Today we welcome Jaime Hlavin to the Converge Coaching writing team! Jaime is married to Aaron, who serves as a lead pastor. She’s the mother of two beautiful girls . . and a terrific writer. She will be writing posts on a variety of subjects, including content around how to navigate the unique challenges of ministry leadership. I know you’ll enjoy her contribution to our team ~ John
Somewhere along the line, an unwritten expectation emerged. Pastors and leaders should be jacks-of-all-trades with a mastery of everything. He or she must possess deep Biblical knowledge, exhibit strong leadership skills, function as an experienced therapist and counselor, demonstrate financial expertise, show strong project management proficiency, encompass vast knowledge of the law, be able act to as general contractor over building projects, operate as a skilled social worker AND be the perfect mix of introvert and extrovert so that no one ever feels uncomfortable or left out.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: the person described above doesn’t exist. A leader may have a few of those traits, but not all. Why? Because he or she is a human being. And humans have limits.
As if leading a ministry isn’t complicated enough, normal human limits are magnified by the confines of time and resources. What is a leader to do when both expectations and limits are high and yet the organization needs to move forward? Let’s talk about that.
This could just be the nature of nostalgia, but in thinking about my childhood, I genuinely do not remember my parents living at the speed of life that my husband and I currently do. (My dad, who worked very hard during his career and was also a very present father in the lives of his children, wholeheartedly confirms this. He regularly tells me to chill. He scowls and in his deep, booming voice declares, “You’re too busy, Jaim. You guys need to relax!” Yeah, calls me Jaim. Apparently that extra syllable is too much of a hassle to pronounce.) I’m not exactly sure when this shift took place, but the nature of modern life is that we all have too much to do and not enough time in which to do it.
As a leader, the pressing need (whether perceived or actual) to do all the things and be at all the events will eventually become an exhausting exercise in futility that could eventually cost you your relationships, health, and ministry. Let me encourage you strongly to combat this propensity. Contend for your schedule. Fight for it. And I mean fight hard. Here are some practical ways to do this:
Begin each day with God. I’m not a morning person. I can give you countless examples of how NOT a morning person I am. I’ve often joked that even God doesn’t really like to be around me during that time of the day. However, I force myself out of bed in order to spend time with the Lord in the Word and prayer before anyone else in my home gets moving.
This whole concept may even seem counterintuitive: there aren’t enough hours in the day, so add something else to your schedule at a really inconvenient time of day. But hang with me.
I can’t prove this theory biblically, but I tend to think that when we sacrificially offer the first part of our day, God miraculously blesses the remainder of the day exponentially. This has been the case for me time and time again: I really didn’t “have time” to do my devotions before starting my day, but I did anyway. And yet I seemed to find extra moments throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes those extra minutes were gained through a smooth sailing commute into work giving me extra time to complete a task. Or a meeting that got cancelled. Or, hallelujah, no tomfoolery from the other “drop off loop” parents at the elementary school! (Don’t get me started on that: if you can’t just open the door and let your precious cargo out of the car in 45 seconds or less, then drop off loop is not for you).
Plan your day. Before you go to bed, put together a flexible plan for the next day. The old adage says, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Within that plan, be sure to prioritize – and do so with this in mind: People > Tasks. My fingers cramped up as I typed that, because I’m extremely task oriented. I’ve had to train my brain in specific ways when it comes to planning my day with People First/Tasks Second mentality. (Of course, there will be times where you really need to just close your office door and focus on tasks without interruption).
Wage the small battles
Here are some little victories that will help you win the war for your schedule. These small things add up over time and can steal large chunks of time from your life. If you keep up on these, you’ll redeem those stolen minutes over time. (A big “thank you” to author Gretchen Rubin for highlighting these in her Happier podcast.)
- Have a specific place for everything. Passports and birth certificates. Eye liner. Computer files. Extra toilet paper. Everything in your home, office, church, on your computer should have a very specific and constant location. When you use it, put it back where it goes. You will save time the next time you need it when you don’t have to search for it.
- One Minute Or Less Rule. If a task takes up to one minute to complete, then do it right then and there. Put the dirty plate in the dishwasher. Refile the folder immediately. Respond to the text or e-mail as soon as you receive it. This keeps tasks from piling up and therefore cutting into time you’d need to do bigger, more important things.
- One Hour a Week. Plan one hour each week where you just hammer out a task or tasks that you’ve been putting off. Shred those old files you don’t need anymore. Clean out that closet that you’ve been ignoring. Return those items to the store that you didn’t end up needing for the party.
Do only what only you can do. That may read a little confusing at first. This piece of advice was recently given to my husband by a leader he respects. Essentially, as the leader, if there’s a task that can just as easily be done by someone on your team; don’t be afraid to delegate it to that person. Stick to things that only you as the pastor or leader should do. That may be casting vision or dreaming with your team. Or writing that sermon series on the next direction God is leading your church. You’re the leader of your organization and there are some things that only you should do. But if you’re time is being robbed by other things, then you’ll never be able to fully accomplish what it is you’re called to do.
In an ideal church or organization, we would have plenty of money to do all of the dreams and plans God’s called us to do as well as fully staffed teams to enact said dreams and plans. Reality is often a different story.
Sometimes there aren’t enough people to do the work. What if you’re just starting out in a church plant/revitalization or lead a small organization? Or your church or organization begins growing suddenly and you don’t have the right team in place yet? It will feel like you must be all things to all people. But there are ways to counter that by growing your team and spreading the responsibility around:
- Give them a chance. Ask people to help or serve on the team even if you don’t think they’re quite ready for it. I like to think that people will surprise us in a positive way. You’ll probably learn a side of that person that you never knew existed. And if this makes you nervous, just ask for a short term commitment to be evaluated at the end of specific time period while you partner with them as they grow into a role.
- Make it easy to serve in your organization. Create simple ways for people to get involved that don’t require their three proofs of identification, their mother’s maiden name, and swearing a blood oath of commitment to the organization. When there are many easy entry points into areas of service within a church or organization, you’ll find that more and more people want to get involved. The excitement for the vision will be contagious.
- Join networks of like minded leaders. Perhaps the individuals in the network can point you in the direction of individuals seeking to be part of the exact type of organization you lead. This also gives you the opportunity to reach beyond the scope of what you already know.
Sometimes there isn’t enough money to do what you’re called to do – specifically in a church setting. When financial resources are significantly limited, it’s time to get creative:
- Do you know a college student or someone just starting out in his or her career looking for experience? Recently our church did a large community outreach. A young man in our congregation had just graduated college with a degree in marketing but was having a hard time getting a job due to lack of experience. Guess what? He helped us created and launch a marketing campaign for our outreach.
- Volunteer groups are always looking for projects. I also work for a non-profit organization in an urban setting. We often partner with volunteers to do large projects around our building such as Spring and Fall clean up as well as Christmas gift wrapping for the children we minister to. National Honor Society Students in local high schools are usually looking for ways to fulfill community service hours as well.
- Consider trading services. Offer something you’re good at (photography, graphic design, copy editing) in return for someone else’s skill or expertise.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of pre-written curriculums or online resources to glean from if you’re in need. For the most part, people are happy to share what they’ve created with others. Just ask. And give credit where credit is due.
- Be generous. Again this is one that may see as counterintuitive: Give when you don’t have anything to give? But I’ve seen it happen time and again, when churches and individuals are generous to give, they are blessed in return. I’m sure you know of countless anecdotal ways to support this. One example springs to mind. I know of a couple in pastoral ministry who, each year, increase their missions support (above and beyond their tithe) by small amounts. Every year since they began pastoring that church, it has experienced incremental growth in the overall general fund. As a result, over time, the church has been able to steadily increase in ways to minister within the church and the community. There’s just something about generous, sacrificial giving that returns exponential blessing.
We know God has called us to lead our churches and organizations with excellence. Often we are faced with seemingly insurmountable limits. However, with some careful assessment and planning we can lead beyond those limits and excel to the next level.
I’m rooting and praying for you! ~ Jaime