Do you remember the first time you asked someone if they liked you? Like in elementary school? Or maybe like me, middle school? More than likely it didn’t happen instantly. You thought about it. A lot. You played through all kinds of scenarios in your mind.
Recently, my kids came across my old middle school yearbooks. They started asking all kinds of questions, mostly around haircuts and fashion but at some point it drifted to what one girl wrote in the back of my yearbook. It was an old girlfriend. Sheesh! They asked how long we dated and how I asked her out. I explained how easy it was. I handed her a note that said, “Do you like me? Check yes or no on the inside.” They laughed, a lot. I shot back by asking, “Well, what’s your plan?” One of our teenagers said, “Oh, I just ask to borrow their phone for a minute and text myself. Now, I have their number. A little later I just start texting with them.” Like that’s the most obvious thing in the world. Honestly, I was half-disturbed and half-proud. At least he had a plan.
We need a plan. The idea of having a strategy for work and family isn’t new and yet it’s strange that every day we get up, head to work, and know we are probably going to fall short. Still, we aren’t making a change.
The danger for not applying a strategy toward our work schedules is huge. The arguments grow. The stress builds and kids start to see a messier side of ministry. Parameters aren’t clear. Goals aren’t set. Friends are lost. Vacations get bumped or misappropriated. The next thing you know, you’re sitting by the ocean with friends and start thinking this is the perfect time to get caught up on a few things because time off becomes time to check off something on your to-do list.
What else can you do? There’s work to be done and if you don’t get it done, who will?
Since it’s impossible to fit everything that happens on your 9-5 calendar (which doesn’t actually exist anyway), what will you do when things come up?
The exceptions to your schedule are already in motion. There’s no way to avoid them. Your plans will change in a moment. People will need you and it won’t fit into your schedule. You got into ministry to respond to the needs of others. So why is there so little time for them?
Just because ministry is filled with exceptions doesn’t mean we have to be surprised. It has always intrigued me how many people continue to be caught off-guard by the inevitable.
Every Christmas, our family likes to watch Elf. There is a scene where over-sized elf Will Ferrell is assigned the horrible task of checking to make sure each jack in the box is working properly. He turns the crank and the clown pops out. He is startled every time it happens. It’s a funny moment in the movie. What’s not so funny is that many of us are living our lives turning the crank but not prepared for what’s next. A couple of times each year, most churches do a big push to get people connected to a small group. At our church, any member of our staff could tell you about when it’s going to happen. New participants would typically sign up before they went to get their kids and it would always take a few minutes to find the right small group for their schedule. This meant that our children’s ministry would be watching kids a little longer on those weekends. Every time, a couple of our staff members would be caught off-guard by this. Small-group sign ups were a pretty normal part of our schedule, but immediately the weekend would be thrown off. Compare that to the veterans who determined not to be surprised by these weekends of different programming. When they planned for the exception, it became an opportunity to shine.
These leaders would coordinate fun games and order pizza for all of the volunteers that are spending extra time at church. Now, instead of stressed-out kids that are ready to go home, these volunteers and parents discover they have well-fed, happy kids and everybody is ready for a Sunday afternoon nap.
Exceptions become incredible opportunities. Opportunities to care for those in need. Opportunities to use your training and skills to help someone. Opportunities to integrate your family and friends in your calling.