photo © 2010 Carl Wycoff | more info (via: Wylio)
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I can be sustainable in ministry. And by sustainable, I don’t mean going green or doing more recycling (though those are valid concepts that probably do deserve a post). Rather, I mean how can I put myself in a position to be able to continue in ministry for the long run.
Ministry is by nature hard, and tech ministry is one of the hardest ministries. Like many of you, I’m entering another year of doing more with less. We’re all in positions of having our budgets cut (mine is now 33% of what it was 2 years ago!), our staff cut or (not growing) and our contractors slowly (or rapidly) eliminated.
Yet the amount of ministry we need to do has steadily increased. We’re supporting more ministries more regularly and seeing our responsibilities expand far beyond the weekend services.
The desire to do more with less puts the responsibility for taking care of ourselves squarely on our shoulders. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty tired of late. We’ve been going pretty much full-out for a good 18 months now, with no sign of slowing down. I say that not to garner pity, as I know many of you are in the same (or worse) boat. What it does mean though, is that I need to find ways to rest so I can continue on with the work God has called me to do here. While taking some time out to pray about this the other day, God showed me something that has really challenged me.
It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Humidity
That phrase applies to the weather: In our case, as TDs anyway, it’s not always the hours that kill us, it’s the always-on nature of what we do. Most TDs I know are high-capacity, driven, passionate people. We push ourselves hard and don’t leave at 5 if the job isn’t done yet.
Even when we do leave, we often find ourselves thinking about a problem that needs a solution, developing a process or answering e-mails, texts and phone calls in the evening or on days off. It’s hard to switch off. Anyone else with me here?
Lately, God’s been challenging me that I really do need down time. I wrote about the importance of taking a sabbath a few weeks ago, and am still challenged by that. Now I feel He’s stretching me to go further by not spending so much time thinking about my job on my hours off. It’s hard, but like anything else, it’s a matter of discipline.
I’m trying to change my thinking habits so I’m not going to sleep thinking about all the stuff I need to do the next day. I’m working at not spending my evenings answering work e-mail or even thinking about all that stuff that’s waiting for me when I get there tomorrow.
The goal of all this re-thinking is to avoid burnout. You know the expression, “You can have good, fast or cheap; pick two.” Right now, most churches are choosing good and cheap. That means we can’t have fast. As timelines stretch out, we need to be able to stick with this for a long time. My original 3-5 year plan to fix all our technical ailments is going to stretch out to 5-7 years. Maybe longer when I show them my long-term capital replacement projections…
So if I want to be here to see that plan completed, I need to take care of myself. And so do you. More and more, I believe we need to be challenging and encouraging each other to get the rest and mental breaks we need to stay healthy. This is me doing that for you.
How are you working to stay healthy in your job?