This is a post about my reentry into my work world.
Because I was away - and really away - for a full week, busy with wedding prep, I came back to work this week with a very different perspective. The truth is, any time I've taken a vacation or study break, I have never fully stepped away from work. Technology makes it easy, but the blame rests fully on me.
I'm not alone. This morning, I received a text from a certain pastor who shall remain nameless, stating that he was rethinking the fall series and could he make some changes. I replied aren't you supposed to be on vacation? and the response I got was yes but I am going to the gym every morning and thinking about church and I am excited to come back and that's a good thing!
No pot calling kettle black here; I do the same thing. I rarely completely walk away.
But last week, I did. I can't say that I rested, although Sunday was a blessedly quiet day (I confess that I didn't even attend church; I tended instead to family from out of town and enjoyed the breakfast buffet at County Seat Restaurant, which I have never before done on a Sunday morning).
We worked our tails off for the wedding and stayed busy. But I didn't work my job. I did glance at email occasionally, but only to cull out the junk (without even looking) so to avoid the 300 emails in the inbox on Monday morning. I wasn't productive. I didn't add value to anything happening in the workplace throughout the week.
But now I'm back in the groove, and recognizing that maybe I should do things a bit differently. Because here's what I am noticing:
I work all the time.
I work all the time, though maybe you wouldn't always know it. When I spend the morning at home, I answer email in between cleaning the kitchen. While I put tablecloths in the washer, I think of the upcoming service. I am praying for people, thinking of the best way to support a friend whose husband is struggling with cancer. I am supporting a friend from a ministry platform by crafting an official letter of reference.
I went to the gym this morning, which I hardly every do anymore. I need to stay healthy, I have to get healthy, but it's so hard to justify an hour away from all the things I have to do. So I go with earbuds in and I listen to other church's services and scroll through new music looking for things that will work in a service. I talk to folks at the gym from church and I smile at everybody because I never know if they might be attending one of our campuses and maybe they know me. I lift weights and make notes on my phone about songs and series ideas in between sets.
I spend time at the office and then I teach some piano lessons and I do small group and I come home and text encouraging words to the first-timer at group tonight. I review a few emails. I check Facebook and keep an eye of what's going on with folks in the community. I make a note to pray specifically for a few folks who will need it tomorrow. I might grab a novel to read a bit before bed, but I feel like I really should be reading a book on leadership...
See, I work at a big ol' successful church. Close to 1,500 people come through our doors on a weekend. I'm in leadership and we are charged with creating unique and relevant services each week. We lead and encourage and manage and support an amazing staff of people who need our full engagement. Church work is demanding and challenging and deserving of our best effort.
Every seven days.
Plus there's the admin work and rearranging offices and making sure the doors are locked at night and trying to never miss an opportunity to offer an encouraging word; weekly reports and yearly evaluations. Hospital visits.
I'm a pastor. I'm a church leader. I'm always on, and I'm always attuned to what I need to do. The phone stays on and the computer stays close at hand and I'm available. And I'm always thinking; my mind is almost always on something related to ministry.
Then, tonight, while reading (stuff for church, of course; a blog that inspires and encourages and challenges me to stay fresh and think ahead about strategy), this Eugene Peterson quote struck me. Here I sat, Miss I'm-So-Busy Successful Church Leader, and these words slapped me in the face:
The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches.
There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world.
The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them.
In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades. - Eugene Peterson
It stung, but just for a second. Then it was a breath of get over yourself, girl and a reminder that there was a reason I was relaxed and happy and focused - although busy - last week.
I had a life.
I do have a life, and it's more than just thinking about church stuff 24/7. It's up to me to craft the boundaries, to decide on the richness of the moments. Nobody else is going to do this for me.
I know this. Why is it so hard to remember?
I love my job. I love my church. I am just one of several "sinners called pastor" at PCC, and I know - and love - the fact that my primary, designated responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God.
Which doesn't always look like being busy or tied to technology 24 hours a day.
This was the reminder I needed. I want to do things differently.