Friday, April 8, 2016

The disorganized pastor

My book The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor's Guide came from my Doctor of Ministry thesis. My project was to coach several bivocational pastors and write on the results of that experience. There are ten case studies included in the book which are representational of many of the challenges bivocational ministers experience. They are also not uncommon for fully-funded pastors either. One of the chapters discusses the coaching relationship I had with the person I called the disorganized pastor.

In a coaching relationship the person being coached sets the agenda for the discussion. This pastor struggled to identify one issue to discuss in our first session but finally decided to focus on time management. The pastor admitted that feeling overwhelmed by all the demands of ministry, a second job, and family responsibilities was common.

It turned out this was a good choice for this pastor because this pastor was one of the most disorganized persons I've met. After missing two appointments for our second session I had to confront an obvious lack of commitment to the coaching process. The pastor insisted that it wasn't a lack of commitment but that so many responsibilities often led to missed appointments. I explained this demonstrated just how out of control her life had become.

It was nearly impossible to keep this pastor focused on completing anything. Like many, this pastor had become used to living in chaos. She was used to living on adrenaline which can become addictive. The problem with living like this is that one day the adrenaline is used up and will be replaced by depression and or other health issues.

This happened to me in the mid-1980s when I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I had been going for several years with little sleep and trying to juggle too many responsibilities. Eventually, my system shut down. The adrenaline ran out. I had nothing left to give. It took a year of medication and counseling to recover.

No one can do it all. Some bivocational ministers try to, but they often end up like this pastor I coached. They end up with disorganized lives that are frustrating to them, to their churches, and most of all, to their families.

Like many, this pastor needed to learn to delegate and to focus on doing those things in which she was most gifted. She needed to set priorities for her life and ministry and learn to say no to those things that were outside of those priorities. These were some of the important lessons I learned from my own experience, and they are some of the things I've tried to teach other bivocational pastors through the years.

In the book we go into this coaching relationship deeper than we can in this post, plus we also look at nine other pastors and their challenges. Chances are you might find some solutions for some of the issues you are facing. You may also decide that you are ready for a ministry coach. If so, contact me, and I'll be glad to talk with you about what that might look like.

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