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Prayer-Goals For Our Sabbatical – 4 Fs

12 June 2019
Vaughan Family

Leanne and I are about to start a 6 week sabbatical, stepping away from both church work and HubSpot work. One of our advisory team members is also taking a sabbatical in the coming year and had mentioned that typically there are 3-4 reasons for people to take a sabbatical: (1) for study (2) to undertake a project (3) to be restored or (4) a combination of these 3 options. Ours is primarily number 3 with a bit of number 1 as well.

He also encouraged us to set some goals for the sabbatical so that the church could be praying for us and that we might be held accountable for our time away. This felt like a great idea so as Leanne and I have prepared to go we have talked about four prayer goals, and in my usual preacher’s way I have made sure they all begin with the same letter of the alphabet…four ‘F’s!

(1) Family Fun

Since arriving in Dublin and church planting bi-vocationally, I have worked a 6 day week with typically 3-4 nights of the week also taken up with church work in some way. So my guess is that I am typically working a 60-65 hour week. God has granted us grace and the ability to do this and Leanne and I have worked very well as a team to enable this to happen and we have had some great friends supporting us too. I have always appreciated the way the Apostle Paul talked about the power that enabled his ministry:

To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.(Colossians 1:29)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

For the most part that has been our experience – we have felt the energy, grace and enabling of God for the work. Nehemiah’s epic rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, working day and night, has also been a great inspiration for me.

The way Leanne and I have given a rhythm to the week and ensured we practice the biblical principle of sabbath is for Saturdays to be completely free of church work and devoted to the family and then Leanne and I would get one date-night a week to catch up. However, it is fair to say that the family has felt the pinch of me working so many hours each week and as our children are getting older they do require more time. So during the sabbatical one of our prayer-goals is to have tonnes of fun as a family, to create some shared memories, to have plenty of time to talk, to hang out, to explore, to play, to eat etc etc. Jacob and Annabelle are at a great age where they should remember this time together. We’ll also create some space for 1-2-1 time with both children and Leanne and I will get evenings together to chat and read.

(2) Freshen Up

Leanne and I sense that after 7 years in Dublin and as the church comes up to its 5 year anniversary it is a good opportunity for us to ‘freshen up’ – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We aren’t burnt out and exhausted but neither are we fresh and revived!

Physically – We want to sleep and get lots of exercise and do some outdoor activities (certainly I do!). As mentioned above, we hope that this chance to have time and to be unhurried and slow down will be physically rejuvenating.

Mentally – This is probably the area where we both feel most tired. Our lives are so busy and there is increasing complexity (some of which is only temporary – e.g. house renovations) that we find ourselves tired mentally and so to have no formal responsibilities outside of the family we hope will enable us to de-clutter our thoughts and freshen up mentally. We are praying for fresh perspective and vision (next point) which will be easier once we have have mentally de-cluttered a bit.

Digitally – Additionally, we will be having a digital detox, dropping off email, whatsapp and social media. The first point of call for the church whilst we are away will be the newly appointed CCC Leadership Team and if needed the Advisory Team.

Spiritually – Leanne and I want to create space in the 6 weeks for us to spend time with God. Our plan is to do family devotions each day after dinner and for Leanne and I to read a chapter from a devotional book each day together to help us pray and reflect. Additionally, we’ll take half-a-day each, each week, for us to have some silence and solitude and be able to pray, journey, read scripture, go for walks…whatever! One of our prayers for the sabbatical is that we will re-build a deeper joint devotional life together. We’d like to sow some new habits and have more time for praise and worship together, something that marked our marriage more so pre-Dublin. We also plan to find local churches on the Sundays we’re able to and join God’s people in worshipping Jesus in some different contexts. We will also be taking books with us to help us reflect and connect to God*

Emotionally – Having space to talk, process, reflect and look back on the last 7 years will be good for us. We can examine our hearts, our emotions, our tensions, our feelings, our desires, our fears and be able to let God in and bring refreshment and renewal to our hearts.

One of the things we are aware of as we head away is that we don’t want to ‘indulge’ ourselves in a great holiday and forget what the sabbatical is all about. This isn’t about having a hedonistic or comfortable time, though I expect we’ll have lots of fun and we appreciate that we’re in a privileged position to do this. We want to connect to God and to one another in a deeper way, to establish some new rhythms, to have fresh energy for service and to ensure we have a sustainable plan for the future…which leads me to our next prayer-goal.

(3) Future Discernment

This is without doubt our biggest practical prayer point. The last 7 years have been fantastic and we have sensed, as Nehemiah did, that ‘The Lord’s hand was upon us’ to get us established in Dublin. But we’re now asking ‘what next’? It’s not that our vision has changed, we still want to make a positive impact for Christ in the city of Dublin and the island of Ireland. We still want to make disciples, raise up leaders, plant churches, teach the Bible, help skeptics engage with Jesus, train others in the integration of faith and work, and participate in kingdom-wide initiatives in Dublin that seek the wellbeing of the city…nothing has changed there…but we’re asking the question: what is the best strategic use of our time to enable that going forward? What do the next 5-7 years looks like for us? What will our sustainable rhythms for the next season be? Our sense is that things will need to change and to slow down. With the church growing and our desire to plant another church, I may need more time dedicated to that. With our family needs increasing we may need more time for that. And as we get older and our youthful vigour starts to let us down (darn it!) we probably have to adjust to a more sustainable pace.

So we will be seeking God, as the church has done through the month of renew, asking him to guide us as to how we can best love him and love our neighbour over the coming years. Please pray for us as we do this. We want to have a fresh touch from God and for us together and individually to have a fresh vision (or probably better…refreshed vision) for the year ahead.

(4) Formative for the church

Our final prayer goal is that by stepping away it will create space for others in church to rise up. The newly appointed leadership team is part of this but we also hope that God will use our absence for the blessing and flourishing of the church, particularly as we think about planting another church or starting a morning congregation (previously we had said between 2020-2022). We will be praying for the church that our time away will cause the church to grow deeper and wider, for new gifts to be fanned into flame and for any unintentional bottle-necks that Leanne and I have created to be revealed so that God can have his way in us.

As part of the 2 weeks back in Dublin and into the month of August I plan to read books more focussed on mission, evangelism and church planting to help think through the future years.*

So that is where Leanne and I are at as we head away. Please pray for us, our children, the church and the future.

The dates of our sabbatical will be Wednesday 19th June to Tuesday 6th August

*Reading List (suggestions welcome)

Here are some of the books I have put aside to try and read over the 6 weeks and into the month of August on my return…we’ll see how I get on, I am not putting any pressure on myself but I’d like to re-establish a pattern of study that was part of my life before I came to Dublin.

In the last 2 weeks of the sabbatical where I will be spending the most time studying and planning, I plan to read a number of books on mission and church planting. If you’re interested, here is the list…in the most probable order I’ll read them (or not!)

Devotional Books

  1. The Autobiography of George Muller
  2. Answer to Prayer – George Muller
  3. Power through Prayer – E.M Bounds
  4. A Praying Life – Paul Miller
  5. A Loving Life – Paul Miller
  6. Enjoying God – Tim Chester

Books on mission, evangelism and church planting

  1. The Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman
  2. Out Of The Salt Shaker – Becky Pippert
  3. The Trellis & The Vine – Marshall & Payne
  4. What is the mission of the church? – Deyong & Gilbert
  5. Transforming Mission (paradigm shifts in theology of mission) – David Bosch
  6. The Mission Of God – Christopher Wright
  7. Paul: Apostle of the heart set free – FF Bruce

If you have any other suggestions or recommendations do let me know


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian Goodson permalink
    12 June 2019 10:54 pm

    Book list sounds great mate. Rest well!

  2. MVJ permalink
    15 June 2019 8:36 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the update. Jen and I wish Leanne and you a very profitable and productive sabbatical.

    We took a sabbatical for the purpose of discernment of next steps in our lives. It initiated a process which eventually culminated in our pursuit of study at U of Leeds.

    Praying for you as you undertake this process.



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