Start Living and Stop Wasting Time
I think it’s time for all of us to start living. It doesn’t matter if you’re a ministry veteran or someone brand new to it. It doesn’t even matter if you are someone that’s paid to be in ministry. All of us need to stop wasting time and start living.
If you are involved in ministry for any length of time, you will hear all sorts of one-liners that validate workaholism. Perhaps you’ve even used one or two of them yourself.
Don’t believe me?
Here are a few examples:
1. That’s ministry.
I can’t stand this one. It’s a catch-all phrase that indicates you must work odd—and many—hours, accept unfounded criticism, bear the weight of your calling alone, give from your vital resources to everyone at all times, and, oh, anything else that might come up.
And here’s the rub: you have to still manage to keep it all together.
2. Ministry happens in the interruptions.
Embedded in this statement is a lot of guilt. it is the belief that true ministry only happens when we are disrupted from completing tasks. As such, we must drop everything to help anyone at any time. If not, we are an inferior version of what a pastor or ministry leader should be.
To be clear, ministry activity isn’t confined to the interruptions. If it were, then we’d have to constantly look for the interruptions. (Which is, oddly, counterproductive if you stop and think about it. The interruptions would be constant and ministry still wouldn’t happen because of the ensuing anxiety created by attempting to find interruptions to minister within. Make sense? I’m dizzy just thinking about it.)
Ministry happens all the time. Some of it is done in solitude. Some of it is done in the presence of others. Some of it is task-driven. Some of it is relationally-driven. Some ministry occurs over a long period of time. Other ministry takes 5-seconds of your time.
3. Everyone else works during the day, so the only time that works for me to meet with people is at night.
Again, a straightforward statement that sets us up for working all hours to please all people.
It’s a trap that keeps you away from home and in various boardrooms. It’s unhelpful but sounds altruistic. And, yes, there are times where you need to work odd hours; but, that’s just about every vocation. It’s when it becomes a habit that there’s a problem.
Quite often, sentiments such as the preceding three can make bad habits that are tough to break.
What We Really Mean.
The truth behind these statements is all the same. It reads something like this:
“I feel guilty for taking care of myself and I’m ashamed that I can’t feel better. I’m supposed to help others. So, instead of feeling those things, I’m going to say ‘holy words’ to make everyone feel better about my situation; myself included.”
Each of these statements is a mask. It’s a facade. It’s a way of coping with the reality that seems to press in around us.
We validate poor behaviour all in the name of sacrificial ministry. Why? We say these things because it sounds better than saying that ministry is hard, can use up vital resources and, often, it can seem unrewarding.
Ultimately, if we carry on like this for any length of time, the result can be to burnout. (I’ve written at great length on burnout and its root causes here. I also talk about a few things that you can do to help reverse the effects of burnout by addressing its causes rather than its symptoms.)
But no one really wants that, do they?
Truthfully, I don’t think anyone wants to perpetuate behaviour that can lead to burnout. But when it’s all around you, it seems like the only option.
It’s why I believe that time spent at home is better than time wasted in a boardroom.
I use the home and boardroom imagery purposefully. Home is my happy place. The boardrooms I’ve been a part of can feel like a drain. Why? They feel this way because there is a lot of time wasted talking about insignificant things that really don’t matter. After hours of beating the same ideas around, no decision has been made and we table the discussion for next week. I’d rather spend time at home than waste it in a boardroom.
Your happy places and draining places could be anywhere, though. It could be the golf course (i.e., happy place) and the study (i.e., the drain). Have you ever been writing a message for the coming Sunday and it’s going nowhere, but it’s the middle of summer and the golf course would be nice and quiet on a Wednesday afternoon, yet you sit for hours and write two pages that you’re going to delete anyway?
I haven’t done that. Just thinking out loud…
Think about it. How many of us would rather spend our evenings at home, doing the things that energize us, than in the boardroom, doing things that drain us?
Personally, I would.
My Happy Place(s).
I’m married and love my wife dearly. I find great peace with her. There’s also an immense, restorative power to being with her. My soul feels refreshed.
And that’s a good thing.
In fact, it’s a great thing. Not only is it a great thing for me, but it’s also a great thing for the people I come into contact with every day.
2. The Golf Course.
I’m married, but I also play golf. (I have a great wife.) Golf courses are happy places for me. I even go alone just to walk a well-manicured piece of God’s good earth and whack a ball around.
It sounds silly, but I love it.
I also feel peaceful, no matter how I’m playing. I feel refreshed for having been alone for a while. I feel loved by God (and my wife) for the blessing of playing.
3. In the Kitchen.
Okay, another one that may sound odd; but, I love it. The kitchen is one of my happy places. The colour, the texture, the variety, the scent, the taste. To have my hands preparing the bounty of God’s good earth is a beautiful thing.
It takes time. It takes focus. It takes intention.
As the preparation goes on, the scent of one of the beautiful dish comes together. When it’s complete, I’m reminded that God is good.
When I feel at peace, I can bring peace.
When I feel refreshed, I can bring freshness.
When I feel loved, I can bring love.
When my mind is sharp, I can bring solutions to problems.
When my heart is light, I can bring kindness to distress.
When my soul is whole, I can bring harmony to others.
I think, deep down, it’s what all of us really wanted to do when we answered our call to ministry. We felt the goodness of God and wanted to share that with others.
But somewhere along the way, the boardroom became our focus and we forgot about home.
We started wasting time and covering it up by using holy language.
I need you to do something for me. I need you to grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it to create two columns. At the top of one column write the heading “Home” and at the top of the other column write “Boardroom”. It should look something like this.
And now, you’ve got it, write down all the places and activities you consider home in the one column. Once you’ve finished that, write down all the places and activities you consider the boardroom in the other column.
Take a look at any disparities you might see. Is one column longer than the other? Is there one activity, in particular, that is very “boardroom” for you? Is there a place that is “home” for you? Ask yourself this: where do I spend more time? Do I waste it in the boardroom to the detriment of being at home?
There’s one last thing I need you to do. Liberate yourself to spend more time at home rather than the boardroom.
Everyone will thank you for it. Yourself included.