As members of our faith community, we are blessed to have dedicated staff who tirelessly serve, nurture, and guide us on our spiritual journeys. I for one, am super thankful that I get to devote all my attention to serving in the local church and that I am privileged not having to pastor bi-vocationally like so many do.  From a first hand perspective I got to see the impact of burnout and the problems it caused that I believe could have been avoided with a structured sabbatical time of rest.  I mentioned recently that in 2 Corinthians 11-12 Paul talks about all the difficulties he's been through and lists all the issues like shipwrecks, hungry, thirsty and then says something crazy: above all else, I have the concern for the church!  I never understood the emotional pain Paul expressed here until I had the opportunity to lead a church community!  While I think we have the best congregation in Pinellas, a pastor still bears the emotional weight of broken marriages, disunified families, and turmoil of life and even death.    
Research reveals a troubling trend: many pastors are leaving the ministry due to burnout, stress, and exhaustion. According to the Barna Group, around 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month in the United States alone with over 5,000 a year just leaving because of burnout. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need for us, as a congregation, to prioritize the well-being of our spiritual leaders. I won't lie, I've actually considered being one of those statistics from time to time. 
So why are pastors facing such challenges? The demands of pastoral ministry are multifaceted and intense. Pastors juggle numerous responsibilities, including preaching, teaching, counseling, administration, and community outreach. They often work long hours, including evenings and weekends, and face the emotional weight of caring for others in times of joy and sorrow.
The reality is that pastoral ministry can be relentless and unforgiving. Pastors may feel guilty or hesitant to take time off, fearing that they will let down their congregation or neglect their duties.
However, research underscores the importance of sabbatical rest for pastors' overall well-being and effectiveness in ministry. Studies show that sabbaticals can lead to increased job satisfaction, decreased burnout, and improved mental and physical health among pastors. Sabbaticals also provide pastors with the opportunity to reflect, recharge, and deepen their spiritual lives, ultimately enhancing their capacity to serve their congregations with renewed passion and energy.  
As a result, it is a standard practice for a pastor to have a sabbatical after 7 years.  This will be my first one, even though I have been in ministry for 25 years this August.  21 years in pastoral ministry.  Now, a sabbatical is only effective if,  1. He has the congregation and leaderships support.  2.  If there is a plan.  
Our leadership team is on board, and they have approved a plan!  Originally, I had applied for a grant to cover the costs but I was ineligible so I've had to greatly scale back what I wanted to do and how to go about it.  The first thing to go was the sabbatical coach (yep, they have them!). So the coach got replaced by a book!  I also scaled back the activities.  But here is the current potential plan in case you are interested.  It is divided into 3 parts. Rest, Growth and Planning.
End of May, we will drive to spend a week in Montreat, NC in the former home of Billy Graham (it was donated for pastoral respite and is free!).  After that we will begin to drive home but will stay for 3 days at the cabin of our neighbor in Tennessee (also free!).  They recommend that the first third is simply shutting down and doing nothing. Read, do devotional work, play with family.  Decompress.  After the time in the mountains, it is recommended to do something where you learn about your faith.  We had hoped to cash in some airmiles and hang with Cassandra and Jonah in Israel and hike but that seems like a bad idea now with the family.  So, for cost reasons, we are going to go on a cruise that takes us through the footsteps of Paul locations (hotels are crazy stupid expensive in June in Europe).  There are multiple locations where we will have the opportunity to meet with Calvary Chapel pastor/missionaries on this trip as that is another ingredient to a successful sabbatical: learn from experienced pastors.  Our goal is to meet with 10 pastors abroad and at home.  If we get accepted, we will stay at a calvary chapel facility as well.  After which we will head home to St. Petersburg.  The next phase is to continue to learn and begin to do some ministry.  
The first part of this season is to take a week and finish a book that I started 10 years ago based on the first 5 chapters of Proverbs.  It is called "Letters to an unborn child" based on the advice that Solomon gives to his son using the wisdom he's learned.  After this season, I will continue to meet with leaders to grow and to teach. I have a teaching slot lined up with Calvary Pastor Andy Falleur in the Panhandle and Lord willing, I will co lead an FSC mission trip with James Coombs for the youth.  The last 10 days will be 3 year planning with the Elders of FSC and continuing to develop a vision for the coming years.  
My family will greatly covet your prayers during this time.  If you have any questions, let me know!


Rebecca Wilson - February 16th, 2024 at 4:55pm

Please take your sabbatical time and refresh and recharge. We will earnestly pray for you and your family. If you want to come out to NM and hike (very similar to Israel!) My family has housing you can use.

Christina - February 16th, 2024 at 7:23pm

Enjoy your well-deserved sabbatical! If you are interested in staying at Orange Lake Resort in Orlando, we can get you a 5 day/4 night stay in a 2-bedroom suite with full kitchen and laundry for $99. The only catch is that you have to sit through a 2-hour time share presentation, but there is no pressure to buy. It is so worth it as you can enjoy some family time pool side with the choice is 7 pools. I hope you can use this opportunity!

Opal Wilson - February 16th, 2024 at 10:44pm

I will be praying for this needed time. Thank you for breaking everything down. God Bless you and your family.

Erica - February 17th, 2024 at 6:03am

I think there should be a few weeks of “Stare at a Wall and do Nothing” We all understand how taxing and difficult your pastoral role has been. Please feel free to do the things you absolutely love like floating down rivers and playing hockey for days. Hope this schedule unabashedly allows for plenty of those moments. Blessings Art!

Mary Anderson - February 17th, 2024 at 7:35am

A much deserved sabbatical,Art. I will be keeping you lifted in prayer and your family as well. Please get all the rest and reset required so you can return to us rejuvenated.

Mical Baez - March 1st, 2024 at 7:57pm

I will commit to praying for you and the family pastor Art. We love you guys and you have done so much for (not just us) for everyone. You deserve this.