Friday, June 6, 2014

Meetings and the Joys of Being a Pastor

The annals of ministry brim with stories of pastoral burnout. Despite these stories, it's not unusual for pastors to wear their 50-60 hour work weeks like badges of honor. A mentor of mine steered me away from thinking in terms of hours, but percentages. He would tell his congregational leaders, as long as I enjoy my work 75 percent of the time, I'll stay as your pastor. This wisdom is stored in my mental files.

There are annoyances about being a pastor. Occasionally, these annoyances suck me in, especially when I'm tired. But I keep looking to that 75 percent benchmark, and I realize that I have it good. As my 15th anniversary of ordination comes in a few months, I think back to the times I didn't enjoy my work 75 percent of the time. Pastoral ministry takes a reasonable amount of time. I might be able to do this until 100, with that number 75 easily reached.

However, meetings are the killers. Meetings that are poorly run. Meetings that lack focus. Meetings for committees that don't have a useful function. Meetings for committees that need to die, but won't. Meetings are the time suck that push pastoral ministry into 50-60 hours.

I actually relish the 50-60 hour week on occasion. Extra effort to build community, an event to connect with neighbors, additional work to bring beauty to light, more time invested to listen to someone who is hurting--God is in those moments.

God can be in meetings. But more meetings don't mean more God or more ministry. If as much passion was invested in tight meetings as is invested in church budgets, maybe the volumes of pastoral burnout stories will come less frequently, and with thinner spines.

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