Over the last few weeks, I've been writing about sustainability. If you missed the previous 2 posts, you can read them here and here. The first post is about what sustainability is not. The second talks about reasons we don't tend to live sustainable lives. Today, I want to explore how to live sustainably. Now as a disclaimer, I'll admit that I've not yet mastered this. I still struggle with going too fast, working too much and depending on my strength, not God's. Still, I've learned a few things along the way and want to start a conversation about this topic.
As a refresher, the goal of living a sustainable life is that we don't burn out but are able to keep on doing what God has called us to for the long haul. That's often easier said than done when most of us A) really love what we do and notice that B) the work is never really done. Here are some suggestions.
Take Time Off Regularly
Most tech guys (and gals) I know tend to take time off in the summer only. Maybe they'll take a few days off between Christmas and New Year's, but that's about it. That's really hard on you. One thing I'm going to start doing as I get ready to start a new position (before too long, that is--no announcement yet!) is actually blocking out days off during the year at regular intervals. The last part is important. We need some extra time off during the business of life to recharge. Even if it's only a day or two, it makes a difference. Once church I'm talking to gives it's people 25 paid days off a year. If I wait until summer, there is no way I can take all those days off. I need to take one or two a month regularly.
Find an Encourager
One of the healthiest things we can do is to find someone with whom we can meet regularly for support and encouragement. It's best if that person (or persons) doesn't go to your church. You need someone with whom you can share frustrations and be encouraged. I have several people like this in my life, and I'm thankful for all of them. I "meet" with two guys pretty regularly using TokBox as they are in another state. However, our times together are really refreshing for me.
This is something my most recent boss taught me. Sometimes we place such high expectations on ourselves (or they are placed on us), that it's impossible to live up to them. For example; one church I talked to wanted their new tech director to start mid-July so they could recruit and train all new volunteer teams for the start of the ministry year in September. I suggested it might take a little longer than that. I've written a two-year volunteer development and recruitment plan instead, because that's how long it really takes. I might be able to do it in less time, but I want to still be there in year two, not burn out in year one trying to get it going.
Remember the rule that projects always take about double the time you think they're going to. Make sure you not only tell church leadership the right timeline, but give yourself grace as well. I've been at churches that have incredibly messed up tech systems and I want to get it all fixed now. That's a recipe for disaster. Take the right amount of time to do it and you'll be there to enjoy the fruits of your labor.