Productivity and rest in vocational ministry

Hi FBP community :smile:.

I’ve started this thread to get some discussion going about what productivity and rest look like in vocational ministry - that is, ministry in a paid role of some description: a pastor, university chaplain, and so on.

In February, I started working as a trainee for a Christian group at a nearby university. I’m currently taking unpaid leave from my other role as a data scientist (so thankful to my other employer for giving me this opportunity!).

As a data scientist, I have a small number of tasks on my to-do list, and each of these tasks take a long time to complete. For example, “Clean this data”, “visualise these patterns”, and so on. As programmers (like @joebuhlig) know, programming always takes much longer than you expect. Rule of thumb: estimate how long you think it will take, and multiply by 5-10. Anyway, I digress.

By contrast, in vocational ministry, I have a large number of tasks on my to-do list, and most of these take a short amount of time to complete. E.g. Email a whole bunch of people about a whole bunch of unrelated things. These are important tasks, to be sure, but each takes a few minutes at most.

If I can be frank, the impact of this change has surprised me! I’ve dropped the ball on a few of these small tasks, just forgetting to add them to my OmniFocus/Drafts lists. And to be honest, I think my personality (high Fact Finder / Follow Thru, low Quick Start) has contributed to being challenged in this way.

The other challenge I’m wrestling with at the moment is getting enough rest. There’s no such thing as work-life balance (thanks @mikeschmitz!), but I found that receiving messages from university students (my sheep, loosely speaking - see 1 Peter 5) on weekends was very detrimental to my rest. Consequently, I purchased a second phone that I use for vocational ministry that I turn off on weekends. However, I don’t feel like this is a suitable long-term solution.

I’m also wrestling with how best to take holidays. Do I always travel for holidays, so that I don’t see my sheep, even though this will cost more money? Given that I’m single and 28, what would it look like to travel by myself? If I stay at home for my holidays, what can I do that will be restful?

Look forward to hearing other people’s thoughts / questions :smile:

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You have opened up an issue which many of us face. I will comment though on this aspect:

I find that since my office and my home are the same place, it is exceedingly difficult to be at home and not at work! I go away one night a week for this purpose, and try to be invisible (if at home) during vacation time.
The only way I can be useful to my sheep as you put it is if I am well rested and living a balanced life. Being on call 24/7 for eleven months of the year is demanding in a small church community, as my phone is always on, but at least I am away from the house which gives me a reason to say a polite “no, not yet” when someone feels their needs are urgent, and ignores my well publicized day off.
It is a huge privilege to be in vocational ministry but we cannot do it every well if we choose to ignore the sabbath model of work.

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I’ll recommend a book, “Replenish” by Lance Witt.

Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/0801013542/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_cVa.CbEJ9XP3Z

The main crux is as @Shl1ck puts it, “we cannot do it very well if we choose to ignore the sabbath.” This is so fundamental.

Choose a day you are going to take off every week and make it impossible for people to get a hold of you. Turn off your phone. Go somewhere you personally want to go. Read a book. Be with family. Etc… but ignore your work and make it a priority to let people know (if they complain) that that was your day off and choose to not feel guilty that you ignored them.

Most things in this life aren’t as urgent as most people think they are. I have tried to live by the idea that “your emergency is not my priority.” Obviously there are nuances to that but that seems to be adequate for most situations.

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Hi @Ajp123 while I’m not a minister, acutally closer to your other life as a Group VP of high performance compute, I would say that capturing your action items or to dos is critical. As you probably have seen in this community there is a discussion of all digital, all analog, or hybrid. I have found the hybrid system works best for me. While I too use Drafts and Siri to get items into OmniFocus it is in the processing that helps items not be dropped. This is where I have found my planner to be wonderful. I look at my OF Forecast View, Inbox, and Project. The important ones that need to be done today are written into the daily section of the planner or in the monthly/quarterly if very important not to forget. Also, doing a weekly review is extremely important. And I always have my Field Notes and pen in my pocket when putting into digital is not optimum.

About being contacted by your flock. Not certain what is your role or why they are calling but in my own I have to make the decisiion of what is or is not important. If you are able to have the calls go to voicemail so you can perform a ‘triage’ on them that might work. but depends on your ministry.

I look forward to hearing how you progress. In my prayers.

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A couple years ago I started a part-time IT role at our church and am now working there full-time as Director of IT. It’s the first time we’ve ever paid someone to do tech work at this scale so there are a lot of question marks around where I should and shouldn’t fill in.

Right now, the biggest pull is with congregation requests. The expectation is that since the church is paying a tech guy, he should be available to the congregation for tech needs. So guess who’s phone number is highly sought after?

At the same time, it’s ministry work. We do a LOT of big events that are heavy on sound and computer needs. So I’m busy at a random times through the week. Which means I have to draw lines in order to get breaks.

For me, it works to turn the phone off when I’m home with the family or on my Sabbath, which fluctuates between Saturday and Sunday. That works really well since the lack of phone means no way to contact me.

It sounds like I’m being hard on the people I’m here to help, but if the car is out of gas, it’s hard to go anywhere.

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Really appreciate your comments on this… I totally agree- if we don’t rest, we can’t be used as fully by the Lord as possible.

Joe, thanks for reminding us re: Sabbath. A person once told me that if we really believe that God is in charge, we will take the Sabbath. If not, we’ll just keep working 7x a week, thinking that we are the ones who are in charge.

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We have found in our family that when we made the decision to make Sunday (for us) God’s day, aka Sabbath, it made a big difference. No work on Sundays, but we are intentional to gather with our church family and worship together. We also have a break from video games built in on Sunday’s. Our boys love playing video games and we allow them a set amount each day, except Sundays as we want them to be a part of practicing the Sabbath as something special, holy, and set apart for God. We want to try and eliminate distractions.

““Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!””
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I agree @TheDailySaint that it shows God, with our intentional actions that we really do trust Him. Talk is cheap, positive action is invaluable.

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