Monday, April 17, 2006


Antiquated management theory emphasized time management. You only have so much time, so manage it well so that the things that matter most get the time they need. Current management theory emphasizes energy management. You only have so much energy. Manage your energy well so that the things that matter most get the energy they need. The shift is helpful in a ministry context where you can experience disproportionate impact from events that really do not take much time.

Not all ministry activities are created equal. To say that all ministry events are equal would be like saying that the Super Bowl is like every football game. Troy Aikman, a three-time winner in the Super Bowl, provides some insights into the difference...

My first Super Bowl, I never slept better before a game. No butterflies, no anxiety, no nervousness, nothing. The pregame ritual, getting taped and all that, was just like it is for any other game. It was a beautiful day in Pasadena, and I was just so relaxed.

But then they had the player introductions, and it was like somebody had hit me in the face with a Louisville Slugger….You hear a lot of players talking about how it’s just another game. Well, it’s not just another game. It’s the Super Bowl, and it’s totally different from any game you’ve ever played.

In the same way that the Super Bowl is not just another football game, there are some ministry activities – speaking engagements, meetings, counseling sessions – that are more intensive than others. Intensive Ministry Activities (IMAs) take something out of you, that other more routine activities do not. This disproportionate impact may be because of…

Complexity: Is the task complicated? Are there a number of people or steps involved? If so, it is an IMA.

Demands: Do you have to be the “up-fronter”? Do you need to be “on”? If so, it is an IMA.

Dynamics: Are we moving into the enemy’s territory? Do we sense spiritual opposition? If so, it is an IMA.

Conflicts: Are interpersonal challenges part of the story? Is there “stuff” to work through? Is so, it is an IMA.

Disappointment: How disappointed would we be if this doesn’t work out? Is it risky? If so, it is an IMA.

After an intensive ministry event, you need time for “digestion.” Momentary events can take days, months or years to process. If you are in the room when a marriage melts down, or a child dies, or hateful words are said, you can’t always just “shake it off.” It sticks to you. And you may need as much time to process what you’ve been through, as they do.

After an IMA, you need to plan on “compensation.” For instance, if you have had a particularly discouraging meeting that has “taken a lot out of you,” you should follow that with something fun (a ball game, a movie, a good book) to put something back in. If you have a week where you “put in” 70 hours, you should follow that with a lighter week, where you “take some time off.” You can only borrow from tomorrow’s energy for so long before you have to pay it back. Know your limits and stay within them. If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.

Those in ministry must regularly monitor their physical, emotional and spiritual gauges, especially following IMAs. Throughout my ministry I tried to use Monday as a “Personal Work Day” to read my gauges.

Physical Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing physically?

Emotional Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing emotionally?

Spiritual Gauge: On a scale of 1-10, how am I doing spiritually?

The gauge that often gets “missed” is the Emotional gauge. Many leaders are good about reading their Physical Gauge (am I getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, exercise?), and their Spiritual Gauge (am I in the Word and prayer?), and not as adept at reading the Emotional Gauge (am I discouraged, frustrated, lonely?). But we ignore the Emotional Gauge are our own peril. Emotional emptiness can lead to unhealthy attempts to “medicate” our pain. This is how men who are spiritually and physically fit become casualties to addictive behavior.

Jesus modeled a balance of input with output. Over the course of a three year ministry, we actually have recorded in the gospels about three months of activity. Where was the rest of the time spent? Away. Recuperating.

In our job descriptions at CTK we have often included this statement about time away: “Provided that the ministry is ‘covered’ during absence, a staff person can take whatever time may be needed for personal renewal and vacation, with pay. Generally, it is expected that the harder you work, the more time off may be needed, and that the biblical pattern of the Sabbath (six parts work, one part rest) is a good pattern to be followed.” If you follow the logic of this statement, a pastor would be “off” about six Sundays a year. It seems like a lot, unless you remember that not all ministry activities are created equal.

Rest is a form of spiritual warfare. It means trusting that God is going to do what God is going to do even when you are not doing what you can do.

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