Busy? Yeah.

This turned out to be a day that filled up with meetings and administrative work: checking in with office staff in the morning, a phone appointment with the consultant I work with, checking email, proofing the newsletter, checking in with the editor of the congregational cookbook, home for a quick lunch, then back for a meeting with the architect who’s developing a master plan for maintaining our building, followed by a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, grab a quick take-out dinner at the Thai place down the street, followed by a meeting for the community sustainability group of which Carol and I members. Speaking from experience, I’d say that serving as minister of a small congregation can actually be more demanding than serving as minister of a larger congregation, because in a small congregation, I’m it, there isn’t another minister on staff who can cover a meeting instead of me. In my experience, you’re more vulnerable as the sole minister in a small congregation — and the congregation is much more vulnerable, too, because if something happens to you (you go into the hospital, God forbid, or have a family crisis, or just go on sabbatical ), there’s no one there to take up the slack. I’m not complaining or looking for sympathy. I love my work, and I’m happy in my congregation. But when you think that more than half of all mainline congregations in the United States are small, that means that more than half the congregations in the United States are pretty vulnerable in this way. If you’re looking for reasons why mainline congregations are sturggling, I don’t think you have to look any farther than this.

3 thoughts on “Busy? Yeah.

  1. Christine Robinson

    I agree…sort of.
    The problem with working alone is that you are alone.
    The problem with working with others is that there are others.
    Those others can be a great blessing, a great pain in the neck, and a help…until they get sick or go on sabbatical, not to mention if conflict rears its ugly head, and then you’ve got to sort it out and manage twice the work.

    I work with two colleagues and a dedicated lay staff. And I’ve had days just like yours, except that I don’t even try to belong to community organizations! I think actually that the greatest blessing of working with colleagues is that there is someone else going through those times with you. It’s less lonely.

  2. Phil on the Prairie

    Dan–I’ve been reading the blogs of some evangelical multi-site pastors, and they seem to be just as busy as you…but as you mention, they often have a lot of support staff, so their congregations are not as vulnerable. This could also be the reason that 80% of church plants fail–they rely too much on a single person to carry the weight.

  3. Administrator

    Christine — Personally, my preference is always for working with others (even though I’m an introvert). Even when conflict happens. The thing is, I’m mostly not that busy, but when busy-ness comes it all seems to come at once, and there’s no elasticity in our congregation’s staff — I have no one I can share work with. I think the biggest fear of sole ministers insmall congregations has to be — what happens when you hit a personal crisis? Who’s gonna help you out?….

    Phil — 80% of church plants fail, huh? Wow, I didn’t realize. But yeah — when you put all your eggs in one basket, you better be doggone careful of that one basket….

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