Thursday, December 13, 2007

Workaholics and Ministry Part 2

Well, first off, let me thank Len for directing some friends this way to comment, so, thanks Len! And to those who commented, thank you as well.

My original question had very little to do with the church that used the quoted words in their job posting. After all, if it had been about them, I would have named the church. As one anonymous commenter pointed out, there are many things we don't know about with regard to those expected 55 hours and we might feel differently knowing the full story. Still, I think those expectations, taken at face value, are expectations that many churches have of their pastors and (maybe more so) that many pastors have of themselves. Since I had recently seen that posting, it simply served as a good illustration of my concern about expectations.

These expectations are not foreign too me either. As I mentioned, it is easy to feel proud of a 55- 60 hour work week. You may even get lots of pats on the back for it, and pats on the back always feel nice. I recall being complimented once for my "dedication" but the truth was I had let things get away from me at that time and was not putting first things first. (In fairness to my church, I have never felt like my congregation or its leaders expect me to work excessively. This is more of a personal issue. Rather, my church has always encouraged me to care for my family first and my pastor pushed me hard to make sure I established good boundaries for myself and that I observe a regular sabbath.)

Jeff and The Thief raised good points about priorities, boundaries, and Sabbath. Boundaries can be hard because we can fall into the trap of thinking that if we establish boundaries we are somehow failing to serve with all of our heart or something like that. The truth is that God calls us to rest (thus the need for boundaries) because we need it. Failure to rest and have these boundaries is a failure to love and serve with all of our hearts because we are setting ourselves up for burnout and no real ability to serve. Setting boundaries can also feel selfish, but "loving your neighbor as yourself" requires that you do love yourself. (I think I got that from Bell...not sure.) I'm not advocating for selfishness at all, but I am saying that we do need to care for our own souls in order to care for others.

Eugene Peterson's book Working the Angles, was very helpful to me with regard to Sabbath. I went looking for my copy of it, but it must be at my office, otherwise, I'd throw a quote or two your way. If you've not read it, check it out.

I'll reiterate what I said about working too much being a theological issue/ sin. It is pride, a false belief that we are indispensable, and a failure to recognize that it is God who works (through us, sure, but it is His work.) I went to one Promise Keeper's event and I only remember one thing from it and it was this: "There are only three things you can do that no one else in the world can do: Only you can have your relationship with God, only you can be the husband of your wife, and only you can be the father of your kids." For everything else I do, no matter how good I am at it, someone else could do it too.

Finally, I was very interested in Julie's comment. I've been in youth ministry for 11 years, all at the same church, Julie mentions she's been around for 12, also at the same church. Julie works beyond what she is paid, but does so, "because it's my church and I have a vision of where I'm going and it takes me more time than 30 hrs. The difference is that I generate my hours, not that the church requires it."

Each situation is unique and knowing nothing about Julie's situation other than what she shared, this seems good and healthy. She volunteers time to her church (as I do, and as we should, I believe.) The church seems to have reasonable expectations for her. Like all of us, though, Julie needs to remember that there will always be more work to be done or more that she could do. My prayer for Julie, for my fellow youth workers, and for myself, is that we will work hard, be diligent, faithful, and that we will do so in a way that keeps first things first in every sense.

(And just to be clear, I was using Julie's comment as a jumping off point. As I reread that it could come across as a warning or that Julie's comment raised a red flag for me. That's not the case. Rather, I'm wanting to acknowledge that we all need to be diligent as even a healthy situation can turn unhealthy if we aren't careful. So, Julie, rock on!)


Blogger The Thief said...

And it's awesome that there are churches like Julie's where she can faithfully volunteer (but where she's not forced to).

1:57 PM  

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