Sabbatical helps pastor return
to Earth more prepared for flock
___By Dan Martin
___Texas Baptist Communications
___EARTH--While study leaves are not uncommon for professors and big-church pastors, it is unusual for a church that averages less than 100 in Sunday school attendance to give its preacher time off for rest, refreshment and renewal.
But First Baptist Church of Earth gave its pastor, Bobby Broyles, a month off to seek a new freshness in his ministry with and among the folks who live in the 1,300-population town on the High Plains of Texas, not far from Plainview and Lubbock.
___Broyles, 42, who has been pastor at Earth almost eight years, said the idea for a sabbatical arose after he had "an intense time of talking to another church."
___The discussions with the other church ended after both Broyles and his wife, Karen, each felt God was not in the move.
___"I realized I was not going to (move), that it was not going to work out and that the Lord intended for me to stay at Earth. I knew God was leading, but I also knew I could not stay without some kind of renewed vision," he said.
___It was not that he was working too hard, Broyles said, although he was putting in a work week of 50 to 60 hours, common to preachers.
___"I was not overworked; the church was not asking too much of me. That was not the problem," he said. "The problem was that I needed a freshness of purpose in my life and in the church's life."
___Broyles added that "even though some good things were happening in the church, I could not enjoy what was taking place." That feeling led him to the conclusion that he needed to do some evaluation of himself and the church.
___When Broyles approached the deacons, he proposed taking off for three weeks, but they told him to take a whole month, in this case five weeks away from the duties of pastoral care, administration and preaching.
___Some of the members misunderstood and thought Broyles was telling them they were not good enough for him, he said. "That was not the case at all. It worked the other way. I was so stale that I wanted them to have someone who could take them to new places."
___He mapped out a plan to use the sabbatical most effectively.
___The first week and a half, he vacationed with his family.
___Then he spent a few days attending a specialized training program offered by the Texas Baptist Leadership Center.
___After three days at Riverbend Encampment near Glen Rose, Broyles made a marathon trip across Texas, visiting nine churches and 10 people from the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle and in-between.
___"With only two exceptions, these were people who were long-time friends who had good, solid ministries," he said. He talked with the people about philosophy, the mechanics of doing church and ministry, worship, evangelism, discipleship, Sunday school and leadership.
___"I also talked about sermon preparation. My sermons had gotten stale. There was not a freshness to my presentation. I wanted worship to be a meaningful experience," he said, adding that the church has a traditional style of worship but he wanted to involve more people in the service through testimonies, drama, reading of Scripture and prayer.
___He asked what his counselors were reading and had read. He spent time thinking about "all of the little things" about ministry that were making him "intolerant."
___In his first month back home, he preached four 10-minute sermons. Previously, he preached 25 to 30 minutes.
___"The 10-minute sermons were very well-received by the people," Broyles joked. He added that he is now back up to 15 to 20 minutes, still considerably shorter than before.
___"I used more illustrations. It was harder work, and took more preparation, but the people responded," he said.
___Broyles said he "highly recommends" a sabbatical for ministers, but he cautioned that he could not have done it after being there two years or even five years. It took time to earn the trust of the people enough to be given the time away.
___"It has been a humbling experience to know I serve a church which would do this for me," he said. "There are some very good folks here."
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