Dear UCC Family,
In two short months, Tim and I will be setting off on our sabbatical. The call agreement (“contract” in business terms) we made between the church back in 2011 states that for every five years of service, the pastor or director is eligible for a three-month sabbatical. During that time, the pastor is completely relieved of his duties, both routine and emergency, and is encouraged to focus solely on personal rest, spiritual rejuvenation and professional growth. Prior to taking a sabbatical, the pastor is required to submit a plan outlining how he intends to use his sabbatical time. Also, by taking a sabbatical, he also commits to at least one more year of service at the church.
Why a sabbatical? The simple answer is this: to proactively protect and care for the pastor in hopes of increasing his longevity in ministry and at our church.
According to statistics, almost 1,500 pastors leave their ministry positions each month due to spiritual burnout, moral failures or issues within the church. About 80% of pastors feel discouraged in their roles. Some 50% of pastors say they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. As many as 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates leave the ministry within the first 5 years. And 70% of pastors constantly fight depression. Only 1 out of 10 pastors retire as a pastor.
Please hear my heart: I’m not sharing those statistics with you to whine or complain about how tough it is to be a pastor. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life, and your encouragement and support make it a joy and blessing to serve as your pastor. You people truly are amazing! However, it’s still important to me and to our leaders that we proactively care for the pastor to ensure personal, spiritual and emotional health so that he can lead and shepherd in a way that honors God and helps you.
As I’ve been sharing with many of you over the last few months, starting Monday, Aug. 8, I’ll be gone for months (three months as sabbatical and four weeks as vacation), returning on Dec. 4. Our secretary, Eve-Lynn Determan, and our amazing Board of Deacons will take care of all the day-to-day stuff. The Deacons will also serve as worship leaders for most Sundays during my absence, and they have some interesting, wild and can’t-be-missed ideas cooking up. For communion Sundays, I have scheduled ordained ministers to lead worship and officiate that sacrament.
My sabbatical plans include a lot of travel, walking, writing and prayer. I will share more about those plans in next month’s newsletter. Suffice it to say that Tim and I are already struggling to keep ourselves from being too busy and over-planned! You can follow our adventures at gageandtim.com.
Thanks for all your support and encouragement. I can’t tell you how much it means to Tim and me. It’s a joy and honor to be your pastor, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the future of Congregational UCC!
May the Peace of Christ be with you. Pastor Gage