As I stand poised, by God’s grace, to enter my third decade of vocational ministry, some aspects of pastoring are just now becoming clear to me-none more so than who I am and what I do on the “off days” of Monday through Saturday. It’s about relationship. Relationship with people that must happen more than one hour or even one day a week. As one writer put it, “The most important resources of a church breathe oxygen.” Here are a few thoughts on the other six days of being a church leader that I am learning:
- The rapport and connection I so long for with my audience in the pulpit is built in the fellowship, counsel, and informal moments I share with them in my calendar the rest of the week.
- Investing most of my relational time on Monday through Saturday in other leaders of our assembly allows my God-assigned influence to possess a near-omnipresence for the growing needs of a thriving church that isn’t detrimental to my family or personal health.
- My Sabbath (Thursdays for me) is as sacred and life-giving, in the Lord’s sight, as His day (Sundays)…this requires hyper-intentional preparation and saying “no” to a lot of tasks and opportunities in order to rest and renew in His presence.
- Remembering to pray for and check in on the doctor’s appointments, new job opportunities, extended family needs, out-of-town travel, community events, and the list goes on of my flock between Sundays is a big deal if I do and a deal-breaker if I don’t.
- The so-called “big” causes, contentions, and outright gossip within broader ministry circles that I can observe and/or engage with on social media do not matter a hoot to most if not all of my people…I need to just focus on shepherding them.
- The long-term effectiveness of my pastoring has less to do with my eloquence on Sundays and much more to do with my availability to the flock the rest of the week.
- Who I am in the eyes of my dear wife and kids matters, not just on Sundays but everyday-in reality, that “version” of me, as we all know in 1 Timothy 3, ultimately qualifies or disqualifies me in the pastorate.
- The people God has given me don’t need a high-profile persona with a platform; they just need a pastor humbled to be hand-picked by the Chief Shepherd.
- Impromptu lunch invitations, drop-ins and phone calls from your flock are often much more; they tend to largely be divine appointments for which my schedule should possess ample margin to accept.
- To loosely quote Howard Hendricks, “I impress people at a distance (Sundays, if I am fortunate); I impact them up close and personal (The rest of the week).”
Hear the conclusion of the matter, there is no “off or down day” in effective, Christ-imitating ministry. The Sunday thing and profile is to be expected; everybody does that. Your ministry will only distinguish itself from charlatans and hirelings with authentic, consistent Monday-Saturday office hours. Join Paul in being different from the clinical, Sunday-only acts in town, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience” (2 Ti. 3:10). Be fully known. Know fully. Let the flock into your life, home, schedule and how the Lord can knit your hearts together for His glory and Gospel!
Could the “Must be nice that you pastors only work a hour or two per week” sentiment be less of a joke and more of a heart’s cry for some of the pastoral time and attention for which you are called? Author, blogger, podcaster Cary Nieuwhof wisely concludes, “In the future church attendance won’t drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance. If you want your church to grow, stop trying to attract people. Start trying to engage people.” Join me, whether early on or later in the game like yours truly, in being a 7-day-a-week version of the ENGAGING undershepherd that God intended.