Successful Sabbatical Re-Entry

Most of us return from our sabbaticals and vacations this Summer, rested, relaxed, and renewed. However, within a few weeks (or even days), we seem to be back in the same place emotionally, relationally, physically...and spiritually! So how can we return from our time away in a more healthy fashion and experience more sustained results? Here are some things I learned over time as a Father, husband, and a pastor, that allowed me to maximize my time away so that it actually aided my ministry once I returned:

Don’t just LOUNGE and PLAY while away.

Early on in my life and ministry, some of my most discouraging moments came at the end of my time away, because I realized I had to go BACK to the same pace and pressure that I left. I realized I had no new solutions to deal with the pressure I had left behind, and within a matter of days, all of the benefits of my time away was gone!  Over time I learned personally that planning a  day or two on the back end of my time away to reflect, read, and plan my ministry re-entry made all the difference! The next time you plan time away from it all, plan a couple days on the back end when you aren’t entertaining family and friends to work ON IT  so that when you return, you can successfully work IN IT.

Plan a new rhythm and pace.

When I had time to assess and reflect during my time away, I would often be prompted by the Holy Spirit (sometimes through my spouse) of adjustments I needed to consider in my rhythm and pace. I would often make major adjustments in my daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual schedule to reflect a better rhythm and pace. Over time, I learned that I didn’t need as much extended time away when I went away because I was living at a healthier pace every day! You won’t need as much extended time away if you work at a healthier pace every day. Even if our pace was manageable when we left for our time away, there is such a thing as numbness by frequency. Change it up! Plan a new rhythm and pace upon your return, This alone will re-energize you as you return. 

Analyze our structure and the structure of our organization.

Every organization is perfectly structured for the results they are getting now. As I assessed my own schedule, it usually revealed the fact that adjustments were needed, not only in my structure but the structure of my team. There is a direct correlation between my ability to nurture my own vitality, and the structure and capacity of my team. When I had time to contemplate my own pace, schedule, and structure, I realized I was going to need to give some more things away. My job description needed to be tweaked, but this also meant the descriptions of those around me needed to be tweaked, as well. Often times I realized while away that I did not even have my team optimally structured to help us all take the next hill. Time away is the best time to contemplate all of this.

Plan the next time away.

In the long run, time away should never be reactive. It should be proactive. Over time I learned to always have the next time away on the calendar. This helped me to remember that there was always more light coming at the end of the next tunnel, and gave my family something to look forward to, even in the frantic days that lie ahead.

Make key decisions and communicate quickly on my return.

Contemplation will only get us so far. We must act. We must have courageous conversations and make courageous decisions upon our return. Speak with key people very soon upon our return from our time away and talk through the things we believe God is speaking to us about. John Maxwell says “Make decisions once and then just manage it daily.” How do we do this? Make decisions. Tell someone about them quickly. Ask for accountability. Seek out a coach to aid you in implementation!