"It was a blessing"

How sabbatical renewed a pastor's passion for ministry

A series of stories about Curiosity, Courage, Compassion and Collaboration from around our Greater Milwaukee Synod!

I never saw myself as a sabbatical person. Even when we were opening up after COVID and the synod office was encouraging “mini-sabbaticals.” I just went on with my life. It was never something I saw myself doing.


In the fall of 2022, the demands of COVID and a renovation project in our congregation began to take their toll on me. In September of that year, I approached the person who heads up my Mutual Ministry Team and told her that if I did not walk away immediately, I was going to walk away from everything.


Thankfully, I found myself in the presence of someone who could not only see the call of ministry in my life – but could also see that I had created some habits that were burning me out. I was placed on a two week leave and stepped away from ministry.


When I returned two weeks later, it was presented to me that I would be taking a sabbatical. In love and compassion, I knew this was not open for discussion. A plan was put in place for a three-month sabbatical in the summer of 2023.


What would my focus be? I searched from topics of interest and always came back to the same two things: meditation and mindfulness. As I was exploring these areas of study, it soon connected me with trauma recovery. Knowing that we had just gone through the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, I soon realized we were all struggling with trauma.


I enrolled in a course of trauma recovery and found some amazing resources for study during my time away from congregational life. This was a blessing. It allowed me to step away from day-to-day activities and approach my ministry from a new perspective.


This also provided our members an opportunity to see the many ways the pastor’s ministry affected the congregation. People were encouraged to step up and fill roles normally performed by the pastor. This blessing has continued since my return. Giving people a sense of ownership of the ministry has been a great blessing.


Stepping away and allowing yourself time to think, heal, explore, and grow, allowed me to return to ministry refreshed and with some better skills. If you are contemplating a sabbatical, I strongly encourage you.

Do you have a story of curiosity, courage, compassion, or collaboration that you are willing to share? Contact Rev. Matthew Short, Assistant to the Bishop for Evangelical Mission, at matt@milwaukeesynod.org.