Defending our Time

Good, clear, healthy boundaries are absolutely essential for the mental health of everyone working and living in ministry.

One of the most important boundaries to set up, and the hardest to keep in place, is the boundary around our time.

This isn’t a new conversation; plenty of lectures, articles, books, and even face-to-face conversations have been inspired by this very topic.  We, as ministry leaders, know that we need to carefully protect the little time we set aside to be away from the day-to-day of ministry stress and pressures.  We understand that our families and friends need us to protect our ‘off’ time.  We acknowledge that our spiritual walk will benefit from stepping back, and that an unwillingness to take true times of Sabbath and rest will cause us problems.

And yet, the topic needs to continue to be addressed.

Defending our time is a problem for good reason.  We aren’t intentionally workaholics, and most of us have great friendships we want to develop and families we want to be with.  We have hobbies we enjoy and activities we want to do.  We have weddings we would like to attend, places we would like to visit, and naps we would love to take.  But we are also passionate about the work we do.  We do the work we do because it matters.  And every task we don’t accomplish is a mission left undone.  Every person we can’t visit is a story that goes unshared.

Yes, there are other people to accomplish tasks, give sermons, visit people, and a myriad of other activities.  The problem is that there just aren’t enough of them.  Without us, we know the ministries still go on, but we also know that our organizations can do more with us there.  This is why taking time away is so hard for us to do.

And we do try to step away and rest, but a problem or struggle draws us back in.  We schedule time off, but something important comes up that we need to take care of because no one else can.  People need us to be with them through tragedies or unexpected circumstances, and because we care about them we can’t just ignore them because it is our ‘off’ day.  We do try.  It just doesn’t always work out the way we plan.

So what can we do to change this?

A possible answer lies in solidarity.  We, as whole organizations, need to define clear boundaries for everyone.  Individuals can make decisions alone, but it can be a tremendous challenge to keep to personal guidelines if others in the organization are behaving differently.  If even one person is in the habit of staying late, everyone will feel they need to do the same. We need to join together and clearly articulate communal expectations for stepping away from the work and creating space for personal renewal and relaxation.   And then we need to hold each other accountable to those boundaries.

As leaders, we need to be on the front lines of these communal efforts.  We need to care enough for our staff and volunteers that we do everything we can to ensure they care for themselves.   As leaders, we must be ever vigilant of the subtle time encroachments that so easily balloon into huge problems.

We need to be creators of policy that affirms the need for space away from ‘the job’.

We need to be people who encourage staff to work less, sleep more, and leave some things undone.

We need to be people who love our staff as much as our mission. 

Related Articles:

Recharging our Batteries: Rest
Productivity: Stress
Productivity: Nutrition
Productivity: Hours
Productivity: Office Space

 

 

 

 

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