Right now I am working, but soon (after Christmas) I will be "staybatticalizing" again. As I plan for this next phase, it seemed to make sense to reflect on some of the form's strengths and weaknesses. First, there are the complaints...
Cons of the Staybattical: First, let me say that I am incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to do this. Not a whole lot of folks get the chance to take an extended sabbath from work so what cons there are must be seen in this light. The fact is, any sabbatical is better than what most people get and I am very aware of this. Incidentally, I believe everyone should be given one. It would go a long way toward curing a number of societal ills.
That having been said, there are problems with the "stay" part of the sabbatical. The most obvious being that--while there is time off from work--there are still all those other tasks and errands. The conventional vision of sabbatical that many of my colleagues hold involves living in Cambridge (the UK...in that Cambridge) reading ancient manuscripts, or travelling, or spending time in a shack in the Appalachian Mountains writing poetry about splitting wood and staring at one's hands.
Whatever the dream is, it usually involves writing a book. Almost all of my colleagues (though they won't always admit it) want to write books...usually about finding spiritual meaning in small things. That's not what my book would be about of course. It would be about bringing world peace and ushering in a new era of happiness...or maybe just the rugged beauty of the landscape...or something...I don't know...splitting wood?
It doesn't matter because the book won't happen on Staybattical! Why not? The answer is simple. There is life. I spend a great deal of time planning lessons for Norm, grocery shopping, driving the three boys to after-school events, and arranging play opportunities. Oh, and there are doctors and dentists and cooking. You get the idea. All this takes time. The book (which--as you may have gathered--I hadn't really counted on anyway) isn't happening. Nor will there be any poetic essays nor will I spend much time in contemplation.
Everything Else: However, there are some fantastic things about sabbatical and one, in particular, that I did not expect. If your goal is to be better at what you do, then the staybbatical seems to last all year! Let me explain, lest one believe I am not laboring away at this very moment. My staybattical is divided into chunks. During these chunks I am concentrating on homeschooling my son and on learning things that will be sustaining to me while also being helpful in my ministry. The fact that I return to work after a few weeks means that I get to test out what I have learned.
For example, my "ukelele ministry" would not have happened if I wasn't in the position of learning while working. The staybattical helped me to identify something that I felt was lacking in my life--namely music--and gave me time to figure out what to do about it. Returning to work gave me a way to integrate this new interest (I can't call it a "skill" exactly). So the nursing homes and summer services became my laboratory and this Sunday I played the magic uke as part of the sermon.
My other interests also have started to sneak their way into my ministry. The extra reading I am able to do (both books and uke fit in the car while transporting sons) has informed my preaching and my theology. I know better now what I am trying to do...which is nice. This has led to a re-examination of my DMin paper, which desperately needs editing. My thesis--which has to do with reading the "texts of life" for the purpose of preaching--has stayed the same, but my understanding has changed with the added time to both be intentional and to engage in the pastoral ministry.
I am still figuring out what my goals will be after Christmas. I am sure that my time in active ministry will help determine my direction. I am also sure that family needs will inform that direction as well.