Less is More


“So what is the schedule/agenda/program for the retreats at Barnabas House?”  I’m asked this question over and over in many different ways.  Every time I hear it I think, “You don’t really get it, do you?”

The issue of pastor burnout isn’t solved with more – more activities, more information, more 5 hour energy, more conferences, more ideas.  Today’s pastor has unprecedented access to information, ideas, and conferences via the Internet than any other time in history.  The pharmaceutical industry has insured that we can get by on less sleep than ever before thanks to prescription and over-the-counter stimulants that drive us ever forward.  Thanks to the pace of our culture, if the pastor isn’t at church (or at the job that actually pays the bills), the expectation to attend every sporting event and concert involving a congregant is enough to keep him or her busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  
The answer isn’t more.  Or perhaps it is the right more – more rest, more peace, more margin, more real relationship, more breathing.  At BHOK we make room for the right more.  There is time for solitude, free of expectations. We create opportunity for spontaneous conversation in a safe environment. Counseling is available, but not required.  Good reading material lines the walls, though one need never pick up a book.  In this place, our priority is to provide an atmosphere where the still, small voice of God can be heard.  
Pastors, make room for the right more.  Find a way to sometimes say no to things that are good, so that you can say yes to the things that are God.  
Church members, help your pastors make room for the right more.  Allow them to say no without criticism.  Build into the budget and the calendar the margin that is so integral to their service and spiritual development.  Take joy in seeing your pastor and his family rested. You’ll never regret having a well-loved leader.
How are you making room for the right more in your life or in your pastor’s life?

Today’s guest post is from Larry Boatright – a writer, pastor, husband, daddy, and follower of Jesus.  Larry serves on the leadership team at The Orchard in Aurora, Il.  You can read more of his great writing at http://www.larryboatright.com or follow him at twitter.com/larryboatright

My friend, pastor, and boss is about to start his weekly summer study break.  This is a season where he takes off the whole month of July (from teaching and much of the day-to-day) to refresh his spirit, recalibrate his priorities for the upcoming year, and prepare to lead us the next year of ministry.  I think this is one of the most important things he does every year for a number of reasons.  If you’re on a church staff, you need to read this post to help you understand the why behind the what.  Today I want to discuss some reasons why this season is so important.

  • It gives him a chance to recharge his batteries. Leading a church is HARD work.  Make no mistake- the pressures of leading a ministry, staff, other ministry leaders, and balancing that with being a great husband and father are HUGE.  He needs this time to get out of the rhythm of leading day-to-day and simply fill his tanks that have been depleted from leading all year.  He needs to build some margin back into his life.  His emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks are empty, and this gives him time and the resources to refill them.
  • It gives him an opportunity to connect deeply with God. Without the day-to-day pressures of “running” the ministry and teaching 40+ weeks a year, he can make sure his study and praying time has no agenda other than meeting God and hearing His voice.  Staff, this is SO critical for your leader, I cannot stress this enough!  You are depending on your senior leader to take this time and connect with God so he can be sensitive to the leading of God.  I don’t want us moving forward based simply on our creative ideas.  I want Scott to connect with God and find His heart for Aurora, The Orchard, the surrounding areas, and other areas of the world, so he can lead us to serve in ways that bless the heart of God.  If you were in the military, you’d want your leader making well-informed decisions prior to launching an offensive in battle.  It’s the same with ministry.  I want my leader taking us into battle with the best intelligence there is- the Voice and Heartbeat of God.
  • It gives him a chance to give his family some quality time. His kids need him to just be dad for a bit.  The church takes much of his time (and many church leaders are guilty of not setting good boundaries and let the church do this) so the kids need to see dad focused on them.  I’m guilty of this.  My wife has often said, “You’re here but you’re not here.”  My body is there, but my mind is on church junk.  My senior leader needs to be able to get away and invest in his family in some quality, uninterrupted time.  This is a win for the team.  We’ve all seen people in ministry bite the dust because they neglected their family and have gotten their priorities mixed up.  I don’t want that- so this time is very important!
  • It gives him a chance to step back and see things from a fresh perspective. Too often when we are in the leading daily routine, we don’t zoom out to 30,000ft and see things from a renewed perspective.  I once read a quote from Mark Batterson that has stuck in my mind: “A change of pace + a change of place = a change of perspective.” I’ve found this to be true.  Your senior leader will benefit from some time away to think big-picture and to see things he might miss when he’s in the grind of it.  He might visit some other churches and get fresh ideas.  Some staff hate it when their senior leader takes this time because he comes back with a laundry list of things to tweak/change, but that is an immature, non-team attitude.  Don’t fear the “notebook filled with things he wants to change;” trust that God is speaking to him in this time and it’s for a good purpose.  Remember, you’re co-laboring together, and he’s the leader, so follow well!
  • Finally, it gives him a chance to learn and be a better leader. How often has your bookshelf lined up with more and more books that you “intend” to read but just get busy and put it off?  The other day in a meeting, Scott talked about how it has been awhile since he’s been really able to dive into some good leadership books. This time off will be spent reading some great leadership material and I have no doubt it will give him some added umph going into the fall.  Every professional career has continuing education, so this is a great time for your leader to learn some new skill, to engage in an ongoing global dialogue about leadership, and to ultimately learn some tools that will help him lead even better.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.  Tomorrow I’ll be back with a look at some ways you can ensure this is a healthy, productive season for your senior leader.  I’d love it if you’d comment with your thoughts and perspective and share some other reasons this is a good thing.  Invite your friends to stop by and give their .02 cents as well!


Unexpected Sabbath

Halfway through the second week of snow days in our part of the country.  It’s been so interesting to see the tug-o-war on FaceBook between those who hate the snow (hourly employees, those who have to work in and through it, and moms of young children) and those who love it (99% of students, workers on salary, and those who just do).  I fall into all three of the latter category.  Most intriguing to me, though, are those who weigh in at just bored and restless after the first day, and those who take the opportunity to work themselves into a sweaty heap.  Everyone is entitled to his or her own personal taste in weather and how to spend unplanned time off, of course.  I don’t expect the world to be just like me any more than I appreciate others telling me how I “just haven’t tried their recipe for broccoli or else I would just love the nasty, foot-smelling abomination.

Curious – everyone I know is so tired and so busy and so overworked, including me, but it seems we’ve forgotten how to rest when given the opportunity.  Even the designated Sabbath has evaporated now that the retail world has made itself available to us seven days a week.  This is not a rant about the evil giant.  If we had stayed home, the stores and restaurants would have given up the practice long ago.  Neither do I want to bash those who are already half beaten by the expectations of society.  I have walked through entirely too many days and nights feeling like a disappointment – a “not enough” – to everyone including myself.

Rather I want to challenge myself and others to rediscover (or perhaps enjoy for the first time) REST.  Just take a moment and say the word to yourself.  REST.  It’s a noun – a state of being – a thing to be grasped.  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST,” (Matthew 11:28).  In fact, it’s a gift from a tireless Father to a weary child.  From One who knows best what we need.  In much the same way, it is not a suggestion but a command.  “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and RESTed on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy,” (Exodus 20:9-11).  Still we resist like a toddler fights his nap time.

If this rings altogether painfully true, it will take some prioritizing, some saying “no” to certain things, some time to change – to add some margin into our overfull lives.  But when given the opportunity, consider REST.  A choice to not fill the time with more from the never ending “to do” list or fret about a lack of accomplishment.  Perhaps this only applies to me.  If so, I need to listen and learn, not just intend.  I suspect, however, that I stand in the midst of an exhausted mass of people in desperate need of an unexpected Sabbath.