A People of Rest
Doxa has come a long way.
We've seen more evidence and heard more stories of God's grace than we count. Our team has worked incredibly hard to stabilize, strengthen, and care for this church.
From our beginnings as a church, I (Dave) have felt both the privilege and responsibility to help care for our team and make decisions that protect our most important resource as a local church, the leaders. Early on, the pastors committed to installing a plan for seasonal rest for the pastors, both staff and non-staff.
I'm pleased to say that Doxa has followed through on this desire well in our first four years as a church. An annual staff retreat has provided space for rest and team-building. The elders and their wives have done the same, investing in their marriages and relationships with each other. The staff have also participated in a quarterly day of guided solitude examining spiritual and emotional health. We've taken Jesus' commands around rest seriously.
Additionally, our elders spent time this past year reviewing the sabbatical policies and models used by trusted churches and organizations who do soul-care work with pastors and their wives. We wanted to learn from organizations that know what healthy and unhealthy leaders look like and wanted to use a model that has been tested by others and proven through experience and wisdom. After the research and analysis, we're committing to moving forward with a plan.
The most commonly established cadence for full-time pastors is to have a 2-4 month sabbatical every 7 years of ministry. We are committing to do the same.
While sabbaticals are a new concept to some, in certain professions (medical field, executive business leaders, etc) it is common to have a rhythm of extended break for the sake of health and longevity. Most of the healthiest (notice I didn't say biggest) churches in America have sabbatical policies right now to account for the unique wear and tear on leaders in vocational ministry.
I think we have enough cautionary tales to expect that if we don’t engage in pro-active plans for rest including sabbaticals, that we will suffer catastrophic and perhaps existential problems within our local church. The emotional toil of vocational ministry life has a physical impact on us and our wives; but we have an all-powerful God that is able to heal, restore and redeem us no matter what we have been through.
This policy embodies several of the values we make all ministry decisions around:
- Doxa is a church about Jesus, not a single leader – because God gives gifts to his church, we are God’s gift to Doxa; because unity matters and because we value our elders, we must treat them with honor and deference; staff and non-staff elders both have value.
- Rest is part of God’s plan for humanity – God the Father gave us a weekly sabbath and he gave the Israelites commands to allow the ground to Sabbath every 7 years (the Sabbath year) and to release all indebtedness every 50 years in the year of Jubilee – Leviticus 25; we submit to God’s word as guidance for the narratives of our lives. The need for Sabbath isn’t due to harm, it is a normative process that started before the presence of sin.
- Emotional health matters – because elders (non-staff and staff) all deal regularly with death, abuse, threats of violence, divorce, suicide, etc...in addition to the emotional strain from betrayal, judgement, condemnation, and gossip. In this regard, our staff pastors face an emotional cost for just doing the work of equipping and caring for the flock. We often say that community matters, but that it requires hard work. We want our pastors to be healthy and have longevity in ministry as they commit to that hard work of building community.
We've begun to build out a "batting order" for which pastors will sabbatical when. Timing will be informed by the number of years worked of ministry (which precedes Doxa for all of us) and life circumstances. Tim Patton, our Director of Administration is up first and began his 90 day sabbatical in mid-June. One of our non-staff pastors will begin theirs this fall, and then another staff pastor next year after Easter.
Tim has done a great job in preparing us for this major transition ahead in regards to our building and location. The lead team of Doxa, along with the elder board, will continue to explore all options around our future location. We already have an outside team of architects, fundraising consultants, and real estate agents working on all aspects of our next 12 months, so we'll keep things moving forward while Tim is out.
Join us in praying for the Patton family. They are doing well but it has been a big year for them. They recently began fostering a young brother and sister in addition to their three kids so life at home can be chaotic! As a proactive investment in them, Tim and Sara are under the care and supervision of Rich Plass from Crosspoint Ministries during this time. Our hope is that they enter the rest that Christ offers in this season. We're looking forward to having Tim back around the office in early September.
Take a moment to pray now for this next chapter in front of Doxa. Pray that we listen for the Father's voice and have the courage to follow whatever he leads us into. He is worthy of our attention and our obedience, as the source of life and rest for all of us.
Dave Cox is a husband, father of four daughters, gospel shepherding non-staff elder at Doxa, and employee of Microsoft.