Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Monday

Well, technically Monday is my day off. Clergy really need to designate a day as their day off and do their own thing on that day every week--no checking the voice mail at church, no sermon research, no appointments, nothing but household chores, resting, maybe some reading. That's it. In theory, anyway... The truth is, at least for me, that it gets very difficult to keep to that. I need to have the order of worship to the person who lays it out, prints it, and copies it on Tuesday--which means I really want to put it together on Monday. So then I think I'll take Thursday off--I have office hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays--except that by Thursday I need to spend some time on the sermon, and Friday I have to finish it up and do things for the service on Sunday--and Saturday there's often a wedding, or membership class, or meeting, or other event. So when do I take the day off? The truth is, like many pastors, I don't. The fact that I'm part-time doesn't make it any easier. It just means that church tasks and my personal life run together. After all, in an hour spent at the computer, I can send email to friends and family as well as email my Board or church musician; I can search the Internet for sermon prep information and research as well as check the news; and then how can I say whether I've spent the hour on work or personal business? Half and half? Perhaps.

It's a perennial problem for pastors, and always has been, even before the Internet. Take a church social event--is that the pastor's personal time or should that count towards work time? After all, he or she is there as the pastor--but it is also a social event, with a meal involved, and social time with folks who may be their friends as well as parishioners. Especially in the days when the pastor lived next door to the church and the neighbors were the members, the pastor's social life blended with work life.

This is more than an accounting exercise. Pastors live in a fishbowl; the church members expect them to be available at any time for counseling, hospital visits, and so on. At the same time, they expect them to have healthy marriages and children who do well in school. I once read a clever article about members' expectations of pastors, written in the 1970's I think. It started something like, "A pastor is expected to always be in the office when a member drops by. A pastor should spend plenty of time with his wife and family. A pastor is always available to visit someone in the hospital. The pastor's sermons are well-researched and delivered, fresh and new. The sermon always has the wisdom of the ages." In other words, the pastor is expected to be all things to all people.

So my question is, how do you keep any kind of a balance? It's relatively easy when you do all your work at a set time in an office or factory--but clergy are like writers and small-business owners in that they set their own hours and thus there are no definite times. It takes discipline, but even that isn't enough when a pastor gets a phone call from a member--he or she isn't going to put them off, unless it's three in the morning. So there isn't a time a pastor isn't "on duty." I'm slowly coming to terms with that and working out ways to be sure I have downtime and rest--the alternative is burnout.

My other issue (yes, it's all about me today) is balancing all the different facets of pastoring. There's worship (creating services, working with the music ministry and worship leaders, writing the sermons), leadership and administration (planning, budget and finance, public relations), education (Sunday school and bible study, membership class, special events for Lent and Advent), spiritual direction (counseling, prayer groups), and congregational care (visitation and calls, letters and cards), not to mention special needs such as weddings and funerals. I start focusing on one area and think I have a handle on it, and then I realize another area needs attention and I look into it--and then a third area needs work, but by that time the first one needs my attention again. Juggling... Again, I'm starting to get the hang of it, but it's been tough.

So how have I been spending this Monday? Well, I took some me time and read some Dickens this morning, then did some research for the sermon, worked on the order of worship, emailed with a couple of friends and read the news, and did some planning for the week. For the rest of the day, I plan to go to the library (me time), get some professional reading done, and work on the order of worship. Tonight I'll take off and watch TV or a movie.

It's not the best balancing I've ever done, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.

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