Do I Need a Sabbatical? with Jeff Simons

Jun 27, 2024


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

If you’re curious about what a sabbatical is and if it is something you need…or if you’re skeptical about it and are wondering if sabbaticals are even a real thing, today is for you!

Jeff Simons of The Way Between answers all your sabbatical questions: why, how, where, how much and if. And make sure to listen all the way to the end, because Jeff has a great giveaway for the first few missionaries who take him up on the offer!




Ways to Connect With Jeff Simons


Last Week’s Episode

When Obey Feels Like a Four-Letter Word with Jonathan & Amanda Vining (Encore Episode)

Transcript From the Episode

[00:00:00] Stephanie: Welcome to Modern Day Missionaries, a podcast by Modern Day. Missions created for missionaries by missionaries. I’m your host, Stephanie Gutierrez

If you’re curious about what a sabbatical is and if it’s something you need, or if you’re skeptical about it and are wondering if sabbaticals are even a real thing today is for you. Jeff Simons of The Way Between answers all of your sabbatical questions. The why, how, when, how much where and if. And make sure to listen all the way through to the end, because Jeff has a great giveaway for the first few missionaries would take him up on the offer.

Hey, everybody. Before we jump into today’s episode, I wanted to let you know that at Modern Day, we released our very first small group curriculum created specifically for missionary marriages. The first video and corresponding PDF came out on June 17th. You know, my husband, Danny, and I have been in marriage ministry for the past two decades.

And there is no group of marriages we’re more passionate about than missionary marriages. So we created this eight week curriculum called All-Terrain Marriage because we believe God’s heart for us is that we can have a marriage that can thrive in any kind of terrain. These courses are interactive, and they could be done as a couple or with other couples in the context of a small group.

And we are providing them completely for free. We’re releasing them one at a time on Mondays over the next two months. So begin to plan when and with whom you’ll watch them because they were created just for you and share them with somebody you know. We believe God will use them to breathe fresh life into your marriage.

So if you’d like to receive these, make sure you’re signed up for our weekly resource email that goes out every Monday. Each week it has links to great missions resources that we believe will be a blessing to you. And also has a link to the latest podcast episode. We will provide a link as to how to sign up for those in the show notes if you’re not already. Sign up here: And now for my interview with Jeff Simons.

[00:01:55] Stephanie: Welcome to this episode of the Modern Day Missionaries podcast. Today, I am delighted to have my friend Jeff Simons with us. Welcome, Jeff.

[00:02:04] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Hello, Stephanie. So glad to be here. Big Modern Day fan. Love it, Stephanie. Thank you for your leadership.

[00:02:11] Stephanie: We are big The Way Between fans. You guys are incredible.

So, Jeff and his wife, Sara, are the directors of The Way Between, and they’re an organization that equips global leaders to think and thrive in major life transitions. And you guys do this in all kinds of ways through individual and group coaching, through transition cohorts, through vocational discernment, intensives, reflecting hiking adventures.

And Jeff is a certified coach. He has a masters in intercultural studies, and he has served more than 20 years in full time nonprofit organizations. He’s also worked and lived in cross cultural settings from Spain to Bolivia, to South Korea and other Asian contexts. And just to add to it all, he’s an all around great guy.

We always have so much fun when we get to see you and Sara, Jeff.

[00:02:54] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes. And it’s great to share our experience, especially with kids overseas, uh, and doing reentry.

[00:03:03] Stephanie: It’s really true. We were having a great conversation about that beforehand. Uh, our TCKs, I know we met you guys when, oh God, I think it was, we’d been back in the States, not even maybe a year. You were, uh, speaking on, or Sara was speaking on transitions and we found out that you guys led an online transition cohort and I went through that after moving back from Peru. It was outstanding.

And you guys understand huge transitions because you’ve been through them and you’ve helped tons of people through them. And we had Sara on actually talking about transitions. I hope everybody listening today goes and listens to that episode as well.

But today we’re talking about another area of expertise that you guys have, and that’s leading leaders through sabbaticals.

[00:03:50] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes.

[00:03:51] Stephanie: And as you and I were talking, I think there’s a lot of confusion around sabbaticals. Um, I know, uh, my husband, Danny took one, oh, this was maybe seven, eight years ago. And I heard so many questions about like, well, what are you doing and why are you doing that? And, and even since then, I, whenever that word comes up, people have very different ideas of what a sabbatical is, why it’s needed, how to get one.

And so I just thought, Jeff, let’s dig into some of that today and demystify what a sabbatical is.

Can you just kick us off by defining what a sabbatical is?

[00:04:30] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yeah. And you were probably asking some of those questions as a spouse, right? Like, wait, wait, you get this big break and I don’t like, ah, who’s going to do the kids and what, how’s this going to happen? And it does dad go on sabbatical or just the worker, right? Um, yes. Yeah. Well, uh, before I give you a definition, like, You said, you know, you’re talking about transitions and like transition has been our big thing.

And honestly, like mainly because we’ve been through a lot of hard transitions, uh, over the years, cross culturally and vocationally, um, not by necessarily our choosing, but by God’s direction. And so we’ve learned a lot through that. Um, we have been offering sabbatical coaching for quite some time. It kind of goes along with the leadership coaching and that kind of thing. Uh, but it was sort of a secondary thing. And sabbatical, the whole idea has been around, obviously, right, for thousands of years. Uh, points to it in the Ten Commandments, all of that.

Uh, but we started to realize that, um, there were just a lot of burned out leaders. There were a lot of leaders that needed to do sabbatical that hadn’t. Most of them that we sit alongside, it’s been 20, 30 years, in full time work, in full time ministry, and they’re finally taking one. And we just started to see. Uh, I just was kind of telling you about this sort of thaw, uh, effect that we’re seeing post pandemic. And, uh, if you want to learn more, Sara and I, we were lucky enough, along with some amazing names and leaders, uh, to get a couple of chapters in here, particularly about sabbatical, but this is a great one. Geoff Whiteman and Heather Pubels put out, uh, this, it’s kind of the next best thing in member care. If you ask me.

Somehow we’ve got some chapters in the back, but Essentials for People Care and Development. I can’t say enough about it. There’s some great, great topics in there. We put some stuff in there, sabbatical talking about the pandemic. And what has that meant as far as burned out leaders in sabbatical?

And so, one thing that we’ve been seeing is most of the people we were working with were people in major transition, ministry leaders in major transition. And then we just started to see more and more people that were asking for sabbatical coaching and sabbatical help. And all of a sudden, you know, this year, the majority of the people that we’re helping are needing and in sabbatical. And so we’re like, something’s going on. We’re sensing this tsunami of burned out leaders. And it’s the post pandemic thought of we’ve all been in resiliency mode. Whether we’ve been stateside or whether we’ve been global, we’ve heard horror stories of people riding out the pandemic in their global locations. Um, and we move during the pandemic ourself from overseas. Um, and there is, I think we were all in resiliency mode and finally, like, our diaphragms are relaxing. We’re being able to breathe a little more. There’s kind of a new normal starting to come on and we’re realizing how exhausted we really are. And so we’re trying to address that, you know, not only do our research, but to create resources and ways to help people. engage in sabbatical and actually get that renewal and that rest they need.

So all that to say sabbatical, here’s our, here’s our textbook definition: a focused length of time, focused length of time for spiritual retreat, personal renewal and or professional development through a cessation of your regular work.

Okay, now that sounds very Webster-y. Um, what I like to think about it is we have rhythms, some of us have rhythms, hopefully we have rhythms of refreshment, your spiritual retreat, your Bible reading, your devotional, maybe your small group, those are times of refreshment. And those are great. We need those, but there, I think all of us can relate to the time when that’s just kind of like a little, you know, poof in the tank of, of gas that’s empty. And those refreshment times don’t always get there. What sabbatical does and why I think.

God has commanded us to take not only Sabbath, but sabbatical every seven days and every seven years is to actually help refill that tank. You need a deeper time with breadth and depth. in order to get that renewal that you need. And it’s not just a renewal to come back to who you were, but we see, we get to be front seat to God doing amazing things in people’s lives during sabbatical. There’s always a major download of just new maturity, new depth, new calling, new vision. And so we see it not just as renewal and rest, but we are leadership development people and There has to be that embodied, holistic, and developmental, uh, piece to it, and God always takes people to a new place, uh, beyond sabbatical, and, uh, to greater impact, to greater leadership, and greater maturity. So, to me, that’s what the essence of sabbatical is.

[00:09:43] Stephanie: I think it’s a no brainer for anybody listening, but in case they haven’t made the connection, the word Sabbath is in sabbatical and you referenced it right there with the every seven days and every seven years. And I think most Christians would agree that mentally, if maybe not in practice, that God calls us to have a Sabbath.

We know that. Even if we don’t do it, we know it. It’s something that in our heart we want to do. And this is, uh, fleshing that out to a deeper pause. Now, Why do you think that people, um, can readily agree to, yes, I need a Sabbath, but I don’t know about a sabbatical. Do I really need that? Because I know pastors so and so and they’ve never had a sabbatical and they’ve been in ministry 40 years, and they say, I haven’t needed a sabbatical. So why do I get one? Why am I privileged enough to have it?

[00:10:37] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes, good, good question. Um, I think it’s, it’s kind of funny and on a basic level, but if we go back to the 10 commandments, we’re going to go to, you know, Bible study or we’re going to go to Sunday school here. Um, you go back to the 10 commandments, one of the, one of the ongoing commandments that, As I would say Americans, I don’t, you know, whoever’s listening here, as Americans, as American myself, uh, that is one of the ones that we put to the side and we ignore the most because it butts up against our American values.

Uh, the Protestant work ethic, which I would say is the shadow side of the Protestant work ethic, the Protestant work ethic gone wrong, as it were. Um, if you think about Enneagram, like we all have strengths and then we all have our shadow side, right? Uh, this is the shadow side of the Protestant work ethic that comes out in our American values that makes us ignore certain parts of the Bible that are inconvenient to our, uh, American way of life. And I think Sabbath is one of those.

Even just doing Sabbath is hard enough, I think, for a lot of even ministry leaders, you know, pastors, uh, in America, and to think about sabbatical every seven, seven ish years, taking a longer extended break, um, that goes against the grain in a lot of ways. Um, and, and there’s not necessarily a lot of structures, there’s a lot of increasing structures for it. But What’s kind of sad is that we don’t see the church leading the way in sabbatical. We actually see groups like Google, uh, we see the academic institutions. We see places like this actually having really robust sabbatical policies and they even call it sabbatical.

They even use the biblical word and they’re seeing, People, staff retention, they’re seeing people get renewed and higher productivity. They’re thinking bottom line on a lot of this, you know, they’re not thinking kingdom value, uh, but they’re thinking bottom line and they’re seeing it as a great staff benefit. They’re seeing people, you know, be more productive. Some corporations are moving to like the four day work week instead of the five. It’s all in that same vein. And they’re actually seeing sabbatical be good for humans. Um, and unfortunately, you know, as a church, I think we’re pretty far behind. Uh, and our, our, impetus, our motivation should be coming from a different place.

One, of obeying God’s command. Uh, but secondly, there’s, there’s some reason he set that pattern out. He actually modeled it and mimicked it for us, whether it’s. He actually needed it or not. I’m not sure. Um, but he mimicked it for us and it actually, in, in my estimation, is a kingdom value thing and for kingdom purposes. And I’m a missiologist, so I always end up going that way. Um, I came into member care as a, as a mobilizer, not as like a psychologist or, or that kind of thing. And I actually see something really strategic you know, whether this was one of God’s intents or not, but to see people every seven years or so get that deeper renewal, get back, uh, revision, get deeper in their spirituality and mature, and then to come back to a place of better leadership and better impact when we usually see ministry and people burn out and leave the field and leave the ministry. If you were to do that strategically, what would that, what would that impact as far as kingdom growth across the globe?

[00:13:40] Stephanie: And it’s so good that you brought up that strategic part too, because I think for a lot of people listening, they’re like, oh, is this just another one of those, like, self care things? Like, I just need to, like, take care of myself and rest. I’m a mover and a shaker.

I need to get things done. God’s called me to move overseas, to change the world. And what you’re saying is, yeah. After taking a sabbatical, you’re going to be able to do it that much more because God’s going to speak to you deeply in that season and get things right. I mean, I again, remember back to when Danny, my husband, took a sabbatical.

It was a three month sabbatical in between one ministry in Peru, to another one. And his plan, of course, like everybody’s, had been to jump straight in because that’s what you do. I mean, when we moved to Peru, we started serving the very next day. We took no transition in moving there and we were going to transition from one to the another.

Thankfully, we have a very wise friend who’s been counseling and coaching missionaries and pastors. for decades. And she looked at Danny and said, I don’t think that’s wise because she has that voice in our life to be able to say that she’s become a dear friend. And, and she, it leads people through sabbaticals as well.

And she said, I’m really going to strongly suggest that you take a sabbatical. Otherwise, Everything that has happened in this place is going to be brought over to this new place and you need a space to process what has happened and to prepare for what’s next.

And it was a game changer. I mean, so many times we’ve talked about that.Had he not taken that sabbatical, he said, I wouldn’t have been able to begin my next season strong or with the type of clarity that I needed had I not taken that intentional time.

So let’s talk for a second, Jeff, then about what are sabbaticals for? I mean, Do you take a vacation? Do you write a book? Are they work?

Are they rest? What does a sabbatical look like?

[00:15:56] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes, so one of the things we talk about is the myths of sabbatical. There are, I think, there are a lot of words that we use synonymously with sabbatical that aren’t necessarily, uh, sabbatical in the whole definition. So some people think furlough is sabbatical. Well, anyone who’s been on any kind of real furlough, right? They’re more work than actually staying in your place and doing the full time ministry, right? Um, because you’re, yeah, you’re running around, you’re speaking, you’re visiting donors, you’re trying to see friends, you’re trying to catch up on, you know, the things back home that you missed, and yeah, you’re, you’re running ragged, you’re sleeping on people’s couches and guest bedrooms, and you know, not sabbatical.

Okay. For those are good. They’re necessary. They’re not sabbatical. Uh, vacation. Now you could have an element of vacation during your sabbatical. Nothing wrong with that. That’s great. But a vacation itself isn’t necessarily the same focus or the same reason. The intentional, uh, planned ahead premeditated. Rest and renewal, uh, for coming back into your calling and the unique work. Vacations are good. They can have an element, you know, of that, but they’re not the same. Uh, going and getting a master’s degree or writing a book. Uh, I wouldn’t call that a sabbatical. Now, there are writing sabbaticals or education sabbaticals.

There are different kinds of sabbaticals and that can be an element. But one thing that has to happen on every sabbatical, even if you’re going to go write a book after that, is to get the rest, the renewal, the recharge that you need.

Um, so we talk about, We actually have a six phase diagram for sabbatical. And three of those phases aren’t even during the sabbatical. Two of them are at the beginning where you realize maybe the need or the importance of sabbatical that you actually release and you start planning and off ramp well and wisely with people in place and people knowing what’s going on and supporting it. You’ve got a budget, you’ve got things in place, and then you actually start sabbatical.

And that first season, uh, there will be a lot of different dynamics that can go in any order during sabbatical, but there are some things that have to go in a certain order. And one of those is the rest and renewal has to be first. because you have to regroup, you have to get back in touch with yourself, you have to get back in touch with your family, back in touch with God, you have to get to that deeper place of renewal and rest before you can go on to the next things, which we call is reflection, where you do deeper reflection and maturing and growth, and then there’s what we call the realign and reassign phase of sabbatical, and that’s where you’re actually taking stock to date of what is my What is my, my gig?

What is my fit? What is my unique wiring? What am I built for? What am I called to? What is my vision? And have I gotten off of that? Uh, and how do I realign with that? So that when I come back, I’m actually maybe on the right, the right seat on the bus. Maybe you were on the right bus, but you were in the wrong seat. Um, but actually getting that focus. And then lastly, we talk about re entry and that’s sort of like re entering back to a home culture. We take a lot of the same elements that you take from missiology, doing re entry and on ramping back into it. So that’s some of the main elements that I would say is important for all sabbaticals. Writing a book could be in there, doing some seminary classes, that, that’s fine, but you also need to get that rest and renewal,

[00:19:39] Stephanie: Some people might have the thought, won’t my ministry fall apart when I take one? Like if I step away like that, how do I keep things going?

[00:19:47] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yeah, yeah, that is a good question. And that is one that we deal with and we get. And I would, I would, um, counter with, you know, there’s a higher likelihood, you know, of course, it’s all up to God, but there’s a higher likelihood that things will fall apart if you don’t, and if you don’t take care of your people.

Okay. So. Now, there is a unhelpful way to take a sabbatical, and there’s a helpful way to take a sabbatical, and with that pre-thought, with making sure that you’ve got coverage, uh, for communication loops, for your job, and all of that, working with your team, your organization, your church, all of that is an important part of off ramping well, um, so we use the analogy, you know, often, in ministry, we just get that impetus where we’re going 80 miles, 90 miles an hour in the fast lane, whether or not that’s healthy or not.

That’s just the reality. That’s what I tend to do too. Um, and when we come to sabbatical, we tend to speed up in the fast lane and then veer off the side of the highway and crash into sabbatical. Uh, and we, and then we spend the first month or two of the, of sabbatical. Kind of wasted recovering from the crash. Um, so what we try to do is help people actually get over lane by lane, take the preparation they need to exit and actually take the off ramp so that they’ve actually started to down shift and get into rest mode when sabbatical starts, um, And that’s an important way to enter a sabbatical healthily for yourself, for your organization, for your family, uh, for everybody who it is going to affect, um, so that you can get that deeper space of rest and renewal, and then you can come back and be an even better contributing member, uh, to the cause.

That’s so wise because I think there are people who the only preparation they do over a sabbatical is to set the dates. They set the dates and then they just wake up one morning and they’re like, I’m on sabbatical. But without any preparation, like you said, it’s you’re, you’re not going to do it. You’re going to fall back into your old patterns and rhythms and it’s going to feel so awkward.

[00:21:56] Stephanie: And then the other one I was listening to, uh, podcast interview Ruth Haley Barton did on sabbaticals. And she was saying, and I’ve heard this from multiple people now on the other side, because I love the on ramp and the off ramp and multiple people have said one of the biggest mistakes they made is not easing back in afterwards. They just abruptly jumped back in and actually lost a lot of the momentum that they had gained.

[00:22:21] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: That is equally important. We call that the on ramp period, you know, and we actually encourage people we stay with them doing coaching and debriefing after they finish their sabbatical to help them slowly on ramp and move over a lane at a time and not get back in the fast lane going 90 miles an hour. But what has God impressed upon you during sabbatical? that you need to come back and maybe live in a different pace, better boundaries, things like that, so that you can actually be resilient in your work going forward. How do you come back and do it differently, so that maybe you can avoid some of the things that led you to burnout, or the things that led you into sabbatical in the first place,And I think a lot of the things that make those, um, transitions successful is communicating well to the people around you, because if people know what you’re doing and are supporting what you’re doing, they’re not going to jump in the day that you’re back or keep, you know, Uh, getting after you until the day your sabbatical starts.

[00:23:23] Stephanie: So question for you along that, Jeff, how can you best communicate this? Let’s say to a couple of different audiences, first to supporters, getting them on board. And so they’re not looking at you going, why are you doing a sabbatical? And then I would say, secondly, to the people you’re serving with in ministry, what are good ways to get them on board and excited with you and supportive of the sabbatical you’re about to take?

[00:23:45] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yeah. There are a lot of different circles of community and audience to, to consider. And we help people do that, especially during that off ramping and that real releasing phase. Um, you know, when it comes to donors, one of the common, you know, fears or, uh, myths is, Oh, everybody’s going to be like, Oh, I want a sabbatical too.

How come you get to do it? I’m not going to support you anymore. Right. And, um, Very rarely has anyone ever lost a donor of the hundreds of people that we’ve walked with because they took a sabbatical. In fact, most people are surprised by it and they go, wow, you’re getting this time of not only rest, but also retooling of development.

We tell people if people don’t really know what sabbatical is or if that word sounds foreign or whatever, like change the semantics, that’s okay. Call it a renewal and leadership development period. You know, like, so we give them permission to be, to be flexible with that, depending on their audience so that they don’t lose people or make it think, uh, make them think it’s some weird religious thing or, you know, even though it has that base. So what we found is that most people, like when they’re setting out a budget for sabbatical or they have certain desires or things that they want to do, that there is usually a handful of supporters. That are happy that they are taking that break and happy to contribute special gifts towards that kind of retooling and being able to come back and do even more powerful things in their work. Uh, that’s been our experience.

This is something where like having family meetings is important. If you’re in a family, if you’re not a single and you have either a spouse or kids or whatever, having family meetings and actually planning this together and even planning some of the elements like family bonding or special trips or special things that you’re going to do together. Uh, but everyone, you know, has to shift a little bit. Um, Uh, when you’re, when you’re on sabbatical, uh, making sure that you’ve got, uh, the approval that you need at work, the support that you need, uh, with either your team or your supervisor, your, your church, making sure that there’s plenty of lead time and that there’s a coordinated time that you’re going to take that, that works okay for everybody. Having people that are going to cover the pieces of your load or check your email so you don’t come back to 100, 000 emails and you know, what is the instance in which the house is burning and you need to pull the fire alarm and give me a call, you know? Uh, sometimes that happens. Uh, we try to keep people, you know, from that as much as possible. But having those clear communication loops makes it better for everybody. Um, so there’s lots of different communication techniques with those different groups. And one thing I would just add is once you get into sabbatical, there’s sort of this illusion like, Oh, I’m going to be The monastic monk in a desert cave, you know, just being with God all day.

And, um, yeah, there are elements of that, but it doesn’t, it’s not supposed to be an isolating time. Continuing to be involved in community, which means thinking about that ahead of time, community that’s life giving, friends that get it and can pour into your life. If you’ve got a small group that’s life giving at church, you don’t need to stop that, you know.

If you’re on the board of church, you may want to take a break from that, you know. Things like that that are going to pull you back into ministry or not, but it’s a time to take off the hat, but it’s not a time to disappear from community. So you’re still going to want to have faith. Uh, lots of community interaction as it is helpful, encouraging, and life giving to your sabbatical.

[00:27:26] Stephanie: Well, and that’s that benefit to having sabbatical coaching like you just mentioned is there are the key pieces that you could Google and find out that go into a sabbatical, but then there are individual considerations and sometimes you need the ability to process that through with somebody, your spouse, but also maybe an outside party who can look in and say, Hey, Uh, let’s look together at what you have on your plate and let’s look together at some goals you have for sabbatical because for somebody it might, they might press into a learning space a little bit more, or like you said, writing something might be a part of it as you go down the line for somebody else.

They might have a very different goal for their sabbatical.

I’ve seen all different kinds, and so there is, there are general things, but there also are custom things because we all have different personalities. You think about a person who is like a go go goer. who loves producing and creating how they enter a sabbatical might look different than somebody, um, with a different type of personality, who’s maybe quieter, more introspective.

Uh, so yeah, the, the custom piece I think is important.

So we’ve talked a little bit about what a sabbatical involves. Um, some of the rhythms that you find in it, getting even a little bit more specific. Uh, what about, timeframes or what is a good like cost wise? What should people plan for something like that?

I’m trying to think of all the questions as our missionaries are listening. What are the questions that are going through their head?

[00:28:49] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. There is, of course, it, it does depend, right, on the person’s situation.

As you’re saying, some people go through a major crisis or a trauma and taking kind of personal leave and sabbatical at the same time maybe happens really quickly, you know, and so you maybe not have, you don’t have the luxury of the off ramping time to really plan. So sometimes that’s the case. I would say in general rule, you know, kind of going off the biblical model, we encourage people to actually preventatively as a leadership development step, plan ahead for a sabbatical every, we would put it in the 7 to 10 year range.

Um, so we encourage people to think about one every seven to ten years, and actually think about that ahead of time with their schedule, with their life, with their organization, with their church. Um, and what we have found, you know, some of those key phases that we talked about during sabbatical, we have found that it’s really hard to do those well if you have less than a three month sabbatical. Now, take what you can, you know, and we’ll work with anybody and help them make the mess, the best of what they can. But our encouragement is if you can get a six month, that really allows you the time to go through those phases well, and to come back, uh, really ready to go on your best foot with new vision, time to retool. So six months is about the, you know, uh, what we shoot for. We’ve worked with people who are working in very hard, poor contexts in the world. They’re living among the poor. They’re, you know, that resiliency has, has really, uh, dropped rapidly. And some of them that we know every five years take a year, you know, uh, so there’s, there’s more extreme examples.

If there is. Uh, any factors that are attributing like major burnout, uh, major trauma or crisis that, that you need some support of different kinds around you, major interpersonal conflict, uh, maybe a major transition that’s also overlapped with your, your sabbatical, we encourage you to think longer. Um, one of the things that we, Always hear from everybody after sabbatical is, I just didn’t realize how fill in the blank, how exhausted I was, how grumpy I was, how disconnected I was, how far from God I was. And so that’s, and, and almost everyone says, that was really good. I wonder, I could have used another month. I could have used another two months. I think I’ve kind of gotten a lot farther in my health or my maturity or my recovery.

Those are the things we always hear. So then we encourage people, think about what you think you need and then either double it or, or add another, add another 50 percent on it, you know, cause that’s what you’ll end up really needing. Um, yeah, so that’s what we would encourage, but obviously each, each case is, uh, is different.

We help people evaluate that on the front end and think about that. Um, the other thing too, just about with language that you were talking about, you know, we have, we have created different email templates over the years too, um, that we massage and we offer those people who are tired or burned out and then trying to figure out how am I going to communicate this to everybody. Um, We help them with some of that wording and then they can take that, make it their own, edit it, um, just to help communicate and alleviate some of the burden, uh, for them on that.

We alos offer to be able to be in the room or the virtual room if needed when they’re having a family meeting or talking to their supervisor or, you know, trying to ask for a, uh, a sabbatical from their organization. Uh, we’re happy to, to be that. middle person and help people, you know, talk about what the reality and the, and the importance of it is. So we’ve sat in that place/

[00:32:57] Stephanie: That’s so good. And you guys are Spanish speakers as well. So I know we have gente que escuchan al podcast en espanol, si necesitan su sabatico en espanol, tambien son disponibles hacerlo en espanol. Had to mention that because we have actually at Modern Day have a lot of Spanish speaking missionaries as well.

We have a lot of international missionaries. It’s obvious that the majority of our audience is, uh, are English speakers, perhaps U. S. Or Canadian based. Um, but we have a ton and it’s really growing a lot in an international audience. So it’s good for people to know it’s more than one language available.

So another question for you, Jeff, um, for people who are living, you were just talking about people living in really difficult contexts, uh, especially difficult contexts.

Let’s say that you’ve got somebody who’s wanting to take a sabbatical, they are feeling really guilty because the, the context and the community they live in are people who are working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. And it’s, it’s just a really difficult context. And so their concern is what happens if these people see me at rest playing?

What does that communicate about, uh, the privilege that I carry as a missionary that they don’t have access to?

[00:34:18] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes. And that’s a very similar question to some other dynamics, right? Like traveling often by plane, you know, like we do that as missionaries and a lot of the people we work with maybe have never been able to do that, you know? And so there is that, that, um, there’s an illusion, but there’s also truly a level of privilege that we are able to engage with, which makes it possible to get where we are and to do. What we’re doing in some of the work, right?

Um, we help people evaluate and really think through context and where they could do sabbatical best. And not just for themselves, um, where would you rest best? And sometimes that’s staying in the context, but figuring out maybe complicated boundaries, uh, and scripts, you know, to go with that. And sometimes it’s to get out of context.

So sometimes we, we would encourage people to get out of context, whether that’s coming back stateside, or whether that’s going to another neighboring country, or a different part of the country even, um, in order to get that, um, and there’s, there’s advantages and disadvantages to both, you know, there’s the advantages when you stay in context, you know, everything, you know, how to get around, you know, where to get your food, you know, you know, how things work and you’re comfortable in your own home. Uh, but sometimes that’s also a disadvantage, right? Um, and maybe the people you’re working with, like, how do you explain it to them? Um, if you were needing to go back Stateside because your organization is, is calling you back or something like that, that could be a more helpful understanding, um, you know, for them.

So each person’s situation is unique and we usually talk it over with them. Some people will split. Like if they have a three month sabbatical, they’ll do a, you know, two, two months here, one month there. Um, and sometimes people will completely get out of the context. Cause that’s sometimes really hard to rest, relax, hear God, maybe, you know, um, unless they get out of the work zone. So, yeah.

[00:36:28] Stephanie: To add to that, then, uh, what would you say it in a spousal situation? So just to throw out like an example, let’s say that one of the spouses and, and we’re not going to pick genders here cause this can happen either way. Let’s say that one of the partners is out and they are doing a lot of the front facing work in the community.

And the other spouse is home. Doing more parental type roles or taking care of the home front. And oftentimes we think the sabbatical goes to the person who’s out doing the front facing work.

And then that leaves the person who’s at home, uh, kind of feeling like I’m exhausted too. So I’m sorry, we’re doing the same level of work, just in different contexts and you get a sabbatical and I don’t, and I’m supposed to take on more work to give this to you.

What does that look like? And how can you help couples have good communication and support one another? Or do they take one at the same time? How does that work?

[00:37:23] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: We’ve had every situation you can imagine, come down the pipe, you know, some taking it at the same time, some taking it, uh, overlapping, like a few months overlapping with some on each side, totally separate.

You know, one of the things that we just champion, we work with people all across the Protestant evangelical spectrum. Uh, we ourselves come from a very kind of egalitarian stance, but we encourage and, and sit with anyone, no matter where they’re at with how they split things. But we see leadership as being gifted and leaning into that leadership, into that gifting that. Sometimes comes with a title. Sometimes it doesn’t. Uh, and we see that both men and women are, are gifted and powerful and talented and have a calling, um, whether that’s a full time job or not. And so we do encourage, uh, in a, in a marriage relationship, both to get sabbatical on a regular basis, uh, like we’re talking about. Now, how that’s done, uh, is very unique to each couple.

Sometimes we have found, uh, when there are young kids still in the home, it is difficult for both to take a sabbatical at the same time. Um, I think you get that, right? Uh, so we often will ask, you know, suggest that they stagger it, maybe overlap, but that one kind of be front and center with family and family needs while one person gets a sabbatical and then switch off. Now, often what that sabbatical looks like is not all day, all week. It’s like maybe when the kids are at school, like nine to two, nine to three, That’s sabbatical. That’s the reality of sabbatical for you, you know, because you don’t take a sabbatical from being a dad, from being a mom, um, no matter what.

There’s often some of your sabbatical rhythms will be unique family bonding and family bonding times and being maybe more involved with family than you could when you were working. And so, uh, those evening times are actually part of your sabbatical rhythms, but it’s with family. Um, it’s not you know, the monk in the cave. Um, so we do, there are advantages and disadvantages to taking it together and taking it separate. Um, and so we do talk with, with folks, you know, and see where they’re at and what will be the biggest advantage, you know, so that both, both people in the partnership get what they need from sabbatical.

[00:39:59] Stephanie: That’s so good. And going back to what we talked about earlier with the correlation with Sabbath, I remember when I had a realization one day, because I was not taking Sabbath, this was a few years ago, because I would get to the end of my week and go, well, I didn’t get enough done. So I don’t deserve a Sabbath. Like, I didn’t earn it.

And I remember one day, God just like hit me in the face with that. I was reading a book on, on Sabbath rest, and I think it was by Rich Villodas. And he said, Sabbath is not something you earn. It’s not something you work to deserve. It’s something God’s placed in the, in the word for you, like as a, as a point of rest and renewal and connecting with him.

And I think if you extend that to sabbatical, It’s the same thing. If we’re talking about who gets one, and who doesn’t, and who deserves one, and well, I worked harder, so I deserve one, and you don’t, it’s not about earning and deserving.

To your point earlier, some people do need more extended ones because of the level of intensity of their work, but it doesn’t mean that they’re better, so they get a longer one.It’s not that type of metrics. It’s about just entering into God’s rest in a way that’s good for all of us. And figuring that out with your spouse, if you have one, with a mentor, with a coach, and looking what is appropriate for me in this situation, in the season of life I’m living, what is doable?

I mean, can I not do that? Has it been seven years and I really need one, but I can’t get one? Sometimes, you can. We need one. We know it. Everybody knows it and we just can’t get one and that’s just laying it before the Lord and saying, okay, Lord, um, just like I’m believing for this particular miracle in life or this financial gift or this ministry, I’m believing for a sabbatical. Can you make a way where there is no way, because I want to reconnect with you, with my family and get to a place where I can be healthy enough to serve and serve better.

You did an excellent job of, of hitting all those.

[00:41:57] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: So this is Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, if you haven’t read the book, The Rest of God, if you read it,

[00:42:03] Stephanie: one of my favorite books

[00:42:04] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: It’s one of the ones, we have a whole list of recommended, you know, resources and reading that we give to people, uh, that could go along with the different phases of sabbatical, but this is one of those, like, hands down, I encourage everybody to read this as a companion to their sabbatical, uh, this is one of the quotes from him, and it just totally drives home what you’re saying.

He says, get this straight. The rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God that we’re missing. It’s not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s a sheer gift. And that’s what’s confusing, because it’s one of the commandments, so it sounds like a law, right? But actually, it’s, it’s a gift. It’s, it’s a blessing, and we’ve been told that we can do that. He says, It’s a sheer gift. It’s a stopped work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all of our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack dab in the middle of them, without apology. Without guilt and for no better reason than God told us we could.

[00:43:13] Stephanie: And even if somebody’s not taking a sabbatical, read that book. That is one of, for both Danny and me, that’s one of our top, in our top five books of all time. It’s, I’ve read it two times and committed to reading it every couple of years. I don’t reread books much, but that is, it’s one of the most beautiful books on every level I’ve ever read.

I’m so happy you brought that up, Jeff.

[00:43:35] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yeah, it’s a good one. He has alot of other quotes I could read and I have some here if you want me to read some.

[00:43:41] Stephanie: Oh, there’s about a million, right?

[00:43:45] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: What you were saying. Yeah,

[00:43:46] Stephanie: Yes. Thank you. You couldn’t have picked a more perfect quote. Okay.

So for people who are listening, who they’ve now, they’ve listened to all the answers you’ve given and they’re, they’re feeling a shift and they’re sensing, I think this is something that I want to do. What is one small step they can take or how can they begin this journey of sabbatical?

[00:44:09] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: I think this is this is the realize phase. This is the either realizing Wow, I, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a rest and I do need a deeper, often pre sabbatical, we have a pretty bad, um, uh, ability to check the litmus test on ourselves, to check our vitals, we need others, uh, and if we just ask some pointed questions to any of the close people around us, uh, we’ll probably get a much better reading, uh, on that, right? Um, the realize phase, uh, realizing one that, Not only is it command from God, but it is a sheer gift that we can do that. And we can actually, we actually say, um, you know, one of the most powerful leadership mantras we have is that a, um, a leader knows what to do. their needs, and they’re not, uh, they’re not afraid to ask for those needs.

And that does go against some of the old leadership, American culture of where the badge of burnout and just keep going, right? We use Paul’s, you know, uh, verses about running the race and, you know, all this stuff, and those are all good, but you can run the race a lot longer and a lot better. If you actually have these rhythms that God put for us in place, you’re going to go the long haul. Um, and so actually saying, I’m going to take some ownership for my own resiliency, for my own ability to impact and use my gifts responsibly as part of the kingdom call, as part of the kingdom work. And to actually, you know, kind of put our big boy, big girl pants on and say, I’m going to take ownership for my own development and growth and pursue this, you know, and start asking the questions of those that matter, right?

Of your organization, of your supervisor, of your family. Start down that road. Um, we have guides and things to help you do that. And to think through some of those questions. One of the things that we just launched is an e-course on sabbatical, so people could actually walk through the material at their own pace, along with their own sabbatical.

We encourage people to do it at least a couple months before. When they want to take sabbatical so that they can off ramp well and they can prepare well, um, but to actually start asking those questions and then start doing things like budgeting for it, you know, what are some desires on your heart that’ll help you, uh, find that passion again and grow and get some time with your family or, uh, you know, community and that kind of thing.

And is there, You know, sometimes there’s price tags with it. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes your normal budget will cover that. Sometimes it won’t. But to start putting those structures and things in place so that it can become a reality, the hardest thing is getting to that pause, uh, to that place where you can unplug.

[00:47:19] Stephanie: So people can go to to find a lot of those resources that you mentioned, some of that discernment process and can I do this, what does it look like, the e-course, and then actually sign up for that, do coaching with you guys and begin their sabbatical journey. And we’ll post links to all of that.

Um, and even if you aren’t thinking about taking a sabbatical, but you would just like to learn more about transition, about rest and about healthy ministry, I would encourage you again, just knowing Jeff and Sara and having partaken personally in their resources. They’re wonderful. So head on over to and you’ll find articles, all kinds, you guys are resource content creators. creating people. And I love that. So it’s, it is a wealth of resources that will be a blessing to you. So Jeff, thank you again for all you and Sarah do for coming on and sharing with us about sabbatical today. I’m hoping this is encouraging for people.

I believe that it was and really gave people some clarity and some answers and even some things they can go back to their supporters with and their families if they’re sensing that this is something the Lord has for them.

So Jeff, you and I were talking beforehand and you mentioned you would like to give a free gift to two of our listeners. What is that and how can they get it?

[00:48:36] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes, so we are passionate about supporting missionaries on the field in the best way possible. So, the new e-course that just launched for sabbatical, we would like to give the first month free of the e-course. So it’s a monthly subscription for however long you need it for your sabbatical. We want to give you the first month free, which is a great value, uh, and I can give you that code.

I’m going to give that to the first two people that are able to email me after hearing. Uh, the Modern Day, uh, podcast, and if you email me, I will give you the code, uh, to get the first month free, and it can be for whenever you’re going to take your sabbatical. It doesn’t have to be starting now, so if it’s a year off, you’ve got a code to use then, uh, but we want to support you guys in getting the rest that you need.

[00:49:24] Stephanie: Can you share the email address they should write you at, Jeff? Because we are not going to post this in the show notes. This will be just for people who are listening. So how can they reach you?

[00:49:34] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Yes, email me at (listen to the episode to find out where!)

[00:49:45] Stephanie: Sounds good. Well, thanks so much for giving that to our missionary listeners. I’m excited to see who takes advantage of it.

[00:49:52] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Can I say two encouragements before I go?

[00:49:55] Stephanie: Please do. Yes,

[00:49:57] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: One is, you don’t have to just keep trudging when you’re exhausted. Like, that’s not the joy giving life that I think the Lord called us to, no matter how hard the work is we’re doing. Um, He wants us to live out of that place of joy and submission to Him.

And if you’re not experiencing that right now there are ways to find that stop and rest and renew so that you can come back with that joy So I just want to encourage you toward that and like just as a brother give you permission to pursue that and secondly You know, as we, we not only meet with people doing sabbatical coaching, but we’re meeting a lot more with organizations, with churches, helping them develop, you know, a sabbatical culture, sabbatical rhythms, um, and actually just create that as a, as a, as a, um, uh, a future thinking thing, not just a mission. response to crisis, you know, but actually thinking of that as leadership development. And as we do that, you know, our, our call to Sabbath and sabbatical is not just for those who are leaders, not just for a certain population that that’s for all believers. And so this is something that all of us can take hold of and And, uh, embrace in our lives and for the long haul. Um, can I finish with one Buchanan quote?

[00:51:25] Stephanie: Please. I’m always up for another Buchanan quote.

[00:51:29] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: I thought I could sell you on that. Alright,this is, this is my probably second favorite. He says, “Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures up is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying? If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off. Or three months off. Either God’s always at work, watching the city, building the house, or you need to try harder. Either God is good and in control, or it all depends on you. We mimic God in order to remember that we’re not God. In fact, that is a good definition of Sabbath and sabbatical. Imitating God so that we stop trying to be God.” There you go.

[00:52:33] Stephanie: Oh my gosh, that was so good. Okay, and for those of you, again, listening today, we’d love to hear from you with your questions or comments. So if you go to our show notes, not only will we have links to all the things we talked about today, but at the bottom there, you see a place where you can send us a text.

You can also send us an email at care at But yeah, let us know what this spring is bringing up for you. What questions you may have and we are just so thankful that you’re part of this community. We believe in you as missionaries and those who support missionaries and are just so grateful for all that you do to serve the Lord and want you to be healthy.

So you can continue to serve. Wow. So Jeff, thanks again for joining us.

[00:53:18] Jeff Simons – The Way Between: Thank you. A privilege and an honor. Thank you, Stephanie.

[00:53:21] Stephanie: It’s so good to have you. And yes, for everybody else, we look forward to seeing you on our next episode.