Spring break couldn’t have come at a better time. After the rigors of the Lenten season and Holy Week, I found myself pretty depleted. Granted, Lent at St. Nicholas was the best we’ve ever had, and we had a record attendance on Easter Sunday with 211 (!) present, but I admit I found myself exhausted. Luckily, the week after Easter Sunday lined up with my kids’ spring break, so we got to spend the week together at Kanuga, an Episcopal conference center in Hendersonville, North Carolina. It was truly restful and I’m so grateful for the time away.
While resting, I reflected on what I could better when I return to make sure I don’t find myself quite as run-down as I felt. One thing would be to slow down, pull back, etc. However, I’m convinced that the advance of the Kingdom of God doesn’t happen unless we continue the work God has given us to do. At the same time, I believe that there is a big difference between “working hard” and “working smart.” Working harder requires endless energy, time, and resources which is impossible for human beings. It means we push ourselves to the limits until resentment, angst, and complete burn-out set in. Working smarter, on the other hand, requires a knowledge of our self-limits. It means acknowledging we have only so much to give and must parcel out those gifts generously and wisely.
The 21st Century Church has a tendency to push and push and push until we’re completely depleted. This is the model of our culture which tells us that constant production equals success. Yet I don’t think this is the model God wants for us. Instead, I think God wants us to answer the call to serve, but with the gifts allotted to each of us. We offer those gifts, God blesses them, and the Kingdom comes. Sometimes the gifts are few by quantitative standards, like the widow who gives her mite, yet are large in grace. Sometimes the gifts are large, like Solomon’s building of the temple, and are still large in grace. God smiles on them all.
With that in mind, I feel the call to work “smarter, not harder.” To know that I have only so many hours of my day, only so much energy, and only so many gifts. I don’t have all the hours or energy or gifts. That’s what the Church is for. Here’s how I am going to try to play this out in my own life:
Mondays will be my study days; a day to reflect on the last Sunday, to begin preparing for the next Sunday, to pray, read, hike, think, and plan. These are days I plan to prepare for classes and programs as well. I do this work best away from the church, either in my home office, or in a coffee shop or restaurant.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be my office days. These are the days I meet with our staff, answer phone calls and emails, and see people for appointments in the office. During the school year, SNICK takes a lot of time to prepare, and since this happens on Wednesdays, it makes sense to be at the church to finalize things for that program. These are also days I hope to continue doing pastoral visits for our parishioners who live in Harris County for lunch out or in people’s homes. But I will be mostly available at the church. One Tuesday a month, I have a clergy support group, one Wednesday a month, I work at the FOCUS office helping people with needs, and another Wednesday I visit my spiritual director in Carrollton. Besides these days I plan to be at the church.
Thursdays will be my “outside Harris County” days. We have so many members who live and/or work outside of Harris County. It has been important to them and to me to be available to them where it’s convenient, meaning having lunch close to their work places or homes.
Fridays will continue to be my days off. My challenge is not answering phone calls or emails on this day. But unless I give one day to rest and my family, I am not being a good husband, father, or priest.
Saturdays are “by-appointment-only” days. If there is an event or if someone can’t meet during the week and needs to meet on Saturday, that’s what this day is for. If those things don’t happen, it’s another day off for me. I do block off at least one whole Saturday a month devoted to my family.
And Sundays will remain Sundays, full of great worship, fellowship, and love with my great parish!
Of course, pastoral emergencies take priority over everything, so when a crisis arises, you should call me immediately, no matter what day or hour.
I could explain how my calendar has not been laid out like that above, but I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I love my job! I love St. Nicholas and plan to be here a long time! Thus I need to work “smarter, not harder.”
In addition to rearranging my schedule, I plan to continue to rely on the gifts in our parish. There are a lot of things I do that could be done by people in the parish. As the church grows, the needs grow. The Pastoral Care Committee has been tremendously helpful in keeping up with people. Good pastoral care comes from the clergy and the lay people. That committee is helping me develop Eucharistic Visitors who will be trained by me to do pastoral visits and take communion to people. There are many other committees and groups that are taking ministry and running with it, like the Adult Formation Committee, the Hospitality Committee, and the many Parish Life events we do. People are finding their gifts, using them, and growing in their walk with Christ! That’s exciting!
In this season of Easter, there is much for which to be thankful. I see this time as a resurrection time, a chance to try new things, to begin again. Just writing this makes me more excited about what the Lord will continue to do through our shared ministries!