It’s been 30 years since Birmingham Vineyard was planted and 23 years that we’ve been leading together. The concept of sabbatical is well established in many church denominations, as well as in the Vineyard. The trustees have generously made it possible for us to take 3 months off from our day-to-day leadership responsibilities. The focus for us is personal growth and development, investment in the next decade of ministry, all in the context of extended rest.
We’ll be away from Birmingham for most of the time and we’ve planned some guided prayer retreats, theological study, and extended time to be with Jesus in personal prayer. We’ll enjoy time to rest as well as investing in our own relationship. We plan to visit some churches and glean wisdom from other church leaders who have been inspiring and insightful to us over many years of leadership. We’ll miss our Birmingham Vineyard family for those three months but we are excited about the chance to invest in our own personal growth. Our prayer is that we return stronger leaders.
We’ve not done this before so it’s inevitable that some questions need answering. Here are some FAQ’s:
1 What does sabbatical mean?
The concept of sabbatical is rooted in the idea of “Sabbath” or rest. It’s about ceasing from the normal day to day responsibility of leadership to enable an extended time for prayer, reflection and study. It’s a proactive step for us and for the congregation we serve. We’ve both got a spiritual director to assist in our reflection before, during and after the sabbatical. We’re heading off on 10th February, and we’ll be returning to work on 14th May.
2 Why are you going on sabbatical at this time?
With both of our daughters off at university we are in a life stage that makes this possible. We’ve also chosen this time because we’re confident of the momentum, health and vitality of the church and leadership team. John and Debby Wright, our National Directors, have spoken with us of the great benefit of taking a sabbatical and after conversations with the trustees we are in agreement that this is the right time for us and the church.
3 What's planned for church?
This has been in the planning stages for many months so we’ve put considerable thought into the leadership and detail of the next term. We can leave knowing that everything is in good hands in our absence. The teaching themes and preachers for the next few months are all confirmed and we are also excited that new initiatives like the winter night shelter will be starting.
4 Can people still contact you?
This is a unique time for us to step back from all day-to-day contact and communication so we can fully engage in this time of rest, prayer and reflection. We’d ask that you don’t contact us directly over this time. All our normal communication channels will be responded to by Joanne our PA or the team.
5 When you are away who’s in charge?
Steve Philpott, closely supported by Tom and Ali Husbands, will be leading the team in our absence. We are grateful that we can confidently enter this sabbatical because of our deep trust in the wonderful team of staff and community leaders. They will continue to work together to serve and lead Birmingham Vineyard during our absence. For the last 6 months Steve has been line managing a number of the staff team and we are grateful for him becoming the point person while we are away.
6 Will anything change about our church while you are away?
In many ways nothing will change. You'll continue to gather for worship and scatter to serve in our city. New groups will start and church will grow while we are away as you welcome new people into this great community. Please do introduce us to newfound friends on our return! The only change is we won’t physically be amongst you for the three months. The same staff and team members who lead Sunday services will continue to be on hand each week.
7 What do I do if I hit a problem or I become aware of one?
We’re so glad that we’re not limited by a 'pastor centric' model of Church. The gifts of so many add to the health of our community. Small Groups and Communities remain the first point of contact for emergencies or moments where help is needed. Community leaders refer complex situations to pastoral staff. That’s our normal pattern and it will remain that way for the sabbatical period.
The office based team meet weekly to pray, review the week and respond to needs that arise. Some staff rotate between services with Michael and Jess consistent in the Central am service, Jeff and Becky at the South site and Tom and Ali on Sunday evenings.
8 What if there is a real emergency?
Rosie and I have never made significant decisions in isolation. We’ve valued the wisdom of colleagues, trustees, ‘elders' and overseers outside the Church. All these people are on hand during this time. If something complex needs attention, our staff and trustees have access to the Vineyard Area Leaders and to members of the Vineyard Leadership Group. The Trustees team will continue to meet monthly with Mike McMaster as the chair of this team. Our colleagues have our schedule and contact details throughout the time of our sabbatical and they are empowered to communicate with us if they feel it absolutely necessary.
9 How can I best support the church at this time?
Being present, prayerfully engaged and supportive of the leaders is the most helpful thing you can do. The health of this church is maintained by the consistent choices we all make to prefer one another, serve one another, and pray for one another. This is a moment for our whole community to grow.
10 How can we pray for you while you are on sabbatical?
Pray that we become still enough to hear everything that Jesus wants to say to us. The invitation to know Christ and become more like Him is offered to us all in every season of life. We want to grow as leaders so the next decade of ministry in this church and beyond it is as fruitful as possible.