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Betrayed by Busyness

  • 4 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

Blur of busynessBusyness is the hymn of our age. Our mantra, our anthem, our expectation.  

Unless you’re Eugene Peterson. 

Peterson defines "busy" as the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. Busy pastors are not demonstrating devotion; they are exercising defection [1]. 

Peterson first published these words in 1981, but ministry professionals have hardly heeded his counsel. As I think of the pastors I know and when I reminisce on my time in that role, I don’t believe there’s a more fitting descriptor for the state of the pastorate than busy. The demands of church ministry are rising, the focus of parishioners is dwindling, and the results of our disciple-making efforts are plateauing [2]. Is it any wonder then, that our typical response is to increase our labour and fill our calendars with more? 

Peterson reveals two causes for his own busyness and he describes each as ignoble: 

I am busy because I am vain 

Peterson draws a connecting line between busyness and the allure of success and his comparison speaks even louder today. In a recent United States study, researchers found that a busier person is thought to have higher status [3]. This may explain why free time is frantically consumed by fruitless activity—perhaps it is this perception that fuels our resistance to be still.  

I worked at a golf and country club for several years when I was a young adult. The course was only closed two days a year, so there were many poor-weather-days when I was left with almost nothing to do. But my boss loved to remind us that we weren’t being paid to do nothing, so I learned how to develop endless ways to appear busy. I once overheard my boss tell a co-worker, “You can’t just stand there even if there’s nothing to do. Do what Keith does—he always looks busy.” It didn’t take long for me to discover it was more valuable to look busy than to do something productive. If I don’t consciously fight against this false value, I fall into the trap of doing busy work instead of important work.  

I am busy because I am lazy 

Laziness breeds busyness despite masking itself as an unlikely precursor. Peterson explains that when pastors allow others to decide their schedule, they become slaves to unnecessary assignments that detract from their core responsibilities. Many pastors will accept these tasks as part of their jobs, but Peterson offers a different perspective: when pastors abdicate their essential work, it’s an indication of their propensity to cater to the desires of others and their unwillingness to stand up for the priorities of the pastorate. 

How to Build Strong Staff-Board Relations

  • 24 April 2017
  • Randy Wollf

The growth of an organization often depends on the strength of the working relationship between its board and staff. Stephen M.R. Covey writes:

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust. {1} 

Trust is the foundational element for building a strong board-staff team. Yet, how do we build trust in this strategic relationship? Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Spend time together

There is no substitute for just hanging out together in a relaxed, fun environment. For example, in the churches where I have served, we have done board-staff meals and retreats. When I was starting out in pastoral ministry, my lead pastor would remind the staff team to make the most of our overnight leadership retreats by spending time with non-staff leaders. It was prime time to build relationships.

The primary relationship in the board-staff team is between the lead pastor and the chair/moderator. If you are one of those people, make sure that you meet with your counterpart once or twice a month (preferably for a relaxed discussion over coffee or a meal). Build a strong relationship even as you discuss church matters.

It’s also important to encourage or even structure regular interactions between individual board members and staff.

Relationships provide the context in which trust can flourish.

2. Over-communicate

Establishing Church Goals During Pastoral Transitions

  • 10 April 2017
  • Cam Taylor

Times of pastoral transition are windows of opportunity for a congregation to experience turning points towards health and renewed ministry. Welcoming a new senior pastor into a healthy, functional, and spiritually-renewed church community is a goal worth pursuing!

There are two approaches to pastoral transition―a more traditional approach or an intentional-transitional approach. There was a day when a "hold-the-fort-until-the-next-pastor-arrives" mindset worked, but this is less effective today.

The Intentional-Transitional Approach

The intentional-transitional approach focuses on seeing the time between pastors as a season of opportunity, and a time to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change. In this model, the transitional leader is a trained specialist and prepares the congregation to eventually do their search from a posture of health, prayer, and readiness.

The Five Benefits to the Intentional-Transitional Model

Why is it worth taking the time and trouble to engage in a well-planned transition? Let me give you with five of the benefits: 

1. During transition, you can create an atmosphere that fosters positive change and healthy adjustment. 

2. During transition, you have the opportunity to bring in outside specialists who are equipped to facilitate change―a luxury you often can’t afford during seasons of regular ministry.  

3. During transition, the focus on overall church health sets up the search process to be conducted from a place of strength, clear identity, and vision.  

4. The intentional-transitional model allows a congregation to work systematically through a process that recognizes key milestones and gives opportunity to involve new people. 

5. The transitional model gives the opportunity to deal with unwanted sacred cows and elephants too difficult to tackle during seasons of normal ministry.

Eight Transitional Goals

Below are descriptions of the eight transitional goals you seek to achieve during the transitional process. There is flexibility in how to achieve these goals, but the principles are fixed. 

1. Facilitating Closure 

Closure involves dealing with the past so as not to hinder what God is wanting to do in the future. A transitional leader serves as counselor and skilled listener―helping individuals relate to and deal with their past so it does not negatively impact God’s plan for the future.

2. Facilitating Preaching

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