are nice, but rarely does a Pastor totally disengage. To be honest, most pastors don’t even take a Sabbath every week. Most sneak peeks at their email, check phone messages, or constantly think about their ministries. It’s possible to go a while at this breakneck speed and still be effective, but eventually, something has to give. Burnout is a real issue in the church world. The Sabbatical is one antidote.
Every leader functions on two stages–the front stage (or public world), and the back stage (or private world). One cannot lead successfully front stage when one is completely depleted back stage. In a time when pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers due to cynicism, disillusionment, weariness, and personal scandals, there is an urgent need for soul care in the private lives of leaders. 
That is why Newport resonated with me when he said, “Don’t take breaks from distraction. Instead, take breaks from focus.”  In order to keep one’s concentration, it is necessary to step off the focus bus. Yeah, yeah, we have all heard before, “Pastors only work one day a week.” How sad, and unfathomable, that people believe it!
The first 7 years I was Pastor, I did not get a single holiday week end off. Christmas and Easter breaks? HA HA, the pressure was quadrupled! New Year’s and Labor Day–weddings. July 4 and Memorial Day–special services for the military. Thanksgiving–working harder because most of the staff, and even more of the volunteers, were on their much needed vacations. At the times when the rest of the world seemed to be able to take breaks, Pastors are serving at their highest intensity. And I have lost track of the number of my vacations that have been called short due to an “emergency” back at church.
To be honest, I think I was addicted to the adrenaline of being a Pastor. Always being the go to guy. Preaching, counseling, banquets, funerals, being on call 24/7. It is nice to be wanted, and it fed my ego. But something had to give. To this day I am not sure if that is why my son rebelled. Sadly, it certainly could be. Makes me think the so called “Protestant Work Ethic” described by Weber  was not such a blessing.
What grand words from Newport to have, “productive meditation.”  Taking a period of time when we can be occupied physically, but not mentally. For me, it is simply taking a walk, or mowing the yard (and I hate mowing the yard, but I get some of my best ideas during that time). Ever since our Cape Town advance, I have worked into my schedule HIGH TEA. Every afternoon I simply stop, boil some water, make my tea with honey, and sit down for 15 minutes. It has been a gift. 
Please allow me to describe my last Sabbatical. It may not mean much to you, but just writing it down helps me relive it. I never want to forget!
The first 21 days (which stretched out to a full month), I drove the Alaska Highway. Over 5000 miles with no TV, no internet, hardly any radio. Talk about “embracing boredom.” It was glorious; whatever I shot or caught, I ate. Salmon, ptarmigan, blueberries, grouse, raspberries. I saw bears, moose, caribou, whales, and the fall leaves in radiant colors. Totally disengaged. When I wanted to sleep, I slept. Time meant little. Unplugged, I could feel my soul reviving.
For the next month, my wife and I went to Israel, Jordan, the Vatican City and Rome. We walked where Jesus walked, prayed at the Wailing Wall, boated on the Sea of Galilee, and were baptized in the Jordan River. We saw Petra, and the Coliseum, swam in the Dead Sea. And on the way home, got stuck in Paris! It was spectacular.
The final month of my Sabbatical was family time. Whatever the kids wanted to do, we did. Movies with popcorn, soccer games, Yellowstone National Park. We made more memories than money. Laughed a lot, acted incredibly irresponsibly, and it was worth every investment. Too bad Superintendents don’t get Sabbaticals…
 Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York; Grand Central, 2016. 155.
 Witt, Lance and Ortberg, John. Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 24.
 Newport. 159.
 Weber, Max, Peter R. Baehr, and Gordon C. Wells. The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings. New York: Penguin Books, 2012.
 Newport. 169.
 Webster, Noah. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Turtleback Books, 2016.