Monday, April 16, 2012

What Does He Do With His Time?

Pastor of Everything Else
But What Does He Do With His Time?

Everyone knows what senior pastors do because their role is so public: preaching, teaching, leading meetings, visiting in hospitals and homes, etc.

Not so for associate pastors. So much of what we do happens when influential members are not present - after school club, kids program, youth meeting, small group, planning, admin, etc. This is not entirely bad. It was a good thing no church leaders were around for that really messy game! It is easy for people to think that we are wasting their offering dollars because they do not see the ministries in which we are involved.

“What does he do with his time?” is often followed by,  “How long before he leaves?” Time audits are about as fun as root canals. “Open wide while we drill into the inner recesses of your life.” At least they give Novocain at the dentist’s office. There are things we can do to avoid this painful and tricky situation.

We need to tell people what we do. I used to think this drew too much attention to me and was selfish. What a stupid thing to think. The difference between shameless promotion and telling people what I do is motive. Am I out just to impress people? Improve my standing in their eyes? To get more money, or a better position? Then its probably kissing up. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

I used to think that if I just did my job well enough, people would notice. They would have to see it, wouldn’t they? It doesn’t work that way. Remember back in high school when we thought everyone was watching us, but it turned out they weren’t because they were afraid everyone was watching them? It's the same principle.

We must tell people what we do. Again, this is not about making ourselves look good, and here is how we make sure its not about us, but we still get word out. Make it about others. Tell the stories about what God is doing in these ministries. Talk about what the groups are doing, this week, next week, or some event in the future. Share the victories, and even the trials.

When someone asks how things are going, tell them about the things you are working on with your groups. “Its a good week - this week in youth we’re going to finally get small groups started and that’s been really rewarding.”  “The funnest thing happened at kids group last night...”  “One of our leaders led his first devotional last night and he did a great job.” 

We don’t always have to paint over the negative. “Its been a tough week because we lost one of our leaders and I’ve had to fill in on short notice,” is better than moping in silence. It is possible to communicate the negative by being positive: “Our kids leaders are doing an incredible job. We could use a lot more leaders, but they’re pulling together and we’ve even seen growth this year.”

We need to use every opportunity we get. And, we shouldn’t wait until we’re asked. Are there exciting things going on? We need to tell people. Are there troubles? We can share these appropriately. At the store when we run into church members, in meetings, at the office, while we’re out walking the dog.
Invite church leaders to attend meetings. Invite them generally and specifically. Let them know they can drop in, but they may or may not come, so also invite them specifically. Ask them to help serve snack or attend a special occasion. Ask the pastor to do a devotional once in a while.

Post group schedules in obvious places. It is surprising how many people are connected through social media and the internet, but paper still works, too.

Involve groups in worship and service. Use plays, skits, puppets, music. Take up the offering or hand out bulletins. Anything that puts the groups in the public eye.

Write reports. We need to tell people our vision, our plans, progress. If something changes which affects how we use our time, we need to tell people. Most people don’t care about the nitty gritty details, but they should know the big things, at least.

Finally, we can keep record of what we do. I used to get frustrated because I came to the end of the week and couldn’t tell if I had done anything productive. If I can’t see how I was productive, I can’t convince someone else. So now I keep a journal where I make quick notes along with the time I was involved. This could be electronic. Either way, I can look back and know how I used my time. It also helps me see patterns of how my time gets eaten so I can compensate accordingly.
Apr 16, 2012 Rev. Troy Dennis (BA, MDiv., MA, Arrow Leadership) is Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncton NB Canada. Ordained in 1995, he served in associate, solo and senior pastor positions before coming back to associate ministry in 2008.

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