What's a Sabbatical?

And Why Take One?

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A sabbatical, according to Faith Church’s Sabbatical Policy, is a “balanced break” for personal renewal and strengthening for future ministry. It’s not a vacation; it’s a purposeful retreat from ministry responsibilities to recharge the physical, emotional, and spiritual energy needed for pastoral ministry. Because the Elders strongly encourage pastors to take periodic breaks for renewal, full-time pastors at Faith accrue sabbatical time at the rate of about one month for every two-and-a-half years. After Pastor Joey’s ten years at Faith, he is eligible for a full three-month sabbatical.

With the support and encouragement of the Elder Executive Board, Pastor Joey and his family applied for and received a grant from the Lilly Endowment Fund’s Clergy Renewal Program to fund an entire 13-week Sabbatical in the summer of 2021. Praise God for his provision!

The Clergy Renewal Program had one key question: “what would make your heart sing?” For Pastor Joey and his family, the answer was easy: to slow down as a family, explore new cultures and places, wander Europe together, and live cross-culturally in one place long enough to make new friends.

Below is part of a statement written by Pastor Joey in their application:

It has been my joy and privilege to serve Faith Church for the past ten years, first as Pastor of Faith Student Ministry and now as the co-Lead Pastor focused on teaching and discipleship strategy.

As I consider the next decade of ministry at Faith, I look forward to a time to read, pray, walk, explore, think, learn, and grow. Because of the relentless pace of ministry, transitions within the church and my job, and little time for renewal, I long for a time to unplug from the ministry schedule and focus on my wife and our daughter, our gift from God. We don’t want Ana’s memories of her childhood to be mostly of me gone to late-night meetings. This renewal program will provide a strong relational foundation of belonging as she moves into her middle- and high-school years.

Spiritually, I long for an opportunity to learn a new rhythm of life, explore a relationship with God built on regular habits of worship, and develop a rhythm of life that honors my family, my ministry, and my  God.

I hope to take what we learn and help the families in our congregation develop their own rule of life, built on rhythms of individual and family worship that deepen personal and family discipleship.

Pastorally, I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to dive into a post-Christian culture. I want to learn from Christian practitioners and ministers in that culture how to effectively give witness to the gospel without compromising the evangelical, orthodox faith.

Through extended time in Amsterdam and connection with ministers and practitioners in the Netherlands, I want to study and explore how to maintain that tension at home in a city rapidly becoming more pluralistic and less accommodating to Christianity.

I hope what I learn will help Pastor Jeff and I lead our congregation toward a faithful life in our changing culture.

As elders and leaders at Faith, we’re praying for Pastor Joey and his family to have a truly restful and renewing Sabbatical. We want them primed and equipped to lead us and be with us for another decade to come!

Are You Still Going?


The Story Behind our Application

Meet Willibrord

Icon of St. WillibrordI’m guessing you’ve never heard of him, right? I hadn’t, either, until I began studying the religious history of the Netherlands.

A few years back, I was struck by a statistic: in the Netherlands, only 17% of the population identifies as theist, 25% as atheist, 31% as agnostic, and 27% as ietsist, a Dutch word for “something-ist,” somewhat equivalent to our “spiritual-but-not-religious.” I began to wonder how the seat of the Dutch Reformation became a place where more people hold unspecified beliefs about an undetermined transcendent reality than believe in Christianity or nothing at all.

Tracing back the religious history, I discovered Saint Willibrord, a 7th-century Benedictine monk remembered as “the Apostle to the Frisians” for his pioneering evangelistic work in northern Frisia, what we call the Netherlands.

Willibrord was born in Northumbria, in Ripon, in 658 and moved to the Abbey of Rath Melsigi in Ireland for training at age 20. He was ordained to the ministry and set off to evangelize the pagans in Frisia at 33. He worked out of Utrecht for many years before completing his ministry in Echternach in Luxembourg.

Historians write of Willibrord’s calm demeanor, nobility and friendliness, and faithfulness to gospel proclamation. He started churches all across northern Frisia, traveled into Denmark to evangelize the Vikings, and convinced many Irish monks to help him in his work, all within a Catholicism much different from what we see today; his was the Church of Anselm, Augustine, Patrick, and Bernard of Clairvaux.

Willibrord died on November 7th, 739, in Echternacht, where he is buried. Through the faithful ministry of St. Willibrord, the light of Christ came to a dark corner of Europe.

Our sabbatical itinerary is based on following the life-path of Willibrord, from Northumbria to Ireland to the Netherlands, where we settle for the majority of our time away. In the Netherlands we plan to connect with orthodox, evangelical pastors and gospel ministers to learn how they faithfully witness to the gospel in a world with a rich history of Christianity where the vast majority find Christianity to be simply unattractive.

What Happens While You're Gone?

Focus on Rest

A generous portion of the grant is budgeted for congregational activities! We’ll start with a decommissioning service for Pastor Joey and his family on May 23rd.

While Pastor Joey and his family are gone, our pastors and guest speakers from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (our denomination’s seminary) will teach on the importance of sabbath rest, renewal, and spiritual rhythms. We’ll supplement what we’re learning with Grow Classes and special podcast interviews on the topic.

When the Woestmans return we’ll celebrate their first Sunday back with a reception featuring Dutch treats like poffertjes and stroopwafels. And to cap off the sabbatical, we’ll host a church-wide celebration on November 7th – St. Willibrord’s traditional Feast Day – at which we’ll hear from all three Woestmans about their experiences, memories, and lessons learned.

Pastor Joey plans to take much of what he learns on their sabbatical and turn it into discussion papers for the elders, curriculum plans for our GROW Classes, and multiple sermon series for the whole church. We’ll learn about rhythms of worship, how to remain faithful in an unfaithful world, and mission-oriented ministry in a pluralistic context.

Where Are We Going? | Our Itinerary

Ripon | May 30th, 2021

We begin our Sabbatical journey flying to London where we’ll hop a train to the Ripon area, where Willibrord was born and turned over as an infant to Wilfrid, the abbot of the monastery at Ripon. We’ll spend a few days wandering around the area, soaking in the geography of Willibrord’s early life.

Rath Melsigi | June 9th, 2021

After leaving Ripon behind, we’ll take a combination of train and ferry to Dublin, where we’ll launch ourselves to County Carlow and the abbey of Rath Melsigi where Willibrord was trained for ministry. Though the Abbey is no longer in existence, there are museums and history lectures and activities that teach Willibrord’s story.

Gravelines | June 22nd, 2021

After slowly making our way back from Rath Melsigi in Ireland, we’ll end up in Dover (taking a day or two to remember our visit there two years ago). We’ll hit the mainland in  Gravelines, where Willibrord landed on his first missionary voyage. We’ll tour the church there dedicated to him.

Amsterdam | June 23rd, 2021

The bulk of our Sabbatical will be spent in Amsterdam, settling into a slow routine of life, practicing habits of daily worship, going to an ex-pat church, and meeting with evangelical ministers and practitioners to learn how they effectively and faithfully witness to the gospel in the midst of a “something-ist” culture.

We’ve reserved an apartment in a suburb of Amsterdam and look forward to the many day-trips we can take with our Eurail passes to religious sites in the Netherlands!

St. Willibrord's Abbey Retreat | TBD

At some point in our Amsterdam stay, and depending on schedules, I (Joey) will take a three-day retreat at St. Willibrord’s Abbey in nearby Utrecht. I’ll stay with the monks, experience the Benedictine order of days, and learn about the legacy of Willibrord.

While I’m at the (men’s only) retreat, Jenna and Ana will enjoy a stay at nearby Slangenburg Castle. I’ll try not to be jealous!

St. Willibrord's Basilica | TBD

Also on a date to be determined, we’ll travel to Luxembourg to explore the Abbey of Echternacht where the Basilica of St. Willibrord is located and where Willibrord’s remains are interred.

Family Time

Since serendipitous exploration is so important to us, we plan to pepper our time in Amsterdam with day trips to sites of interest and longer, two- to four-day trips to places further out.

Our most anticipated trips are to Sweden to meet distant relatives of Jenna’s and Germany to meet Joey’s distant relatives, a potential quick trip to Rome (which Willibrord visited three times), and a trip to the Faroe Islands with missionary friends. After the Faroe Islands, we’ll ferry over to Reykjavík before flying back to Amsterdam. Because why not?

Home! | August 25th, 2021

At the end of our stay in Amsterdam we’ll board a flight back to Indianapolis, where we’ll settle back in, get ready for school to start, and take a few days of family time before rejoining church life.

FAQ Videos

Filmed as Part of the Application Process