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Questions & Answers for Pastor Joseph's Sabbatical


What is a sabbatical (pastoral renewal)? The term sabbatical is derived from the biblical concept of “Sabbath” which serves an ancient human need to build periods of rest and rejuvenation into a lifetime. A sabbatical is simply getting an extended leave from work to pursue a break. People traditionally take a sabbatical, to fulfill a goal, build a skill, or do research. In keeping with the concept of Sabbath, the overarching point of our pastoral renewal sabbatical is to be renewed, restored and refreshed the one leaving and those staying. Our church has had a pastoral renewal policy intact for several decades and our council has reaffirmed that policy this last year.

Are pastoral sabbaticals normal? Yes they are very normal for pastors in all types of denominations. But what is most normal is that pastors usually take them only after they “really need to” or they are “burnt out”. Those are not the type we wish to experience. That is why our desire in church leadership is for us to have all our pastors experience them on a regular basis before they are a “must”. We want them to be planned (we have been talking about this one for a year) and thoughtful not rushed. Pastoral health sabbaticals have been a part of our Rhinelander location for many decades.

What’s really going on with Joseph? Nothing out of the normal. We just want him to take a sabbatical while he is healthy not one to get healthy. Nothing is wrong, hidden or broken. A sabbatical is not a way to gracefully conclude his service at Grace Northwoods. If anything, it’s a way to extend it, through personal health and spiritual formation. Who will know where Joseph is? David Ditzler (Church Council) and Dan Mundt (District Supervisor) will have Joseph’s schedule and general daily activities. They will also be able to contact him.

Who will be running the church? Joseph will not be consulted on any church decisions, current or future. Pastor Dustin will be empowered and expected to expand on the ministry of the church. He will give direction to the staff and work with the council. Pastor Christy will maintain her normal part time pastoral schedule and won’t be engaged in decisions outside of what would be normal for a staff pastor. All our pastors are equipped to lead, care for, and empower the church for the work of ministry.

Who will be speaking on Sundays? We have the speaking schedule and message topics planned out and it doesn’t look lots different than normal. Our pastoral team will continue to share the pulpit as we deliver our unified message to all our locations.

Who do I call or email if I have a family or personal need? Calling the office and leaving a message or emailing info@gracenorthwoods.org is always the best way to contact the pastoral team. Those two options go to everyone. Contacting Pastor Julie is also a good option if the need is urgent.

Who is paying for the Pastoral Renewal? The church has money set aside to cover some of the expenses of this renewal. The council is working with Joseph to determine what is personal and what is church related. For instance, the church is paying the travel agency that is setting up the Footsteps of Paul trip but is not paying for the hotel, food, etc of the extra days at the end.

Is Joseph still getting paid? Yes he is still receiving his normal salary and housing allowance. What will Christy do? This was not an easy decision to not have Christy take a break at the same time. With a lot of conversation and counsel from many people, we felt it was best for Christy to continue to work and for Joseph to have an individual renewal experience. So obviously she will have experiences at church that they will have to navigate as a couple. Don’t be afraid to ask Christy questions or interact with her. But please don’t use her to relay messages to Joseph. It is our desire that she able to grow in her ministry.

Will things be different when Joseph gets back? Yes. Things are always different here. We never want to be so stuck that we can’t continue to ask the Lord, “What’s next?”

Can Joseph really disconnect from his phone? We will see. He has deleted his Twitter, Facebook and personal webpage over the last few years so the chances are really good he can stop Instagram and playing solitaire on his phone. We might need to buy him a paper map so he doesn’t get lost. Is this the start of all our pastors taking a sabbatical? Yes. We are at a place of health and starting to implement good rhythms in our personal lives and church schedule. The plan, in the coming years, is to have each of our pastors have an opportunity to get away from the normal and engage in a process that will help them personally and their longevity at Grace Northwoods. How did we decide the length? Each pastor works with the leadership team and council to decide the goals of the break and desired outcomes. From that the length and timing is determined. In Joseph’s situation we wanted to give him enough time to completely disengage, go through some personal discovery, hear from God for our church, have some fun, be with his family, experience the Footsteps of Paul trip as well as have time to reengage back slowly into church life. Given all that we look at years of service, vacation time, and church schedule to come up with a reasonable length.

Will Joseph really have no contact with the church? The intent is for him to not be involved or active in any daily or normal church activities or duties. He is not going to check any of his emails, phone, or carrier pigeons during this time. Joseph will be attending, but not leading, at our annual April Leadership Weekend. (Pastor Tammy Dunahoo, General Supervisor and Vice President of our U.S. Foursquare Church, will be with us April 20-22 so please make sure you are there for this event!) He will also be attending all the June 24 weekend services in Rhinelander and Eagle River. He is a human so if you happen to see him out and about don’t be afraid to have a conversation. If you want to invite him out to fish, play cards, or have a bbq contact Christy.


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