The word sustainability is all the rage now. We hear talk of sustainable forest management, sustainable building, sustainable manufacturing. It’s finally come to our collective attention that the resources on this planet are not inexhaustible, and we had better figure out how to live within our means, so to speak.
Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had well over a dozen interviews and conversations about job possibilities. That means I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my ministry philosophy. One thing that I’ve started articulating more in recent days is the concept of sustainability. Not in a raw material sense, but in a “how can I do this job for the long-run” sense. It’s a cliche to be sure, but the phrase, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is true as in ministry as it ever was. As I thought and talked about this concept, it has become clear to me that we need to run at a sustainable pace.
Before we get to what a sustainable pace is, it might be helpful to think about what a sustainable pace is not.
- It is not working 60+ hour weeks, week after week without a break.
- It is not working 7 days a week for months on end.
- It is not working 52 weekends a year.
- It is not mixing (or lighting, or directing, or whatever) all 5 services, every weekend, all year.
- It is not working 51 weeks, then taking a week off.
Have you ever noticed that the very best preachers don’t preach 52 weekends a year? Most preach 35-40 weekends a year (the really good ones anyway). The reason is not that they’re lazy; it’s because they know they need time away from the pulpit to stay fresh, creative and enthused.
Why is it that we expect ourselves to be at FOH every weekend, all year long? Worse yet, why do some of those same preachers expect that of us? Let’s face it–that’s just nuts. Take it from someone who A) loves mixing and B) would do it every weekend and C) has done it every weekend in the past (I mixed every weekend for almost 3 1/2 years some time ago)–that schedule will burn you out. In fact, after that stint, I ended up leaving the church and took 6 months off from serving anywhere. I was as burnt as 5-minute toast. I almost gave up on the church and the technical arts.
Sadly, I still fall into the trap of thinking I need to be there every weekend or church will not go on. My guess is that it probably would. There are number of reasons for my wrong thinking, and over the course of the next few Fridays, I’ll be unpacking some of what God’s been showing me with regard to setting up a sustainable ministry lifestyle. Because I don’t want to find myself in a cycle of burning out, taking a year off, then working too hard, burning out, taking a year off… Instead, I want to look back 5 years from now and feel like I’m doing well, and could do whatever I’m doing for another 5 years. The only way to do that is by keeping a manageable pace. Stick with this; I think it’s going to be an interesting discussion!