No doubt about it, ministry is time consuming. Some people think we read books all day (yes, I read plenty of books- that is part of my job responsibilities). There are also plenty of meetings, during the day and in the evening and sometimes on weekends. There are phone calls, e-mails, personal counseling, working lunches…
Ministry takes time. I don’t say that to make it sound like pastors are busier that other people. I say it because some people think it isn’t. And that busyness can be a problem. Being too busy is one of The Mistakes Leaders Make.
“… it seems that most leaders are moving too fast and trying to do too much. There is precious little time set aside to think, pray, plan, and listen to the Lord.”
Ministry is more than doing. Leadership is about more than doing things. It is about setting a pace, a direction and a tone. And if you do that intentionally (thinking, praying, planning), it will just happen and when that happens the results are usually not pretty. The pace becomes too fast, there is no real direction and the tone is “don’t bother me now.” It happens in parenting, and it happens in ministry.
Our church is beginning the process of looking at our property and developing a “master plan”. That is about more than tossing up buildings. It should say something about the direction in which we are going and how we hope to get there.
Visioning can get a bad rap. I’ve seen the people railing against it. I can understand that at times. There have been numerous abuses done in the name of vision. People overstate it: “the Lord gave us this”. People can be told to leave if they don’t fully buy into it. They can cloud the issue at times, being more about our agenda than God’s agenda. The process can sound a bit more mystical than some Reformed people are comfortable with (and Kraft’s sounded a tad too mystical for me).
“Management is caring for the here and now, whereas biblical leadership is concerned with the there and coming.”
Done properly (to apply some John Frame) the Scriptures (particularly the Great Commission) supply us with the major component of vision. They are our marching orders. Yet, we also have to understand ourselves as a congregation and the context in which we are called to minister. So, there is a normative perspective, existential perspective and circumstantial perspective that give birth of vision. It is about how God want US to fulfill His plan in OUR context with our strengths and weaknesses.
“At a men’s retreat I defined spiritual leadership as ‘knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.'” John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals
Vision matters, but how you do it and what you do with it matters too.
But if you are too busy…. it isn’t going to happen. You don’t have to come up with Stalin’s 5-Year Plan every 5 years. It can be as simple as what book of the Bible to preach next in light of congregational needs. It can be as simple as recognizing the stirring of your heart about church planting and ethnic ministries. But none of this happens if you don’t slow down enough to think, pray and plan. Not just as a pastor, but as a group of leaders.
Maintaining the status quo really isn’t an option. It seems like a waste of energy on something you know is not ideal and can be better. If you don’t invest energy the law of entropy will affect a ministry. But if you are going to invest time, then invest it in a better, more faithful future. That takes time and cooperation.
So, if you are one of those pastors whose appointment app is full and you have to schedule things out weeks in advance you have to consider the possibility that you’ve fallen into the cultural trap of busyness. It may be time to step back and think about where you are and where God wants you to go.