Creativity must be hard work, even for God, for the Bible says after he created the heavens and the earth God "rested from his work of creation" (Gen. 2:3). I really don't believe God stopped because he needed a break, but I think he stopped because he was through … at least to that point. But in stopping, taking a break, God established a pattern for us to follow. Later Moses would teach that every seventh day all of us should rest. Every seventh year even the land should rest. Let it lie fallow, Moses said. Don't exhaust it by planting a crop every year.
When Jesus walked among us, he took time to get away from the crowd apparently to think through what was going on, to pray, to plan his next steps, and to make significant decisions.
So the idea of getting away, changing your routine, taking time to reflect, think, pray, ponder, plan, and anticipate must be a good thing. Apparently the leaders of UBA thought so many years ago when they instituted our sabbatical policy. Once every five years UBA leadership is permitted to take three months for a sabbatical.
It's not a vacation. I'm sure the first thing many think about when they hear that is, "wow, I wish I had a three month vacation." I wish I had a three month vacation as well because that is not what a sabbatical is. Sure, there is a break from driving into the office each day, and the number of appointments and meetings is significantly curtailed. But that's so we can focus on other things, things vitally important to our work.
During my first two sabbaticals I studied the concept of metropolitan areas (the city), the missional church and church planting movements around the world. In the second sabbatical I studied the effectiveness of using church planting methodology in Europe and the US. In both instances my research became foundational to the work we are doing in UBA and the course for our work in UBA in the years that followed.
Later this summer I will begin my third sabbatical (July through September). Each year, whether on sabbatical or not, I choose a topic and delve deeply into it. In recent years I have studied creativity and entrepreneurial leadership. One of the books I read last year, Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, became formative as I planned my sabbatical. I want to build on my study of creativity and entrepreneurial leadership by studying two widely divergent topics: the arts and the brain. I will study the arts (music, painting) to learn to be more creative, as Pink describes it to cultivate the right side of the brain. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. Even as a teenager I knew that we needed to understand the brain in order to understand people. So I'll be studying the the brain and the field of neuroscience. I'll also take courses and read in the area of decision making (probably laying the groundwork for future seminars in the area). (For fun I even plan to take a course in physics and everyday life. Yep, that's what us nerds do.) In doing so I believe I will enhance my ability to lead UBA. In addition, I have been invited to speak at a number of events across the US and outside our country where I'll be sharing the UBA story.
I am able to take a sabbatical because we have such a highly competent staff and great leadership in UBA. The moderator team (Jeff Waldo, Jeff Berger and Jerry Edmonson) will work closely with the UBA director team (Dian Kidd and Ron Towery) and our great staff in my absence and provide stellar leadership. UBA won't miss a beat. That's mildly disconcerting, I'll admit, but highly satisfying knowing that the work will go forward.
I haven't decided whether to post anything in this blog while I'm on sabbatical. If I do, I probably will post them as I want, not be bound by the strictures of a monthly article. So check back from time to time. When I return we will be focusing on 2013 and the great things we are planning ahead for UBA. I can't wait to tell you about all that's in store.
As I close, let me encourage our churches to consider offering a sabbatical for your pastor and staff. Those who have done so talk about how valuable it is to both the church and their leaders. If you'd like to know more about UBA churches that offer their staff sabbaticals, call Dian Kidd cause I'm going to be on sabbatical. :-)