Jim Burgen, lead pastor of Flatirons Community Church in Colorado, announced a few days ago that he would be taking a six-month sabbatical. In a heartfelt video posted on YouTube, Burgen expressed sorrow for the pain he’s caused his family and church staff, love for the Flatirons community, and gratitude for the church’s elders.
“Every time we turn on the news, it’s like one more pastor fell apart,” said Burgen. “[The elders] loved me so much that before there’s a moral failure, before there’s a financial failure, before there’s all this list of things that have taken leaders out, they said, let’s get on the front end of that and let’s take you out and let you rest for six months and disconnect from Flatirons, so that I can come back.”
Stepping Away from Flatirons Community Church
Flatirons is based in Lafayette, Colorado, and is a fast-growing megachurch with multiple campuses. Burgen began his announcement by saying that in 13 years of shooting videos for the church, this was the hardest one he has ever done. He is on sabbatical because, at a recent meeting, the elders told him he was exhausted and needed some time away from the church. “I’ll be honest with you,” said Burgen. “It felt more like an intervention than a loving confrontation.”
While his first reaction was to resist what they were saying, viewing needing a break as weakness, the elders persisted. And as Burgen considered his time at Flatirons over the past couple of years, he realized his elders were right. He said that in 35 years of ministry, there had been only one year when he took all his vacation time. And even when he did take a vacation, Burgen said that if people were to talk to his wife and kids, his family would say that even during his time off, he was preoccupied with work-related tasks.
“I love Flatirons with all my heart, but it’s kind of taken a role in my life that’s…reserved for some other people.” Those people, said Burgen, are Jesus and his family. What has happened is that Burgen has made Flatirons his top priority. “I think I’m addicted to Flatirons,” he said. He also said that, as a man, he had felt like the right response to being tired was to push harder. “What I wasn’t aware of is that I was devastating people. My wife, I was withdrawing from my kids, and I was just running over people here on our staff…I’ve crushed a lot of people.”
During his sabbatical, Burgen said he plans to spend a lot of time alone with Jesus, as well as with his wife, Robin, and his kids. He also plans to spend time with mentors, coaches and teachers and to get plenty of counseling, because, he said, “I’m probably more jacked up…than I want to even admit.”
Burgen said he anticipates rumors about the “real reason” he’s stepping away from Flatirons. But there is no reason except for his failure to rest well: “This is the real story. I’m tired.” In addition to taking a break from the church, he’s also staying off social media and won’t be corresponding much. He said people are welcome to reach out to him, but if he doesn’t respond, it’s not because he doesn’t care. It’s just that he needs a break.
As he wrapped up his video, Burgen apologized through tears to those he hurt. He asked for prayer for himself and for the leaders of his church. “I promise, I’ll do all the work I need to do, and I’ll come back and I’ll be the leader that you deserve. I’m not that leader right now.”
The comments below Burgen’s video are full of encouragement and support, with people saying they are praying for him and how thankful they are for his humility and vulnerability. According to the Daily Camera, Flatirons has said that Burgen’s six months is not set in stone, but is a timeframe that will flex based on when he feels ready to return to his role.
In the video, Burgen emphasized his affection for Flatirons and that he will be back soon: “I love you. I love this church, I love Jesus, I love Robin, I love my kids and my grandkids. I love the stories I get to hear about what God is doing in this place, and that’s not over.”