Memoirs of an ordinary pastor #3


This is the second of Don Carson’s reflections on his dad’s ministry and the work-life balance of the pastor.

Mum used to tell us kids, “Work hard, and play hard, but never confuse the two.” By this she wanted us to know that while we were working, we should not fritter away the hours by squeezing in distractions and various kinds of play. The result would be poor work combined with guilt feelings for a job poorly done. Similarly, when we were playing we were not supposed to be thinking about work because that would dilute some of the regenerative value of downtime. But Dad never learned Mum’s simple maxim. The total number of hours he put into his calling each week was excessively high, but occasionally—as much out of fatigue as discouragement—he would permit something else to intrude, and then feel guilty about it. Mum’s maxim should be posted on the mirrors of most ministers.

I used to be a consulting engineer so keeping a time-sheet as part of my job. I still keep one. I use it to monitor how I spend my time; am I spending it wisely, on high priority people and ministries? But also, I know my limits. I can’t sustain long term ministry if I do more than 52 or 53 hours a week on a regular basis, especially if those hours involve emotionally draining stuff like lots of funerals.

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3 Responses to Memoirs of an ordinary pastor #3

  1. nexi says:

    Just out of interest, how do you add the hours up – ie, including coffee & lunch breaks, travel to conferences or whatever? We’ve used a large mindmaps to prioritize the total range of involvements in the past.

    • neilrobbie says:

      I have quite broad categories:

      Planning and Preparation
      Teaching & Counselling
      Leadership Training
      Prayer
      Baptism, weddings, funerals
      Evangelism Opportunities
      Administration
      Fellowship & Personal Work
      Meetings and committees
      Conferences and courses
      Study, reading & blogging
      Planning and Strategy
      Extra-Parish (camp/deanary)
      School
      Visiting, caring, calling
      VDPs

      My priorities are:
      study, prayer, leadership training, teaching and counselling, evangelism, visiting and caring, strategy and planning.

      I want to minimise VDPs (time wasters), time outside the parish and administration. If those boxes get too big, I’m doing the wrong things.

  2. nexi says:

    Thankyou for this – it makes a very interesting comparison. In the past spouse has broken things down into ABC priorities – struck out the C’s and reduced the B’s as far as possible, if that makes sense!

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