Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

This used to be a golfball. My 9 year old Golden Retriever Bailey decided that it looked tasty and he decided to make it a snack. I am not sure how long it took him until he realized that he had made a mistake. A golf ball is obviously not very edible.

Often as church planters we can make the same mistake. There are so many needs and opportunities out there that we can bite off more than we can chew. We can overcommit ourselves and find that we are really busy doing activities that do not help us achieve our calling in life. We find ourselves serving on boards of organizations that take valuable time and energy from our family and church. We find ourselves leading mission trips and local service projects. We end up going to denominational meetings and pastoral networks multiple times a month. All these are great activities and events but may not be the best use of your time. Here are 4 ways to clean up your calendar.

Prioritize

1. Family. You have to put your family first. So many pastors put their church ahead of their family and eventually find themselves in a personal crisis. There is a divorce or a child goes off the deep end. What is the point of ministering to others if you cant lead your own family. God has given you your family to shepherd. Your people are looking to you to model what a Godly family looks like. Many of them have never seen what a godly family looks like and they are taking their cues from you

2. Sermon. Many times tasks are more urgent than your message. However, the most important time in your week in your role as Pastor, is the 45 minutes you spend teaching your people on Sunday mornings. I know that you may not like the pressure of making your message a major element of your ministry but your people see it that way. They want to be taught God’s word and want to grow. If you spend the time every week to study, prepare and practice your message you will always struggle as a church planter. I have found that inspiration in writing a message is not on demand so I have developed a process that allows me to spend time every day on my sermon and have it manuscript by Thursday afternoon. That allows me the mental space to rehearse and ponder my message so both I and the sermon are fresh on Sunday morning.

3. Key Leaders. A mistake we make is that we spend time with whomever demands it from us. You have to make time for your people, that is part of shepherding, but it is vital to prioritize time with your key leaders.  You need to spend time with leaders and develop them into being great servant leaders. If you do this you will find exponential ministry. I recommend discipling a new crop of leaders every 2 years. I meet with promising young leaders in our church once a week for a two year cycle. We study theology and practical spiritual disciplines together. I also once a month keep in touch with key leaders who have graduated from my discipleship program in a morning breakfast. Lastly I spend time with our small group leaders once a semester.

4. New people. New members and attenders are the lifeblood of your church. Often the only person that they feel that they know at church is the pastor. It is important to find ways to meet them, learn their name and invite them to join the vision. We make an effort to do dinner or coffee with new visitors who are choosing to make Green Hills Church their home. This is one of the most encouraging parts of your job. Its exciting to see people ‘get it’ and be excited about what God is doing at your church.

Delegate

1. Hire someone who can help you. This may not happen as soon as you would like it to happen but at some point you need to hire some help. I think everyone works better when they are part of a team. Find someone who believes in you and compliments your strengths. Don’t hire someone just like you. Having different personalities and gifts makes your church stronger.

2. Develop volunteer leaders. If we are going to ensure that the church will withstand the generation change we need to develop leaders. Leaders aren’t just born. All leaders need someone to invest in them and believe in them. Find faithful people and come alongside them. One of my favorite things to seen in ministry is when people realize that serving a church is exciting stuff. That really only happens when they are given real responsibility.

3. Let people help you. This is so hard for me. I want to make sure everything is perfect. It is so important to allow people to help you. It may not be done exactly the way I would  do it but often it is done better.

Fire Yourself 

1.Evaluate appropriate time investment parameters. Examine how much time you are investing. Often we allow time to slip through our fingers. We can spend too much time traveling to and from meetings. Sometimes we meet too long. Sometimes we have meetings that no longer serve their purpose but we still go to them. You have to consistently evaluate what your calendar looks like.

2. Reduce how long you spend in meetings. Often we let our meetings go too long. Plan on having better meetings and finish them on time. Be ruthless about it.

3. Fire yourself. If you are spending too much time on things that are not important then stop doing it. Often I don things I don’t want to do longer than I should because I feel guilty letting something go. Often when I am holding on to something too long I realize I am trying to be the savior of the world. There is only one savior and that is Jesus. So often I have to be content with doing what I can do each day and let things go that I can’t prioritize.

 

Slowing- and a New Josh Bronleewe song

If you are anything like me your life is a checklist.  I wake up and the first thing I think about is what I need to do that day.  I seem to have been born with a personal task master wired into my brain that is OCD about arranging the items I have to do in order of importance, urgency and the most efficient order to do them in.   There is always something new to do and something new to see.  So if I want to do something, even if it is fun, I just add it to the list and proceed to execute that task with as much precision and focus as I can muster.  Unfortunately, I get so busy thinking about what is next and how to do it that I miss the beauty and pleasure in what I am currently doing.  It’s what I call the curse of “NEXT”.

It is so easy to live in the future and not in the present.  If we are not careful, we can miss life while we plow right through it.  I used to think that when I got my iPhone my life would be so much easier because I could keep my calendar synced up and I could find a lot of extra time once I had all my calendar issues settled.  But instead of being less busy, I have simply filled the time with other busy things.

This week I have been thinking about the concept of slowing down.  John Ortberg, the author of “T he Life You Have Always Wanted”,  devotes a whole chapter that is very worth reading about this concept.  His premise is that if we don’t slow down we will miss the most important things in this life.  Ortberg says we must choose to slow our life down or else it will constantly be out of control.  We will never enjoy life unless we choose to slow down.  No one else can do that for us.  We must practice it as a discipline.  In the same way that we train for a 5K or a Triathlon, we must train to be people who enjoy the moment.

Last year I had the opportunity to start a church.  Although it is a labor of love, it is a lot of hard work.  There is constantly something to do and people to minister to.  In the midst of all this I must choose to slow myself so that I can enjoy the journey God is allowing me to go through.  There will never be another beginning to Green Hills Church.  If I am not careful, I will miss the joy in seeing a new church bloom.

We all need seasons in our lives to rest.  Doing things are very important, but if life is constantly doing and never being then it is not enjoyable.  I don’t want to be a human doing, I want to be a human being.  That’s why God has given us the Sabbath, a time to rest.  God from the beginning has chosen to model that we need to take time in our lives to rest.  He told the people of Israel to rest every week and every 7 years they had to let their land rest.  Rest is very important.  It allows us to live, not just to do.

Summer time is a great time to slow down.  The pace of life around us naturally slows down due to the change in seasons. This summer, my Co-Pastor, Brad and I decided that we were going to enjoy the summer.  We decided that we were going to slow down and choose to rest because the fall is an exciting and very busy time.  It’s just really hard to honor that commitment.  But this week I have realized that summer is passing by very quickly and if I don’t choose to slow myself, I will enter the fall fatigued.

So here are some ideas on how to proactively rest.  I don’t mean that you shouldn’t go to work or that you should slack off on work but I think there are some ways to slow life down.  First of all turn the TV off.  Thats right.  Football isn’t here yet and all your favorite shows are on hiatus until the fall, so why do we need to watch reruns for hours at a time at night?   Try this, instead of watching TV, pick out a book and immerse your mind into another world.  I know some people like reading non-fiction, I think there is no substitute for escapist fiction.

A second idea is to choose to be either 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late to things.  You would be surprised how much pressure you relieve when you do this.  You take the control of the situation instead of falling into the tyranny of deadlines.

Lastly, I think a great way to slow down is to remove something from your calendar that is important.  Our lives are constantly filled with things that are important and urgent.  Many things we think are important really aren’t.  I often find myself doing things that I dont want to do, in hopes of impressing someone.  Sometimes we need to let those things that only seem important to fade away into the background and let the truly important things like family and God rise to the forefront.

Some of you have checked out my buddy Josh Bronleewe’s music- especially his song “Wake Up” that I posted a while back on the blog.  I was listening to a new song he posted on his myspace page called “Highway.”  It’s really mellow and it slowed me down as I listened to it.  I hope you like it:  http://www.myspace.com/joshbronleewe