Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Year Off

I overheard a weird phrase today. It was referencing a regular attender here who let it be known that he/she needed "a year off of church." A year off church? What does that mean? I think I could see taking a year off cable-tv, or a year off red meat. I could see taking a year off of something that was optional, luxurious, fattening, health-impairing, or non-essential. But could you imagine changing the noun and say: I'm taking a year off of my marriage, eating, being a parent, or bathing?" I don't think so. It tells me, sadly, that church is an excess obligation, burden and drain on this person, not a life-sustaining community, not a hard-wired need for corporate worship. I hope his/her journey reveals how spiritually hungry he/she becomes.


At 7:20 PM , Anonymous Erika Haub said...


I have had a number of friends (active, engaged, faithful people), do a variation of this where they take "a year off" from active engagement in the life of the church family. They step down from all leadership and service and basically intend to just show up to things if and when they feel like it.

One set of friends did this the year after they were married, citing the OT reference to how men should not go off to war during their first year of marriage.

Anyway, I have always found it a very strange resolution to make, and have also felt like there has almost always been a deeper issue at hand which, in my opinion, is exactly the kind of thing one's church family should deal with WITH you.

In my current ministry context, where life and service in our body really can feel very hard, especially for those who have lived here and labored long-term, it has also happened three times. In each, the young women felt like the church had burned them out, and they just needed to get away. I also think some of them were in counseling and had their counselors recommend it.

Maybe, too, it is just something about my generation...

At 8:09 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Erika; I'm not sure what I'm referring to is generational or not. I think it's "in the air" of our culture that we are entitled to check out of things. There are, of course, times when our environment gets toxic or spiritually unhealthy and it's time to leave. But I think scripture is pretty clear that we need to be regularly connected with the body of Christ, whether that's in a traditional church setting or house church/home group. We need others.

At 5:33 AM , Blogger kent said...


How about year off from work? That would go over well. I know some students have taken a year off from bathing.

Did the year off mean a year off from being a part of the leadership, or does it mean a year off from worship, discipleship, or serving the kingdom? How about letting God take year off from watching over them or listening to them?

Oh was this person getting married again so he needed a year off from the war that wages in your midst???? (Ala Erika's comment)

Do they take a year off from their other obligations and commitments? Or is there something about they way they have engaged in the church that causes this need? It is hard to balance letting people be responsible for their own actions and preventing them from acting against their own health and the health of the church.

At 1:20 PM , Blogger Liz said...

I am not the person who said they needed a year off, but I think I understand what they might be talking about. I have taken 'time off' from church in the past. However, it was time off from being in leadership and from volunteering for everything because no one else would volunteer. I had spent too many Sundays at church doing everything but worshiping God and engaging in my community. I was too busy making sure that there were snacks for people and ushers and other such things. I had to step back from that and just be a part of the community. I had to be able to show up on a Sunday and only be worried about what God was saying that day. I actually became more engaged by taking that time off. I just wasn't engaged in the community in an 'official' way.
I'm not sure that this is a generational issue as much as it is an issue of people over-committing themselves or of churches who depend on one or two people to get things done instead of involving a larger number of people so that no one gets warn out but that we all share equally in the work as well as the joy.
And, unfortunately, sometimes it really is just that people have too much on their plate and they feel like church is the easiest thing to get rid of.

At 6:45 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Liz (and I know many Liz's) your comments are very appropriate. And I'll note that you did not absent yourself from the community, but stepped back from leadership FOR the community and for God. The person I heard about was stepping out of the worshiping community alltogether for a year (or so is the plan).


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