My Sabbatical Experience with CREST

By Rev. Dallas Bidell

I came into CREST struggling with boredom and a lack of inspiration for the future of my ministry.  Wow has that changed!

After serving seven years in my current church the board generously offered me a sabbatical break.  I looked at a number of different models but wasn’t sure which direction would suite me best.  Then I came across the CREST Dallas Bidellsabbatical program.  This seemed to fit me best for a few reasons.  First of all I love to learn but need time to digest material if I am going to get maximum benefit from it.  I really like to test drive ideas as I learn.  Breaking the learning up into eight modules over two years seemed to really lend itself well to my learning style.  I also felt I really needed some rest and time to gain perspective on my current stage of ministry and life.  Taking 10 days each time I had a CREST encounter would facilitate this but it also didn’t leave the church without their lead pastor for an extended time period.  This was important to the church board as we were just entering a building program and both they and I felt I should have input into that process.  It also made it easier to find pulpit supply because I was only away two Sundays in a row at any given time.  Another very helpful part of this process was the established schedule CREST already had in place for the encounters.  There were times when I was so busy leading up to a 10 day sabbatical break that I really didn’t think there was any way I could leave; but because I was part of a scheduled process and I really didn’t want to fall behind, I would simply take the time off and go.  By the time I would get back I would feel so completely refreshed I was so glad that I had gone.  Through this I came to realize that sometimes when I think I can least ‘afford’ to take a break for rest and reconnecting with God, is the exact time I need to do it more than ever.

During the course of the CREST program I have come to understand myself so much better.  I have gone through a number of seminars, spiritual direction, counselling and other exercises for personal growth over the years and found them all helpful in various ways.  The CREST program however has been like pulling back an opaque veil that has kept me from seeing things clearly all these years.  The coaching calls in between encounters, combined with the assignments and the time for reflection, have combined to increase my level of insight dramatically.  Today I feel like I am at a whole new level of self awareness which enables me to both embrace and reject opportunities with a greater confidence than I have ever known.  I now know that I need to let others thrive on tasks that really drain me but I always thought I ‘should’ do.  I also understand that my greatest contribution to God’s kingdom will probably be in areas I really enjoy and I do well. This has not only affected my ministry, it has spilled over into every area of my life.

I now have a new excitement for ministry and a vision for the future that I haven’t had for years.  I feel like I am looking forward to what’s around the corner again like I did when I was young.  I also feel like I have a much clearer picture of what God created me to do and even some ideas of how He may want me to do that.  I have started dreaming again.

CREST gave me a number of very solid practical leadership tools to help me do my job better as well. From time management tools, to techniques for leading meetings, to effective coaching skills and powerful communication resources, CREST covered a wonderful plethora of carefully chosen principles. The nice thing with this sabbatical pace is that I was able to implement many of them into my ministry routine at a manageable pace.  I felt like I was growing as a leader with the opportunity to do a hands-on ‘ internship’ as I went along.  Other leaders in the church could tell that they were really getting value for the investment the church was making in me as well.

After 20 years in ministry I finally feel ready to start being a pastor for real.  Before I started I went to Bible College and learned theology and how to interpret the Bible; both very important things for pastors.  As I got into the ministry it started becoming gradually more evident that there was a whole lot more to this calling than just those two critical elements.  There was this thing called leadership that was expected of me.  Our culture is expecting more leadership from many positions within our society.  CREST provided me with a very good foundation in this vital area.  I now feel, finally, that I have tools to start learning how to really do my job.

I would highly recommend a CREST sabbatical to anyone who really has a desire to grow and rest in a healthy rhythm and in the process discover their fuller potential for the second half of their life leadership journey.

Rev. Dallas Bidell, Lead Pastor

Family Worship Centre

Whitecourt, Alberta