Why You Should Care that Your Professors take Sabbaticals

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This semester my colleague Thomas Jay Oord is on sabbatical leave from Northwest Nazarene University’s School of Theology & Christian Ministries, where he’s worked as a professor for the past dozen years.

Sabbaticals have a basis in the Judeo-Christian tradition and are prevalent in academia. In recent years, a growing number of churches have also embraced the value of pastoral sabbaticals. With that in mind, I’ve asked Tom to talk a bit about his own sabbatical. I trust it will inspire you to find this experience helpful in your own life.

- Jay Akkerman

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The idea of sabbatical rises out of Christian and Jewish understanding of Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3 “… on the seventh day [God] rested”). In my opinion, the value of sabbatical is that it allows me time to focus on things that really interest me—and to reenergize my passion for the things I believe matter most.

Thomas Jay Oord

I incorporate sabbatical into my life regularly. Sundays are my hiking days, and I usually set out with camera in hand. These adventures take me out into the wilderness, into a different environment than my daily life. The hikes allow me to spend time alone. I see the beauty of creation and try to capture that beauty through photography.

That’s the same philosophy I apply to my “official” sabbatical this semester. For me, a sabbatical doesn’t mean ceasing all activity. It means getting out of the daily rut and trying something different.

Part of my approach to sabbatical work is being open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. I often encounter such newness through conversations with people. With that in mind, I recently spent three weeks in the United Kingdom, making presentations and meeting with professors and students at universities like Oxford and Cambridge. I returned home extremely energized by my conversations there.

Now it’s time for another aspect of my sabbatical—focused, distraction-free time to work on my newest project. I’m writing a book on God’s loving providence in the midst of the world’s randomness and evil. I’ll be spending time alone in a cabin in Wyoming, surrounded by books and plenty of tea to keep me alert!

So why would anyone, especially prospective NNU students, care if some middle-aged professor like me takes a sabbatical?

Thomas Jay Oord

First, the fact that NNU offers sabbaticals should tell you this is an institution that cares about the emotional and intellectual well-being of its professors. That means students benefit from instructors who aren’t burned out and who are, instead, energized and extremely passionate about what they’re teaching. Those are the kinds of professors from whom you want to learn when you’re pursuing your Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree—especially when you’re doing so online.

Second, my colleagues and I hope your experiences online at NNU will spur you on to value significant lifelong learning, even after you earn your degree with us. I hope you will find yourself in a ministry position where you are passionately invested. And as a result of your ministry, you too can have occasional opportunities to rest and grow in new ways—even if you can’t visit Cambridge or Oxford in the process.

NNU’s fully online Graduate Theological Online Education (GTOE) programs are filled with professors like me who love to teach—and who also pursue important scholarly work. I hope you see the value in learning from people like us. If you do, please request more information.

Now I must pack my bags for my time in that Wyoming cabin. I look forward, though, to returning to NNU, rested, rejuvenated and eager to share what I’ve learned.

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