I think Walter Brueggemann is right on the money. Give this a listen:
This is something I’ve always wondered about. Some pastors seem to be the busiest people on earth. But, I’ve always wondered… does it have to be that way? Because quite frankly, I don’t want to be a busy pastor. I want a simple church with a light calendar. I want to live life with margins. I want time for family, friendships, and rest. Living under constant demand may work for some ministers, but I really don’t want to be that kind of guy. I don’t think I have the composition for it. And honestly, I don’t think many people do. So, I think, as a result, many pastors either burn out or somehow manage a dangerously thin existence. This is one of the things that has led me to the conviction that Less Is More! To relinquish some quantity for more quality, in my opinion, is a worthy endeavor. But, that’s difficult these days. Pastors are expected to be a little bit of everything. Prayer and the study of the Bible is far from sufficient anymore. Buildings need to be maintained. Conflicts need to be resolved. Board meetings need to be run. Pastors wear every hat in the house. And the house looks more like a corporation than it does a church. Pastors are required to be visionaries, social workers, organizational experts, budget managers, and therapists. Actually I heard somewhere recently that counseling is the last facet of being a pastor that is culturally accepted anymore. Somehow the church has allowed culture to dictate what the pastorate should look like. And culture’s opinion is constantly changing. But, like Brueggemann said, each pastor must decide what the main tasks are going to be and stick to them. And this will require enormous self discipline not to be drawn away to do other things.
Paul Borden makes a jarring assertion when he says:
“An over worked pastor is a faithless pastor.”
Wow. That’s almost counter-intuitive. Aren’t we trying to be faithful by working ourselves to the bone? Yes, I think that’s the intention. But if you think about it Borden is right. Being spread too thin is not helping anybody out. Unfortunately, I think our competitive cultures feed the wrong thing in us. We think (subconsciously, even) that being busy makes us important people. We feel needed, so we empty our soul into work. It’s not so bad, cause at least we have identity and our culture recognizes us as significant. So how do we stem the tide against a culture that sometimes encourages the worst in us, and seek, as Borden suggests, true faithfulness? Here’s a list of things I believe can help the likes of a busy pastor:
- Know who you are. Don’t be a slave of everyone’s opinion.
- Depend on those around you. You’re not a one man show.
- Be committed to a short list of values. You can’t do everything well.
- Accept your limitations. Relationally, emotionally, and physically.
- Play for an audience of one. Don’t try to be a celebrity.
- Refuse to believe that rest is selfish. Take naps and enjoy sleep.
- Know that if God does not build the house we labor in vain. It’s His church anyhow.
- Tone it down. Your work isn’t that important.
- Lighten up. Enjoy some of your hobbies.
- Call a good friend. Conversation is good for the soul.
- Don’t be impatient. Good things take time.