Saturday, August 14, 2010

You're Not The Boss of Me...

(photo from
Ok, actually he is. He is the boss of me. I just don't always like to admit that I have someone to answer to, you know, being the anti-rules guy that I am. This week, he told me to do something. Actually, he told me to do nothing.

You see, I have a confession to make. I'm a workaholic. I admit it. Being a pastor is so much different from being a carpenter. I don't punch a clock. Some weeks are 30 hour weeks, and some weeks are 80 hour weeks. I don't have a regular time to clock in or clock out. I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done; maybe it's 8:00 in the morning, maybe it's 2:00 in the morning, so there is never really a sense of separation between home and work. So, instead of trying to find a separation between the two, it's just easier if I stay on all the time. At least I thought it was easier. Maybe it was out a sense of guilt, I don't know. Maybe it was the desire to feel fulfilled in ministry. Maybe it was ego, or just that the needs of my people and the community really are that great. I don't know. Something kept driving me.

Steph told me a few weeks ago that she and I haven't been on a vacation together since October of 2007. I just had too much going. I was serving two churches, finishing seminary, and trying to get our house finished on my days off. I didn't even realize that I had lost my sabbath time, but I realize it now.

At our clergy meeting this week, my boss asked us if we were taking our time off, keeping a Sabbath, and taking care of ourselves and our families. I thought I was doing alright, but I wasn't, and it didn't hit until I had commented about not taking a vacation in over 2 years (In secular America that is a badge of honor) and he looked at me and said, "And you have your vacation scheduled for when?" I didn't have one scheduled.

That was Wednesday of this week. In the couple days since, the realization has hit me that I am burned out. For the 5 years I was in seminary, 80 hour weeks happened practically every week. For 5 years I worked 2 full time jobs. The year after seminary, office work cut back to 30-50 hours a week, but my time off was spent driving nails. Now, after 6 years of running non-stop, I'm burned out. I'm tired. I need a break.

My boss isn't the only one telling me, and you, to take some time for a Sabbath. Jeremiah does it too. Well, actually, God does it through Jeremiah. God talks about keeping the Sabbath a lot, so it must be important. And it is. I've talked about it some, but I have to admit that this is one of those things I've preached...but not always practiced.

I think that my lack of Sabbath keeping goes back to a conversation I had with one of my committees at a church I used to serve. There was griping and complaining that I wasn't doing enough, so I had them list the things they expected me to do each week, and exactly how much time they expected me to spend doing it. When they got done, and I totalled it all up, they had me working 140 hours a week. Their expectations were unrealistic, and those unrealistic expectations led to a constant sense of guilt for me as their pastor, that maybe I should be doing more.

So, here is where this thing is going to land today. Do you want a better pastor? I'm going to tell you how to get a better pastor than the one you have now. It's easy, really. Here goes: Make her/him take some time off. Keep your expectations realistic. Recognize that ministry is not a 9 to 5 gig and that if your pastor doesn't answer your phone call or email immediately, it might be because she was at the hospital with a parishioner all night. Encourage him or her to take a weekly Sabbath, and give her permission to do so. Set up time in the worship calendar for your pastor to be away with their family, create a space for your pastor to get away for his or her own spiritual formation. Be realistic in your expectations. Set up a little cash in his or her continuing education fund so that he or she can actually spend some time working on real weaknesses. Did I mention keep your expectations realistic?

Now, this will work if your pastor is a workaholic and not just lazy, which there is some of that too. I have learned this week, and I knew it all along really, that I CANNOT take care of my flock unless I'm taking care of myself first. Neither can your pastor, so it will actually be advantageous to you, to your church, and to the community if you help make sure your pastor is taking some time for Sabbath rest.

Here's a link to an article that was emailed to me yesterday.


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