Refreshing the Reformed Pastor
“In the Reformed tradition we have embraced the ideal of the learned pastor,” and to be “a learned pastor … requires ongoing study,” writes Dr. David VanDrunen in his Ordained Servant article, “Sabbaticals for Pastors”. VanDrunen acknowledges, however, that “it can be very difficult for pastors to find adequate time engage in the kind of reading and study that enables them to fulfill [this] pastoral ideal” - which is why churches should consider sabbaticals for their pastors.
To be clear, “Sabbaticals are not vacations with an exalted name,” but are “periods in which a person interrupts his ordinary routine in order to engage in focused study and learning, for the purpose of gaining knowledge and skill that will make him better at his labor and will benefit the people for whom he works.” VanDrunen believes sabbaticals “can be a healthy and productive means for ministers to become better students of God’s Word and thus to become better pastors.” “By permitting a pastor time for focused study and learning, sabbaticals can benefit not only the pastor himself, but more importantly the congregation that he serves and the broader church.”
Among several ideas for how a pastor can use this time away from regular ministerial work, VanDrunen suggests that “a pastor might consider using his sabbatical to take a course at a seminary,” noting that “many Reformed seminaries offer one-week or two-week courses at certain times of the year. Rather than simply doing independent reading to catch up on a certain topic or to gain general knowledge about a book of Scripture, many pastors could benefit from classroom instruction and interaction with fellow students.”
Now in its second year, the Alumni Winter Refresher at Westminster Seminary California (WSC) offers alumni a great opportunity to be spiritually, mentally, and physically refreshed during the month of January. Every January, WSC offers several short, one-week elective courses in pastoral ministry, church history, evangelism, and historical theology that are FREE to audit for any WSC alumnus. Additionally, WSC’s Annual Conference is held every January (usually the same weekend as MLK Jr. Day), and this year’s theme is “Transforming Grace: Our Need for Holiness”. Finally, WSC’s Alumni Winter Refresher allows alumni time to reconnect with faculty and to enjoy great Southern California weather!
VanDrunen concludes his article by urging congregations and sessions “to work with their pastors to secure adequate time from him to grow as a learned minister of God’s Word. When used responsibly and wisely, regular pastoral sabbaticals can be a blessing for the pastor, his congregation, and the broader church.”
For more information about WSC’s Alumni Winter Refresher, contact Chris Sandoval at (888) 480-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.