Healthy Churches Serve Well Together!

Reading time: three minutes.

sore_feetI told my wife Carol the other day, “My dogs are barking!”  It seems my feet have been doing more than their share of the work lately.  It’s retreat season, so I’m on my feet for long stretches.  My poor aching feet are over-functioning.  Carol suggested I let my gluteus do their job for a while.

The Apostle wrote to the Ephesians, “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (4:16).

We pastors and other professional church workers sometimes have a problem with that last part, “… as each part does its work.”  We tend to be over-functioners.

Luther’s thoughts on vocation are foundational to our understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ.  Every church worker would do well to keep his theology of vocation in mind, both for our own wellbeing and for the health of the church.

There are certainly some in the church work professions who are carrying far less than their share of the load.  I’m reminded of Paul’s advice later in Ephesians 4, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, doing something useful with his own hands” (4:28).  Some of us need to get off the computer and go make some visits!

My experience (my own experience and my encounters with others) tells me that over-functioning is a much greater problem for us.

stiff_neckI define over-functioning as “doing more than I have the capacity to do.” How will I know?  Well, for one, my body will tell me.  I know the signals in my neck and chest where tension seems to settle, not to mention my eyelids!

My family will also tell me.  Remember Jethro talking to Moses in Exodus 18?  “What you are doing is not good?”  I often encourage church workers to ask their spouse, “Am I doing too much?”  You may have to ask two or three times to get a straight answer because our spouses know our passion for kingdom work.  It’s worth a regular conversation.

My calendar will also tell me if I’m over-functioning.  It’s a good practice to keep track of our hours and evenings away.  Try it for a couple months.  I might do a blog on this sometime.

Healthy churches understand that each part must do its work, and that the Pastor and other workers in the church have only their own part to do.

Figuring out that part is the challenge.

I was once handed a job description for the call I had accepted that ran onto three legal sized sheets in 8-point type.  The last item read, “Anything else the members of the congregation might ask of the Pastor.”

handoffWe spent the next seventeen years paring that list down to size.  We all agreed there were certain things only the pastor could do.  After a few years together we also decided we should try to define what things those were and see if we could help the Pastor major in only those things.
At the end of my seventeen years we were still negotiating.  But we had come far enough that our church looked a lot more like “… as each part does its work” than we did when I arrived.

I was healthier, and the congregation was healthier also.

That might be worth a conversation where you serve also!

Thanks for reading.

Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry?  Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry.  Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.