Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When your days are shorter than your "to-do" list

Just about everybody complains about being too busy today.  There are so many things demanding our attention that it seems like we are constantly running and going nowhere.  This is often true for bivocational ministers who are trying to balance the demands of a job, a ministry, a family, and if there is any time left over they would like to spend a little time with God.  Of course, without that time with God we will eventually find ourselves drying up on the inside until we have nothing to give to our families, our job, and our ministries.  Oh yea, I haven't even mentioned having any "me" time so we can do some things that we enjoy doing for ourselves.  How do we cope when our days are consistently shorter than our "to-do" lists?

I've addressed this in my book The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry.  There are things we can do to intentionally address the various demands on our lives and live a healthier and more fulfilling life.  Since coming back from a two-week vacation this past weekend I've had people ask how I could take off for two weeks.  I just smiled and told them to read the book!

Jon Acuff, in his excellent book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters, shares a five-step secret to getting it all done.  This is great advice for persons who are overwhelmed by all the things they need to accomplish.

  1. Admit that you can't possibly get it all done.
  2. Give yourself the grace to accept that as reality, not failure.
  3. Do the things you can do with your full attention.
  4. Celebrate what happens during Step 3 instead of obsessing over the things you didn't get to.
  5. Repeat as necessary.
This is great advice from a great book.  I recently finished re-reading this book and will read it again next year.  I frequently recommend it to young people starting out in life and to those of us who are a little more seasoned but sometimes feel stuck or trapped.  I think it is a must read for persons serving in bivocational ministries.

Often, those in bivocational ministry struggle with doubts about their calling.  They hear the people who question their commitment and/or abilities.  They look at their (usually) smaller congregations and wonder if their service is really making a difference.  Then there is the fear.  They fear they are short-changing their families.  They fear the stress that often comes from ministry will damage their health.  They fear that their critics may be right: maybe they do lack commitment and/or abilities. The list goes on.

Actually, instead of beginning the above sentences with "they" I should have used the word "we."  I've been in bivocational ministry since 1981, and I've experienced each of these doubts and fears on more than one occasion.  But, I've also learned a few things along the way.  I've learned that God does call persons to serve in bivocational roles, and that calling is just as valid as the call to fully-funded ministry.  I've learned that my ministry does make a difference to the persons I serve and to the Kingdom of God.  I've also learned that I don't have to check everything off my "to-do" list to be an effective minister and pleasing to God.  I can't do it all, and that's OK.  I can live a balanced life, and that's even better.

Acuff affirms all these learnings and blesses me with even more insights about how to overcome a life that can quickly become overwhelming and out of balance.  It is a book I wish was available when I was a much younger minister.  It may have saved me a few sleepless nights.

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