“Pastor, You’re So Busy”

As a pastor, I hear people tell me all the time: “You’re so busy.” 

Objectively, this is true: I lead an accidental multi-site church with about a dozen part-time staff, while getting another Master’s degree. I’m married and love to prioritize time with my wife, and every once in a while would like to see my family (many of whom live nearby) and some friends.

So, yes, I’m busy. But I don’t think I know many people who aren’t. People younger than me are still in school and starting their careers; many people my age have families—which means soccer and baseball and homework in the school-months; many people older than me are working hard and running after kids and grandkids. Heck, a lot of the retirees I know are busier now than they were while they were working!

So, yeah, I’m busy—but I hate it when people apologize for taking my time. It’s my least favorite thing, especially from the people I pastor. I understand where it’s coming from: they care about me and don’t want me running ragged. That said, I’m busy because I say yes to giving my time to the people I care about. 

In other words, here’s what keeps me busy:

  • Sermon and teaching prep—either for this coming Sunday, or looking twelve or more weeks down the road;
  • Meeting with paid and unpaid staff—helping them figure out how to overcome an obstacle, solve a problem, and implement a new idea;
  • Spending time in one-on-one’s for counseling, encouragement, and guidance;
  • Intentional time making disciples of a handful of leaders who, when they ask, always get a “yes” if I can make it work;
  • Doing marriage and pre-marriage counseling; it’s not unfair to say that out of 52 weeks a year, we’ll spend 40-45 with someone on our couch getting ready for marriage, or trying to make their marriage work;
  • Visiting folks in the hospital, and occasionally in their home; sorry, Richard Baxter, but meeting people in coffee shops and where they work is the new house-to-house thing;
  • Grabbing lunch or coffee with other pastors, especially the handful I’m honored to call friends. It’s important to me to walk beside someone doing similar work with a similar passion;
  • Attending to commitments I’ve made to the Annual Conference (our supervising agency): attending pastors’ meetings, coaching other pastors via the phone, and attending to the business of being part of the tribe;
  • Responding to and initiating dozens of texts, emails, phone calls, and more—sometimes to solve a problem, to check in, to set an agenda, or to pray… Come to think of it, a lot of my phone calls include prayer.

Look at that list and you’ll notice a few things: first, I’m never in my office, because my office isn’t where my best work is done. People who are looking for me shouldn’t start at my office, because I’m probably with somebody doing the very thing you’re looking for at that moment.

Second, there are people who get first-dibs on my time. There are a handful of people—my staff, and a few key leaders, and some guys I’m discipling—that when they ask, I’ll move mountains if I have to. Everyone is equally important, but some few are more strategic than others. Where there’s a fire, I want to add fuel with my time.

Third, and more importantly, what keeps me busy is my people. Spending time with people isn’t an interruption to what I do, it is the very core of what I do! I choose to invest myself in people every. time. Sometimes that means sermon prep happens on the weekend, and while I don’t like that all the time, the reality is: given the choice between people and anything else, this extrovert will choose people every time. 

So, if you’re part of what I’m doing, do me a favor: stop feeling bad about asking for my time. Don’t begin your sentences with, “I know you’re busy.” Instead, begin with: “Hey, I would love to connect about {insert topic here} — when would be the best time for you?”

A ground-breaking text for me, way back in my Moody days, was in 1 Thessalonians 2:8,

We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.

I’m not here to not be busy; let my self-care be my self-care (and if you want to know about that, and how to make sure I’m taken care of, maybe we can do another post on that). Instead, let me be your friend.

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