I thought that I was going into pastoral ministry in order to avoid being a scheduled, palm-piloted, cubicled, penny loafered, schmoozing, savvy, nine-to-five businessman. My dad thought that these were exactly the things I ought to do and be—not because I was administratively-minded, but rather because the social aspect of this businessman profile came much easier to me than it did to him.
Well, here I am, all grown’d up. I’m in ministry. Whew! I successfully avoided having to be responsible like a businessman must!
I’m wired the same way I always have been, and I’ve got the same strengths and weaknesses as I did when my dad thought I ought to go into business and schmooze my way to success. Good with people. Bad with stuff.
I struggle to get stuff done. I struggle just to get things ordered in a way that I can know what needs done. I struggle just to keep the things that need to be put in order in one place where I can find them. In other words, I’m a bit of a mess.
There’s no way to avoid it, though. If you’re a church planter, you’re an administrator. You’re not a carefree, unscheduled peripatetic sage. You’re not simply a “pastor-scholar” (as my seminary styles the minister’s identity). You may not be “in the business world”. But make no mistake–you’re an administrator.
You probably don’t have a secretary. Not only is having a secretary financially implausible, having one prohibits you from fitting the cool church planter profile. (You have an iPhone instead, obviously.) What this means is that you have a constant flood of overtures coming your way: go to this conference; help this core group member; make a decision about the quality of the coffee; plan the next sermon series; figure out where to put the used sheet music; meet this other pastor for coffee …
I simply wasn’t prepared for all of this. And as the church planter, there is a lot at stake if I can’t learn to order, process, and take action on all of these things. If I don’t, every solicitation ends up scattered around my study, on the back seat of my car, in the pockets of my satchel, and vaguely haunting my consciousness like an undifferentiated mass of demands. And when we start seeing our ministry opportunities as demands, we become resentful. You don’t want your church plant to be running on the noxious fumes of your resentment.
So, if you’re like me—you have pretty decent people skills and aren’t daunted by the preaching and teaching burden, but you’re treading water because you’ve never learned how to figure out what to do, when to do it, and where to put it—you’re going to need to admit that your old man, the scheduled, to-do listed, organized businessman has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.
And you need to learn some of those tricks. Fast. The very atmosphere of your church plant depends on it.
I’m working through David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I’m already determined to make my intern (and all my future church planting apprentices) read it. I can already tell that my life is going to be very different from here out. I’m already breathing easier. I’ll be posting about key principles and methods I’m learning from Allen’s book in the days ahead.
But for now: get your stuff together. Literally. Put everything that comes into your life and demands a response (even if that response is “throw this junk mail in the trash can”) in one place. Allen says that’s that first step.