A few weeks ago, I wrote my first article for the church newsletter in 3 months. In that article, I mentioned the importance of things changing. I said – rather provocatively – “My sabbatical will be entirely wasted if we simply return to ‘business as usual’.”
I know a lot of folks’ minds must have been racing as they considered what sort of changes I’m talking about. “Good Lord!” some must have thought to themselves. “We’ve lived through so many changes over the past five years – how much more change can we handle?!”
I can certainly understand why some might think that – for we have lived through a lot of structural and programmatic changes in the past few years.
As we ease back into our life together, I offer these words of hope. The change of which I’m speaking has less to do with WHAT we do, and more to do with HOW we do things.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
One change that I’ve made personally is that I’ve used my pastoral expense account to set up my own ministerial phone line separate from my personal line. My ministerial line is a basic service that does NOT have the ability to text or check email on line.
Why did I chose such a basic service for my ministerial phone?
I did that because I was TOO connected to the world. At so many moments in the day, my conversations with others and God were interrupted by a series of rings or dings alerting me to incoming phone calls, texts, or emails. It was practically impossible for me to be present to others and to myself. I look forward to a more streamlined (and peaceful) way of being.
Another change. I’ve recommitted myself to is to support the organizational chart of the church through my words and deeds.
Why did I do that?
Well in small, family-sized churches individuals have a tendency to come to the Pastor with a laundry list of questions or concerns they expect to be addressed. In other words, they engage in what I call “one stop shopping”. In the span of two minute conversation, an individual can (1) report that the toilet in the women’s room is backed up; (2) share that the time of the upcoming children’s program is unsatisfactory to them; and (3) volunteer to provide altar flowers for the 25th of the month. They expect me to immediately drop everything and take care of everything for them. Sadly, my codependence often compelled me to do just that.
My sabbatical has reminded me I have the choice to respond differently. When a litany of concerns are spelled out, I will carefully (and pastorally) let folks know who they need to speak to in order to have those concerns addressed. This will free me up to tend to the things I need to.
There’s really only one other change that I’m committed to as well.
I want to shift some of my energy away from direct administrative oversight and toward mentoring. Local churches for years have come to expect their pastors to step in and do everything from write staff job descriptions to spell out the process for the formation of member directories to instruct committee chairs as to what they should be doing.
It’s so easy for me to get sucked into the projected expectations of others and do these tasks for the congregation – thereby cheating others out of the opportunity to serve in the ways they have been called to serve. My goal then is to spend less time doing for others and more time mentoring others.
That’s pretty much it in terms of the changes I implied. See, it was nothing too scary 🙂
As we move toward the third day of September – a month that feels for many of us like the start of something new – I would ask you to consider a question for yourself. What changes in ways of being (or doing) do you feel called to make in your life?
See you next time!