Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A five day week..?

Good morning God,

I was reminded this week amidst all the comments about Clergy Burn-Out of my first Superintendent (You never forget your first!) In the first three months of my ministry, he took the trouble to go through my diary with me, and make sure that I took things out as well as put things in. He would point out, for example, that I had a ladies fellowship meeting arranged for Tuesday afternoon, but had set aside no time to prepare for it - were these women not worth the effort - or did I think I would prepare in my sleep? Similarly for Church meetings - when had I set aside time to re-read the minutes of the last meeting, to pray about the work to be done, to seek God's guidance - or was that supposed to happen sometime in between the opening devotions and the apologies for absence?
His gentle but insistent reordering of my diary, helped me to shape not only my time but also my theology of Church order - invaluable!
Later on, as we developed a team ministry in the Circuit, we would meet weekly at 8:00am and the final part of our business was to share our diaries as part of watching over one another in love. This also had the amazing effect of teaching us what work we were each engaged in, how to play to one another's strengths, and how to avoid duplication. There can be no doubt about it - opening the diary to scrutiny reduced the work load.
It's not common practice, most ministers seem determined to hoard their work-load as though it is treasure from heaven (which it certainly isn't!). Very few ministers seem confident enough to celebrate a lighter week as a Godsend, leave alone ask for help with a demanding week.
There can be no doubt in my mind that collegiality is better than legislation when it comes to the provision of appropriate pro-active supervision. We shared diaries because we cared about each others work load, as well as the work of the Circuit. We worked as a team because that was what Circuit ministry was supposed to be all about. We also learned the hard way that it only takes one unwilling person to destroy a team.
Given the increasing sizes of circuits and the demands placed on lay and ministerial staff alike, it becomes harder and harder to realistically watch over one another in love - leave alone create and sustain an effective circuit (ie team) ministry.
So what to do?
I think that Micky Youngston and others are right - now is the time to debunk the myth of ministry being of necessity a 24/7 job and recognise that it is the calling that is 24/7 not the work!
It's time to insist first and foremost on realistic working hours for ministers. If the European time directive is good enough for other vocational professionals like doctors and consultants - then it should be good enough for ministers. No more than 40 hours per week maximum. And - YES - ministers should have two days a week off - if possible to be taken consecutively!
A radical rethink of ministerial working hours would undoubtedly serve to re-engage the laity - or better yet - help us to set realistic priorities. Do we really need yet another meeting for the carpet in the Sanctuary or to set the calendar of social committee meetings for the year?
Above all this however, it would send out the message, loud and clear, to ministers  and laity alike that the work of ministry should not be so demanding that the minister is unable to take the time to grow in grace and holiness, to fulfil their calling which includes their responsibilities to their families and friends.
I know that few ministers would be able to hold to 40 hours, but changing the working hours would make it possible to hold us accountable for 40 hours - and questions could then rightly be asked about any excess!
It might make ministers more willing to share their diaries, if they didn't feel that every hour from 8:00am til 10:00pm had to be spoken for. It might encourage greater honesty about unrealistic work loads, and help to stem the tide of those leaving the ministry for better paid, 5 day a week posts. (It's worth noting that Connexional posts are only 5 days a week rather than the Circuit based 6 days!)
It's time to draft circuit and district resolutions to Conference, to send a message loud and clear - along with personnel files for ministers, we want decent working hours.
But above all this God - what we really want is a means of watching over one another in love.


  1. Hi Angela,

    Thanks for your posts; I subscribe to them in my mail reader and read many of them.

    This one came as a challenge to me - I'm a poor steward of my time, and I might have a bit of a Messiah complex.

    I am a minister in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, superintendent of 4 churches and 1 other minister. I'm going to try and apply something of what I learned from you.

    (I've also sent a link to our MCSA minister's discussion mailing group).

    Thanks for sharing your journey - the blogs I read are great companions along the way.

    God Bless,

  2. Thanks Gus,
    I appreciate your comments. I suspect we all have a bit of a Messiah complex - sort of goes with the job, but watching over one another is a good way of keeping it in check. Is there any form of formal accountability built into the MCSA system?

  3. Accountability: Only when it comes to money!

    Like you say, I don't think it an enforceable kind of thing - its up to individuals. I vaguely remember someone trying to do it in the past - but nothing came of the idea.

    Some circuits work closely, others not so close.

  4. Until my present post (university chaplain) I had never had a Monday to Friday job since leaving school at 18. My parents were self employed so I grew up assuming you work whenever and for as long as required to get the job done. What a refreshing, renewing and enabling thing it is to have weekends off! I never knew life could be so rewarding! I can visit family and friends and for the first time in my adult life maintain consistent membership of a non-church based club. Why did I have to wait till my forties for this to happen? What possible use is a minister who is never let out of church?

  5. As a paid lay employee of the Methodist Church I refuse to be a part of any church meeting on a Saturday that could take place during the week.
    This shocks many and I have often been challenged by others about this - what about 'your call'?
    My call is fine - it's simply when and how I fullfill it.
    What you say is so true and necessary...
    Angie, Please can you put together a circuit/district resolution to get us started ?
    I'd be happy to broach the subject at circuit and district level. ( I'm a District Mission and Development Enabler)

  6. Thanks unichap, thanks Susan - the answer is yes - I will be trying to put together two resolutions: the first for circuits, the second for districts. It would certainly send a very clear signal through if several circuits all sent the same resolution through to Conference, especially if this was also backed up by District resolutions on the same matter. If nothing else - it would enable the water to be tested so to speak. I'll post the resolutions here at the start of September.

  7. Brilliant, Thanks, Angie