This post is of a different nature than most of the other things that I put on here. My family and I have been going through some fairly drastic changes in our lives, most of which have been of our own choosing. So particularly for any family and friends who have been affected by them or think that we've lost our minds, I thought I'd explain a bit of our motivations.
In February, my Pastor and my church very generously offered me a three month Sabbatical from my work as Director of Discipleship. There were several reasons that the break came at a very needed time, but they can really be boiled down to two things: First, after my Dad's death in December of last year, there were a lot of things to take care of and questions to answer regarding his business and what direction our family would go with it in the future. The break was a great opportunity for me to make a big dent in sorting those things out, as well as some space to grieve his death.
The other major factor was that after two and a half years in my position at our church, it had become very clear to me that there were some parts of my role which I loved and did effectively. Unfortunately, though, most of those things did not fit within the majority of my responsibilities. Much of what I was hired to do (and the church really needs someone doing well) were things I cared about deeply but managing them wasn't a match for me.
Although perhaps we shouldn't expect to work within our strengths all of the time, I read an author recently who proposed that we seek to work 80% of the time within our areas of strength and the other 20% in areas that are mostly learning for us. More than two years of having that reversed (really feeling like I only worked about 20% in my strengths and 80% was a steep learning curve) had really taken its toll on me.
Those factors combined with grieving my Dad's death resulted in me not being in a very good place emotionally, and although I was aware that things weren't good, I don't think I knew the extent to which they had drained me until I was a couple of weeks into the Sabbatical. I felt really good for the first time in a long time. My wife and closest friends said things like it was good to see me being myself again, they hadn't seen me that good in a while, and that they didn't realize how bad I must have been.
So, it didn't take being on my Sabbatical for very long to realize that some of the changes needed to stay and that I couldn't go back to doing things the same way as before. I sought a lot of help through those months, by meeting with a grief counselor, meeting with a spiritual director, and having good conversations with family, friends, and my Pastor.
As the Sabbatical came to an end, I sought to reorder my work life in a way that works much better, and I couldn't be happier with how things have turned out. So, particularly since several of our friends at our church have asked, here's a description of what I'm doing now:
- I'm still on staff at First United Methodist Church of Midland, but now in two different part-time roles, both of which are in areas I enjoy and feel like I do well. On one side, I get to continue to be involved in the Spiritual Formation ministries of our church, by leading retreats and spiritual formation groups, as well as teaching classes. The other role is with our internet-based communications, as I'm currently working on building a new website for the church which will launch this fall. One of the best parts of my new roles at church is the flexibility I have. I no longer have my own office there, but mostly work from home.
- I also have taken over managing my Dad's (and Granddad's and Great-Granddad's) farm and ranch business. During the Sabbatical, I was surprised to discover how much I enjoyed getting my feet wet in those tasks. I often don't know what I'm doing, but I like it! Thankfully, I have very capable and dependable people helping me and knowledgeable friends to ask questions of when I'm out of my league.
- What I'm viewing as the third part of my work is to get to do things I've wanted to do for a long time, especially writing. Most of that takes place through this blog, but I've also submitted a book proposal and have some other projects in mind which I'm looking forward to pursuing. Writing doesn't do much to help me pay the bills, but I really like the process of doing it, even if it ends up that hardly anyone beyond my wife and Mom end up reading something.