This past weekend, the Elders and Board of GFC announced that our Lead Pastor will be taking a three-month sabbatical this summer. I am sure some had questions, but for the most part, it was met with a positive approval that truly wanted what was best for Craig and Debbie. A sabbatical is pretty common amongst senior pastors and is a great way to get away to recharge, reflect and rejuvenate before jumping back into ministry. As someone who watches from the “next rung down,” I am excited for them. It isn’t easy being the final say on everything at GFC, even when you have great people under you. In the end, you own it all.
Which brings us to a place where GFC has never gone before – three months without our lead pastor…leading us. We have ribbed him pretty good but the truth is that in less than two weeks – we are on our own. This is where the good news comes in – we are ready! This has been such a great challenge for us as a staff to prepare our processes and mindsets that we have to lead “without the net.” We have enjoyed some great conversations about how we need to communicate and implement with Craig gone. We have proactively planned the entire summer weekend schedule and built the structure for the fall ministries to kick off. In other words, we are ahead of schedule and on board with what we need to do.
The challenge is not the church…it is us. Namely, the biggest challenge is me. I have a phrase that I have been using the last few years and it really has helped me. “I have never been in this place before.” Seems pretty simple, huh? How can that be so strategic when facing life’s crisis? Simple…I give myself the grace to know that in a challenging situation, I have not faced this particular situation ever before. Since that is true, I go out to find the answers I need for the first time. When my daughter got married for the first time, I had never faced that before. When Craig told me that I wouldn’t preach much anymore, I had never faced that before. When I received the call that my dad had fallen off a roof and was being air lifted to the hospital, I had never faced that before. Even good news like that Kristin and I are going to be grandparents, Casey wanted to record a CD and Abby was going to nanny in New York….never been through those before. Finally, even situations that have happened before like Christmas Eve at GFC, weddings, births, deaths – remember, you have never been where you are from a physical, emotional, financial, age and life perspective sense. This one phrase gives me such a peace that God would allow something to happen at the time that He chose. It also gives me the grace I need to know that I don’t have to have all the answers. I realize I am limited in my own abilities and need God to walk with me through this.
As the summer sabbatical is only a few days away, I am invigorated by the challenge. I know there will be some tough situations and conversations ahead. Ironically, I have them all the time anyway but it will be from a different perspective. I have some ideas for staff initiatives to implement and already know that I will get asked “if Craig knew about this before he left.” (The answer is yes) I know that I will walk into a weekend service missing my favorite pastor speaker – you would think it gets old after nineteen and a half years but I still get something out of every sermon he preaches. This is going to be a different summer! Yet, if we do it right, the growth at GFC and in ourselves will be immense and set us up for the next wave of ministry.
Day one of the sabbatical is coming…I have never been in this place before!