Tag: time management

Where Have I Been?

Okay, you may be wondering, “Where has Chuck been for the past 5 months?” If you weren’t, stop reading now, but if you’re curious, here goes:

In addition to pastoring, in July, 2012 I began serving as the interim chaplain at Hargrave Military Academy here in Chatham. Very quickly I realized that this involved a lot more time, energy, and effort than I had thought when I accepted. Then, to further compound the time/preparation crunch, I began teaching 3 sections of Bible during the fall semester. Wow, does teaching take a lot of time or what? I now have new respect for anyone who teaches anything. Teaching in an academic setting is much more demanding, relentless, and time-consuming than leading workshops or seminars.

Add to pastoring, teaching, planning and conducting 2-3 chapel services each week my on-going DMin dissertation writing, and you get some idea of where I’ve been. Busy. Very, very busy.

Actually, none of that has changed — yet. But I do see light at the end of the tunnel. And, yes, I did this to myself by taking on too many projects at the same time. But, something had to go, so blogging was the first thing to get cut.

All of that to say, I’m trying to get my schedule and commitments to a more manageable level. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m slowly unwinding, disengaging, and completing the things I too hastily agreed to do. By mid-January, I should be back to the normal busyness of a pastor’s schedule, I hope.

As Mark Twain once said, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated”…or something like that.  And as The Terminator said, “I’ll be back.” Sooner than later, I hope.

Grace and peace to you all.

5 Lessons I Did Not Learn in Seminary

Browsing in a Barnes & Nobles today, I saw a book titled, Lies My Teacher Told Me.  Apparently the author takes issue with some historical stuff he thinks is misrepresented in public education.  The title of that book got me to thinking about my seminary experience.  While I would not accuse my professors of lying to me,  I did learn that there are some lessons seminary never teaches you.  

  1. Ministry can be lonely.   Nobody prepared me for the isolation of single staff ministry.   Seminary campus life provides a rich mix of faculty, students, and organizations in a collegial atmosphere.  But when I left seminary to take my first church, there were long afternoons when I wished I was on the campus again.  
  2. You can’t please everybody.  I guess I knew you couldn’t please everybody, but I thought good pastors tried to.  Or at least tried to get along with everybody.  I quickly ran into agendas about church, community, and family that I never anticipated.  We made lots of friends in those early churches, but we realized we couldn’t please everybody.
  3. Not everyone sees your vision.  I had lots of ideas for my first full-time church, and we put a lot of them into practice.  But not everyone thought new people were a blessing to our church.  Not everyone thought we ought to spend money to improve our Sunday School. Not everyone was thrilled when we set new records on high attendance Sunday.  Not everybody got it, but enough did that we made significant progress.
  4. There are not enough hours in a day.  Or days in a week.  Or weeks in a month.  As a new pastor, I tried to do it all.  I made pastoral promises for my time and attention that stretched me too thin.  Some days I resented the intrusion into what I thought was my “personal” life.  It took a long time to find a rhythm of public ministry and private life that was both challenging and encouraging.  
  5. You have to manage yourself.  Managing time is one thing, but managing your emotional response at times of great disappointment or opposition provides a real challenge.  I don’t think I ever heard a professor talk about “self-management” in difficult moments.  I learned some of those lessons the hard way.  Fortunately, churches are forgiving of a young pastor’s missteps.  However, those lessons need to be learned early, as later pastorates might not be so generous.  

Well, there you are.  Five things I never learned in seminary.  I’m sure there are more.  What are some of your post-seminary lessons?

Priority drift and how to fix it

“Priority drift.” I made that phrase up to describe the state I found myself in a couple of weeks ago.  Simply put:  my priorities had drifted.  I found myself spread too thin, doing too many good things, and not doing the things I felt called — even compelled — to do.

What did I do?  I resigned from two boards of non-profits which I dearly liked serving on.  Both hold regular monthly board meetings, both expect help with fundraising, both have missions I support, but both were taking time and energy from my church and my life.   In two emails that took about 2-minutes each to compose, I resigned with regret from each.

Here are some other decisions I made previously to keep me free to do the things I want to do:

  1. I don’t watch TV. I got that idea from David Wilkerson (The Cross and The Switchblade) over 20 years ago.  Just last year I got the “courage” to buck culture, disconnect from cable, and quit watching TV.  I have since discovered that one of my favorite bloggers, Seth Godin,  does not watch TV.  Seth doesn’t go to meetings either, which is privilege I do not have…yet.
  2. I don’t preach revivals. Actually, I don’t preach revivals because 1) most revivals are not worth going to; 2) I don’t want to be gone for 3-5 days at a time.  Now, of course, nobody asks me to preach revivals since I’m off the “revival” circuit, but that’s okay.  Same thing goes for most conferences.
  3. I don’t try to be the leader of everything. I can’t be a good pastor, and the busiest guy in our Baptist association, state convention, national denomination, etc.  So, I’m very happy pastoring a small church in a small town with time to work in my garden, visit my neighbors, and let others take some leadership responsibility.  Am I shirking?  I’m sure some think so, but it works for me.
  4. I do try to live in a rhythm of prayer and work. I like the old monastic model, orare et laborare — to pray and to work.  Of course, the words pray and work get defined broadly, sometimes too broadly.  But I do try to do some physical work each day, which gives me a new appreciation for how hard others work.  Lately, I confess, our morning prayer time has gotten chewed up a bit by other “urgent” things, but I’m trying to get that back under control as well.

It is amazing how many good things can creep into our lives, distracting us from the best things that are our lives.  How do you stay focused on the things that are important to you and your ministry?