What are you doing this 4th of July weekend? Work? Ministry? imageWhether you are a lay person or a clergy person or a commissioned worker in the church, what you do and how you do it can have eternal consequences. Managing self and being a good steward of your own gifts and life will no doubt (in some way) affect not only how someone grows in their faith but even if someone comes to faith in the first place!

Most days we want to conveniently ignore this simple truth. It is a heavy responsibility to bear. So how do we deal with it? Some are perhaps more relaxed or casual about their day and their deeds. Others know or instinctively know how serious this ministry thing is and may even react with dedication. Then just to be sure they give it a little more. They may over work or over-function.

There is always a pay-off or a pay-up for our choices. Often times it is our families that pay the price. We try to argue or rationalize that it is ministry and trust they will understand. But is our motivation always so pure? Not really. It may be dedication but it also may be guilt. There may even be a bit of works-righteousness mixed in. We hope people will notice so we get a pat on the back or some volunteer help because they feel badly and want to pitch in. We hope it might even allay some criticisms from some who say we don't do enough. But the reality is that mostly people don't even notice our long hours or when we over work. Who are we trying to kid? Why are we doing what we are doing anyway and what is our motivation?

Perhaps it's time for some serious inner wrestling after which we will need to make some intentional choices. A practical places to start is managing the hours in your day.

With email, voice mail, text and so on we are always available. Is that how you want it to be? How can you put some soft boundaries on that? It can begin with a hard deadline for ending your day. Let's say you decide to complete your day at 5PM. Up until now you let your work day slide until 5:30, 6 or even later. Perhaps you skipped going home to see family at dinner because you'd just have to drive back for that evening meeting or appointment. Now it has become the norm. Yet with a hard deadline of 5PM some good things can happen:

  • When you know you have to shut it down at 5PM you become more clearly focused during the day on what needs to be accomplished and so are more productive.
  • You are more decisive with saying "yes" to things that belong to you and saying "no" to things that need to be delegated or done by others.
  • You become more proactive and less reactive and so make decisions more quickly.
  • It then becomes easier to "disengage" even for an hour or two so you can spend that important time with family over an evening meal being more "present" with them when you are there.
  • You can more clearly share with others: staff and lay leaders, that after 5PM, while you are available, it is family time and is preferred for more "urgent" matters that can't wait until the next meeting or the next day.

Sure, if you are in ministry, when you work is also when others work. They may not be able to take time off of work to talk with you about ministry matters. Common sense will have to prevail. Shorter phone calls during the day, intentional lunch appointments, shorter phone calls in the evening as well. Getting down to business. There are creative solutions available instead of just caving in and saying anytime is alright.

So both extremes are problematic: hard deadlines and rules and no deadlines and rules. Even when you believe you are getting it just about right, it is a matter for regular check ups with yourself. We all tend to drift toward self deception no matter your vocation or calling. It may take an outside person like a coach to become more clear.

So what is your first step? It can have eternal consequences.

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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com

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