What is a Sabbatical?

Simply put a Sabbatical is a time of rest. In Genesis, Adam started his first week refreshed from enjoying God’s companionship and looking ahead to the work in the garden. In Scripture, Sabbath days are days of rest and sabbath years were years when the land, and those who worked it, rested in order to become even more fruitful. It is an act of faith, as we disengage from regular work for the purpose of reviving our soul through practices of worship, rest, and renewal.

Today sabbaticals represent a beneficial period of time where we intentionally slow down the pace of life to focus on the evaluation of life and ministry in order to return to work revitalized. A personal sabbatical is a common practice in certain education settings, with teachers/professors customarily taking a year-long sabbatical periodically for rest, travel and study. At Newport Church, sabbaticals are a three month pre-planned period of time to rest, refresh with God and evaluate this past seasons in order to return revitalized for the future.

How are Sabbaticals planned?

Newport Church is partner church of DOVE International. All leaders within DOVE International partner churches are encouraged to plan a sabbatical every seven years as a process of rest, renewal, and re-envisioning. The practice of sabbaticals is likewise affirmed by the Newport Church Eldership Team as a pre-planned 3 month period of time, which includes disengagement, rest, intentional equipping, and renewal before re-entry. Pastor Merle and Cheree will work with their apostolic oversight from DOVE USA for coaching, support and accountability during this time. Pastors receive their regular salary during Sabbatical periods.

For the past several months Newport Church staff and Elders have been in planning and preparation to prepare for Pastors Merle & Cheree to go on sabbatical. The Newport Eldership team and our DOVE apostolic oversight, affirm that this is the right time for Merle & Cheree to take a planned sabbatical. The timing seems right in light of the fact that next year Pastor Merle becomes the DOVE International Director, while continuing to give leadership at Newport Church. In light of this, we see this Sabbatical as a timely preparation and launchpad for the seasons ahead!

What are the benefits of a sabbatical?

  • Newport Church intentionally invests in the long term health of our leaders. Sabbaticals have been practiced by previous pastoral leadership as well as members of the Elders team.
  • While being a pastor is very rewarding, it is also emotionally and spiritually demanding over the long term. Statistics reveal an unusually high rate of burn out among pastors who do not practice sabbaticals. Many churches and ministries have discovered the value of granting pastors periodic times of rest and refreshment.
  • By sowing positive seeds of rest and rejuvenation through regular sabbaticals the possibility of burn out is greatly reduced.
  • Benefits to the church congregation as a whole are:
    • Healthier leadership, leading from a place of refreshing and renewed vigor.
    • The congregation is introduced to ways it can meet needs within the church body.
    • Undiscovered gifts emerge in people that may otherwise go unnoticed within the body of Newport Church.
    • Being reminded that Jesus leads the church regardless of the people serving in leadership roles at that moment.
    • Leaders learn to trust the Lord with what is unfinished while they practice the Biblical principle of rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

1When are the exact dates of the Shenk's sabbatical?
May, June and July 2023
2Is something wrong, or falling apart that Pastors Merle and Cheree are taking a sabbatical?
Absolutely not! On the contrary, Pastor Merle, our DOVE International apostolic oversight, and the Newport elders agree that the timing is right for a sabbatical. We fully believe this Sabbatical will be a launching pad for Pastors Merle and Cheree, their family, and Newport Church. It is not an attempt to fix something that is failing or broken.
3Will Pastor Merle & Cheree still attend Newport Church during the sabbatical?
  • It is necessary for Merle & Cheree to disconnect from all ministry responsibilities and this means they will not be attending Newport Church during their sabbatical.
  • You might see the Shenk children attending on Sunday mornings in the care of friends or family.
4Can we still contact them with questions, or to say hello?
  • We’re asking that you do not initiate contact with Merle & Cheree over this time.
  • However, if you see them at the store, you don’t need to run the other way!
  • Greet them, but please respect the sabbatical disconnect by not talking about Newport Church, it's programs or church members.
5Who will fill in while Merle & Cheree are away?
  • We are blessed to have a strong eldership team, church staff, and volunteer teams at Newport Church.
  • For those who are connected to a Life Group, your first source for pastoral care is, as always, your Life Group leader.
  • If you are unsure, simply call Pastor Matt Shenk (who covers as our Community Life Pastor) or the church office and someone will be identified to contact you as soon as possible.
  • If you have any other questions, you may also reach out to:
    • Pastor David Barnett at the church office or Brian Sauder (representative from our Eldership team).
    • Larry & LaVerne Kreider will serve as Newport Church's oversight from DOVE International and interact with church staff and the Elders team during this time.
6What if something traumatic happens while Pastor Merle and Cheree are away?
  • They would certainly be informed of such events.
  • Communication will flow only through Brian Sauder, who is the communication link to the Shenk's during the Sabbatical.
  • Please do not decide what warrants a phone call or email or text on your own.
  • Contact Brian Sauder or Pastor David Barnett.
7Is a sabbatical just a long vacation?
When we use the word "sabbatical," we're not talking about a vacation but an intentional guided process where we deliberately disengage from normal ministry and leadership involvement to make space for renewal, rest, and new vision. You can find more on the distinctives by clicking HERE.
8How can we pray during this time?
For the Shenk's:
  • Rest as they disengage from all ministry activities.
  • Renewal and refreshment as a couple, and connection with their children
  • Precious times with God and hearing His voice.
  • Renewed energy for ministry and greater clarity for the use of their primary gifts moving forward.
For Newport Church:
  • For great unity and support for the continuing ministry at Newport Church
  • The encouragement and support for our pastoral team and leaders during the absence of the Shenk's.
  • Grace for needs to be met through our church body by one another.