Recently, I answered some questions given to me about my new book, Addicted to Busy. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
1) I think most people who are too busy realize this, but wonder if there is a way out of it, given the crushing demands of life. What do you say to them?
I certainly understand that most people have a tremendous amount of stress because of seemingly unending responsibilities. The truth is, though, we all have wasted space in our lives. At some point, we have to stop and evaluate what is really important and make hard choices to stop things that are simply not fruitful. Even the healthiest, holiest people have some rhythms that don’t serve them well.
Maybe you need to be needed and chronically sign up for more than what your soul’s capacity will allow. Maybe you consistently neglect to carve out time to spend with God each day, or you “come down” from a work week in a less-than-stellar way. Think about your own life-your own daily ebbs and flows. What rhythms aren’t serving you well? Which could stand to be adjusted or altogether removed? On a sheet of paper or in your journal, jot down the unhealthy rhythms that come to mind.
Next, beside each rhythm you’ve noted, record the toll each one is taking on your life. For example, if you don’t spend daily time reading the Scriptures or praying, you may feel your days lack purpose or that a pervasive spirit of anxiety hovers over you like a cloud. Or, if you tend to relax after a long work week by drinking too much or neglecting quality time with your family, you may feel disconnected from those you love most. If you struggle to count the cost for each unhealthy rhythm you jotted down, try asking the question, “What would be working better in my life if I could shift this rhythm from unhealthy to healthy?” The answer to that question just might reveal to you what it is you presently lack.
2) I wonder if the two are related, in some way. Does the lack of self-care for pastors, the inability to create margin, create fertile soil for sin?
Every problem I see in every person I know ultimately is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life. And I see a lot of problems.
Sex and money problems in marriage come back to the issue of speed. (How eager for intimacy are you, when you’re exhausted at the end of yet another grueling work day?) Negligence in business practices comes back to the issue of speed.
Friendships that aren’t quite clicking can usually point to the culprit of speed.
Speed is the single greatest threat to a healthy life, and it is also our greatest defense. We think if we can keep going, keep moving, keep plowing ahead, our conscience won’t have time to catch us because—ha, ha!—we’ll already be long gone.
And the reality is, this approach actually works. But only for a time. We must be able to live in an easy rhythm between give and take. If we cannot learn to live and breathe in this rhythm, we will place ourselves in grave danger. Maybe even the literal grave.
3) Some pastors might read this interview and think, “That’s great. A mega-church pastor has resources to create margin, what about the busy, small-church pastor or bi-vocational pastor?” Does your book scale to them?
I am the pastor of a megachurch, but I have also served as the pastor of a 100-year church of 50 people in a small West Texas farming town. I was just as busy in Hereford, TX as I am now, seriously. Recently, a long time friend, who pastors a small congregation said to me, “I cannot imagine how busy you are!” I told him he was just as busy as me.
In my small church, I was the staff. I did all the weddings, all the funerals, all the hospital visits, went to all the committee meetings and preached most of the sermons. If there was ever a group of people who need to read my book, it is the pastors in rural and urban America.
4) Sometimes the problem with busyness isn’t so much an unwillingness on the part of a pastor or church leader but the people he serves who won’t allow him to find rest and peace. What do you recommend to this kind of leader?
Rest has to be a part of the culture of any healthy congregation. As I am writing this, I just completed a 3-month sabbatical that my elders gave me and my family after seven years of service to the church. Every full-time employee at New Life gets a sabbatical of varying lengths, depending on their scope of responsibility, every seven years. There were some elders who have never been a pastor who were hesitant to endorse this idea in the beginning, because they felt the church was already generous with vacation time to its employees. Sabbaticals are different than vacations. I believe vacations are for fun, retreats are for reflection, Sabbath days are for rest, but sabbaticals are for renewal.
Today, our elders have seen the fruit of giving this added time to our team. We have high morale at New Life, very little turnover, and a high level of healthy innovation and creativity. I would suggest pastors get a copy of Addicted to Busy for every member of their boards and let this book start some healthy dialogue about the culture of rhythm and rest at their church. We believe each of our staff should have the resources and training to fulfill their job descriptions in less than 50 hours per week and not be away from home and their families more than three nights a week, on average. This is a healthy rhythm that starts from the senior pastor and is affirmed by the church leadership.
If the current leadership does not understand or is not supportive, I can predict what is next—frustration, burnout, and ultimately a new pastor and staff every 3-5 years. Vocational ministry is unique in its demands because we are on the spiritual front lines for the souls of people. That is gloriously difficult work that requires seasons of rest.