Honestly, I was shocked! I've never received anything like that in my life, and it was overwhelming.
Lilly awards grants like these in their clergy renewal program to give long-tenured pastors the funding to take an extended break from their ministry. I had to do an extensive amount of work to write the proposal, and the Steering Team worked with me. They had to approve my request and even write their own section of the proposal.
My proposal basically laid out four purposes:
- Reconnection with my children, family and some other long-time influences in my ministry;
- Reflection on the past twelve years of ministry (especially the ten years I've been at PCC);
- Re-envisioning the next decade of ministry for me and for our church;
I will essentially be away for most of the summer. I will do a few of the messages at PCC and I'll be around our church here and there. I'm going on our mission trip to Puerto Rico and will be here for our baptism. For the most part, though, I will be traveling. This grant allows for and encourages extensive traveling and time away with my family. Much of what we will do would never be possible for us if it were not for this grant.
There are several pastors I know who have taken 12-week sabbaticals. Sammy Williams from Westminster Baptist Church in Richmond received this same grant a few years ago. Jimmie Davidson (highlandschurch.com) took a sabbatical a couple of years ago. Both have been coaching me on how to do this well - in such a way that it is a benefit to the church as well as to me. The last thing I want to do is hurt our church.
That's why we have a dynamic and gifted teaching team. I've been working with these folks and I'm excited about what they will bring to PCC this summer! In addition, we have at least one incredible outside speaker (Mark Batterson) and I'm having a conversation with someone else who may also be able to come and be with us. I think you'll find that the teaching at PCC doesn't miss a beat, and it might even improve!
Some folks have asked what they can do for me. Here are a few things that come to mind:
- Do everything in your power to keep attendance strong during the summer while I'm away. Come to church, invite your friends. I've even heard of some pastors who's churches grew while they were on Sabbatical. That would be the best gift to me!
- Pray for me. I'm excited about what God might say to me with this kind of focused time on Him. Pray that I really rest and that I hear from God and reconnect with Him, in addition to my family.
- Pray for our staff. I'm not worried about their competence - they are the best leaders and pastors and ministers anywhere! We really have a very high capacity, mature staff. But my absence will inevitably add to their workload.
- Offer to help our staff during the summer. That would also be a gift to me!
Keep in mind that the incredible things we see happening around us are God's doing! He has given me the incredible privilege of being a part of this movement we know as PCC - BUT it is HIS work. I have absolute faith that he will continue to work in our community in my absence. PCC belongs to God and He is not only using me to accomplish His purposes here, but each and every one of you.
Finally, I want to tell you how much I appreciate PCC giving me this time. It is a precious, precious gift to me. I will treasure it for the rest of my life, and I cannot tell you how much it means to me.
Let me or a Steering Team member know if you have any questions...we're glad to tell you anything we know.