Taking Up Blogging #25

January, 2018

Sabbatical Benefits

In my last blog post I told you all that the Executive Committee here at Westwood had offered me a sabbatical in 2018 and that I had accepted that kind offer.  Sabbaticals are not vacations, although, like vacations, they can be times of rest and recuperation.  Sabbaticals have a bigger purpose in mind and can yield big benefits for a pastor and for a church.

For the Pastor

The most obvious benefit is for the pastor.  Sabbaticals give a pastor some time away from the weekly pattern of message prep, leadership challenges, coaching staff and care giving.  Although being a pastor of a thriving church isn’t the hardest job in the world, that MIGHT be being a garbage collector on a bitter cold, snowy day!  Yikes!  But being a pastor has unique challenges.  The weekly discipline of study, preparation and presentation that goes into each Sunday’s message is hard to describe unless you do it.  There are continual folks in crisis, continual issues to be dealt with in people’s lives and in the church itself.  It isn’t harder than other jobs, it is just unique. Study after study has shown that a pastor is more effective if she or he takes regular and extended times away.  Sabbatical provides some time to rest.  It gives a pastor an opportunity to worship on Sunday with no obligations.

It is also a time to study.  The weekly challenges of pastoring often don’t allow for the study time the ministry really needs.  A sabbatical can be a sort of “super-charged” study time.  In this sabbatical I’m going to focus on the lives and ministries of Martin Luther and John Calvin who were extraordinary leaders in a very difficult time.  It is my intention to read a couple of biographies and some history and then to visit Germany and Switzerland to see their home stopping ground.  My past visits to Israel and then the Footsteps of the Apostle Paul tour (Greece, Turkey and Italy) have been invaluable to my preaching, to my insight into the Scripture. I’m hoping for the same from this “Reformation Tour.”

It also gives a pastor time to invest in family that is often in short supply .  While the MAIN ministry of every pastor should be her or his family, that often is easy to say and hard to do.  So sabbatical gives marriages and parenting a bit of needed time to breath.

All that to say I’m hoping and praying for rest, refreshment and renewed understanding of God’s word that will enable me to serve Westwood better.

For the Church

But there are real benefits for the church also.  For one, the church gets to hear another consistent voice from the pulpit.  For over 20 years I’ve been the main speaker/teacher in worship.  That’s a lot of years of my voice.  It will be good for Westwood to hear from two talented teachers, Pastor Quinn and Pastor Terry, instead.  Pastor Quinn is a voice we hear regularly and I think we all know what a gifted teacher he is.  His abilities will only grow as he gets an opportunity to preach more.  Pastor Terry Maassen was the lead pastor at Hope Church in Lincoln for many years.  He has been a pastor for over 35 years and he and his wife Cheryl have recently retired and settled in Omaha.  They’ve been attending Westwood.  Terry is a seasoned and gifted preacher and Westwood will thrive as he brings God’s word.  A different voice on Sunday mornings will be a good thing.

The church also grows as leaders are giving more of an opportunity to lead.  From a staff perspective Pastor Quinn will be leading and guiding our team.  He will grow as a leader and our staff will grow following him.  Pastor Terry will also be a part of that staff team.  Our consistory leaders will also be using their leadership gifts to a larger extent.  The Vice President of our Consistory, Dave McIvor, will lead our Executive Committee.  He is an amazing leader and that crucial team will not miss a beat.  Our Teaching Elders will be led by our new Executive Elder, Kris Vander Zwaag.  While Kris might be new to the role of Executive Elder, he is NOT new to our Teaching Elders and has a long history of amazing leadership, most recently leading us through the rehab of our Worship Center.  Our Deacons and Shepherding Elders are also blessed with great leaders in Todd Schuiteman and Shelly Rozeboom respectively.  All that to say that Westwood will have the opportunity to experience different leadership for a while and that’s a good thing.  .

Everything we know about pastoral sabbaticals tells us that it is good for the pastor, good for the church and good for the ministry they share.  I’m expecting no less with my sabbatical.  I hope I come back stronger and smarter and revitalized so that I can serve  Jesus and you better than ever.  Now I’m still around for a while, my sabbatical will begin April 2nd and I’ll be back in the office on July 17th.  So I’m looking forward to the Lenten season coming up and to celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus with you.  Thank you for allowing this sabbatical to be a reality.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do.


Pastor Scott