Performance reviews, progress reports, and “check ins” are as old as the word “career,” but many employees are asking their employers to hold on… it’s stressing them out!
Performance reviews, progress reports, and “check ins” are as old as the word “career,” but many employees are asking their employers to hold on… it’s stressing them out!
After spending 10 + years in hospice work and being a pastor for 25 years I have learned a few things about healthcare workers: they are usually exhausted, under-valued, and not paid well. You show me someone who works hard everyday work day and I will point you to a healthcare worker. Yep.
Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying that engineers or railroad technicians don’t put in a good days work. I am NOT saying that teachers are slackers and those who work in accounting have “posh” jobs. I am not even saying that pastors, clergy, and chaplains have it easy. What I AM SAYING is that caregivers, healthcare workers, hospice and palliative care workers have demanding jobs with the added stress of “life being in their hands”.
So if you are a healthcare worker, if you take care of the elderly, disabled, work in the hospital, hospice, palliative care, ER, Intensive Care, or with rehabilitation- this one is for you!
1. Embrace your vulnerabilities. Be human. Or in other words, don’t think for even a second that you are the savior; a hero. You are a human life given a set of skills and compassion that add value to those who are in jeopardy of losing theirs . When you find yourself at a loss with how to do something, admit it, get help, and stand by to learn. Grow in your…
2. Be your own patient (follow your own advice). I once knew a nurse who would have wonderful counsel for families who were going through the perils of watching their loved ones pass from this life. She had wonderful points to ponder, great advice on how to cope, spectacular self care discernment for others. What she didn’t have is the ability to put her own counsel into practice. Don’t be like this.
Try this little exercise to examine whether you “put your money where your mouth is”: take a piece of paper and write down the things you find yourself saying to patients to help them. Things such as get enough protein, get a check up, follow up with your physician, exercise, wean yourself off of the pain medicine as you feel you can. Once you have 10-15 items, go back and checkmark the ones you yourself follow. Be ready to find yourself surprised at what spoken values are in comparison to practiced values in your life.
3. Sleep. Yes, I said sleep. You wouldn’t believe how many healthcare workers do not get enough sleep and/or rest well. Blame all kinds of things but the bottom line is care-givers don’t get enough shut eye.
Imagine if you were well rested-each day. Imagine how much more comforting and patient you would be with yourself, others, and most importantly, your patients. Imagine how much strength you would have. Imagine your creative problem-solving skills if you were well rested. Sleep. More. Take a nap, Get a sleep study done if you believe there are sleep issues in your life, hereditary concerns, or if your spouse or family tell you that they get concerned when you sleep because you may be stopping to breath . Get some rest!
Hey you medical staff! Attention social workers, chaplains, and bereavement counselors! Calling all EMT and Community service officers. Shouting out to all the doctors… You do amazing work! You go for the gusto for your patients! Take yourself seriously and consider these words: Thank you for taking care of your patients. Please take care of yourself!
While having lunch I overheard a striking statement that made me think about the topic of promotion and advancing up the ladder. The gentleman told his lunch mate that he was angry that he was not promoted, saying “after all, I have been there the longest”.
Certainly I do not know all the details of the company, this employee or the supervisor that is in charge of promotions and giving out raises. I don’t know the reasoning behind who received the promotion. I don’t know anything about this situation… except that I picked up on the fact that this guy was genuinely jaded that he was passed over. I sensed his pain as he felt overlooked, underappreciated, and un-valued.
Nevertheless, I also caught on to his expectation. He assumed that since he was the longest standing employee in that department it gave him the right to the job. He was next in line to receive the promotion of management. I wonder if this kind of thinking is outdated. Maybe its altogether wrong.
According to a December 21, 2015 Business Journal, tenure-based advancement to management is the norm in many organizations. But the same report and recent Gallup report reveals that the two most frequent reasons U.S. workers are named manager are tenure with their company and success in a non-managerial role. But neither necessarily indicates that a person has the right talent to succeed as a manager.
As I speak around the country to organizations, churches, and companies of all kinds and sizes, one of the common threads of things they want me to address is employee engagement and resiliency. And I am happy to do that. But as I leave the platform one of my questions that I challenge them with is: examine who is at the table and who needs to be there-but not. Perhaps one of the people who are there, that needs to be removed is the one who thinks they have a right because of tenure. Perhaps skill set, empathy, and knowledge should be at the top of the lists for advancement. Maybe these should trump tenure.
It makes sense to me- skill set, empathy, and job-based knowledge should replace the old fashioned tenure reason why people get promotions.
Certainly longevity is a value worthy of reward. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an employee being faithful to a company and its vision for long periods of time; throughout several kinds of seasons. Weathering the storms of business is a true test of integrity and should be rewarded. But maybe management is not the right kind of promotion. Maybe it’s a pay raise. Perhaps it’s time off, extra vacation days. Maybe it’s a sabbatical. Sometimes its just wrong to promote someone to management just because they have been there the longest.
I once knew a pastor who thought that he should become a regional director of his denomination because he and his wife had been in the area the longest. It would be his “last stop before retirement”, he told me. I asked him if he thought he would be good at it? His response,” it doesn’t matter if I am good or not, I am next in line”. Thankfully the denomination did not choose to promote him.
Promotions: it’s not just for those who have been there the longest.
Recently while preparing for a presentation I ran across some research that my friend Harold Ivan Smith shared with me one day at lunch. “You know Steve, many people don’t know much about being an ambassador”. He went on to share his research about the last several terms of presidents and how the U.S. Commander in Chief has an unwritten code of conduct that he swears to about managing the affairs of the country- one of them about empathy.
I got to thinking about that as I continued to prepare my speech for the group of managers I was going to be in front of in the coming week. I thought to myself, “have I been an ambassador to my groups? Have I provided empathy to the people on my teams, when it was appropriate?” I concluded these thoughts with the following 3 qualities of an ambassador that makes a winning, stand-out manager or supervisor.
Being an ambassador to your company is not just a novel idea- its a great piece of the manager position puzzle that is missing in most companies. Do you know much about being your organization’s ambassador?
There has been a conversation going on for decades about supervisors, managers, and upper level positioned employees and their tactics to manage their staff. On one end of the spectrum you have the tough guys and on the other, the compassionate ones. Very rarely is there a convergence.
The tough tactic of managerial leadership is a view from the bottom line: “we have 2 months to get the job done and you’re not cutting it here. Shape up or ship out”. This kind of leadership, if that’s what you call it, is hard to be under because there is no room for reasoning, information to be processed, or for understanding to be achieved. “It’s my way or the highway” is the motto and it usually leaves people frustrated, helpless, and filled with anxiety. We know these people all too well. This side of the fence holds parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and managers of all kinds. In the ways of the toughness tactic, the only course of action is to resolve the problem.
The other side of managing people is those who are less anxiety-driven and more compassionate. These managers are called leaders because they actually lead people to the tasks at hand. No heavy fist pounding in this camp- only an open dialogue of what is expected, listening to what is going on in their world, and finding out how reconciliation can be found. When reprimands are necessary, there is a road to revelation that always leads to redemption. When all else fails and there has to be an exit, the termination is done in such a way that hones character, ushers in a spirit of education, and openness for dialogue. Even if it gets downright ugly, the compassionate supervisor knows that he/she has done everything they can extend care and concern for the one being let go.
Research at the Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism suggests that those who practice loyalty and trust, will have a better engagement in their job duties, perform more efficiently with their team mates, and understand with “skin in the game”. These team members understand the core values of the company, organization. This safe, positive, encouraging, and affirming workplace is the kinds of place where people like to go to work, enjoy their teammates, and appreciate the job they do.
1. Unfold your arms, put a smile on your face, and stop pacing.
Open your body language to engage with people. Ask yourself, would you want to come to someone who is only looking at the bottom line if you have a concern or need to ask for time off? Or would you rather be able to present your need to a caring individual with a bigger picture in mind? Your posture says a lot about whether you are approachable or not.
2. Listen, listen, listen.
The lost art of listening has been duped by instant technology and gratification. Take a moment with your employees. Hear what is being said. Listen to the way they say it and their tone. Create a 1,2,3 method for listening:
3. Reward honesty and appreciate personal values.
As you listen and usher in an “I am here to help” attitude you will discover personal values that have been learned over their lifetime. As you see they’re arriving to work on time, hard work during a stressful season, or going the extra mile for a deadline, appreciate and value these people. Call them out during a staff meeting. Write a personal note of thanks. Put up a “Hard Workers” award bulletin board with their picture and what they did to deserve it.
4. Practice accountability.
Leaders know that sometimes there are consequences to actions. As you develop your compassionate skill set for people there will be times when you will have to let people hold their actions. Forgiveness is essential here but not letting them off the hook is just as important. Just like in parenting, it’s important to issue consequences for poor behavior or unethical motives. Help your team win by putting these expectations out in front of them, not by a set of do’s and don’ts but of reality living and being.
5. Practice condolence.
Harold Ivan Smith has done research in the unwritten role of condolence in the White House. He shares when the president of the United States takes an oath of office, there seems to be an unwritten rule of thumb that is issued at that same moment: that he becomes the “Chief Condoler”. A condoler is one who offers presence, special words or thoughts to those filled with sorrow or has anguish.
The same is true for managers who supervise employees. When something happens at home, it’s just a matter of time before it affects the workplace. Open your door; invite these people into your office. Go to their workstation with a cup of coffee and listen, offer help to them, invite the team to bring assistance, and encourage opened-ended discussion about their adversity, loss, and change/transition.
6. Celebrate achievements.
As your team grows to new heights, celebrate. When a goal is reached, celebrate. When the project is over, celebrate. Create avenues in your budget for “team parties”. Endorse time in your schedule to turn the cubicles into “food stations” and invite people to bring their favorite family covered dish to share. Move beyond “jeans on Fridays” and set the clock for 5PM one hour early as a surprise to your employees for a job well done.
Whether you’re a regimented “wrath like” manager or you are too kindhearted as an overseer, supervising people is not for wimps. It takes thick-skinned people willing to unmask potential, uncover hidden skillsets, and manage a team for a common goal. Being approachable and having a sense of warmth creates a whole new level to your management- which leads to better employee engagement, team members feeling more part of the process, less accidents, and more productivity.
Whenever I am speaking to a group of business owners or corporate leaders I will encounter several kinds of stories of how their team members behave in a negative ways. I hear from managers and supervisors about poor time management, illicit use of funds, angry outbursts, false documentation, inappropriate behavior, and the list goes on. But one story that I am finding more common is how people of faith are behaving – or in most cases, how they are offensive and sometimes downright rude.
As a person of faith and a former pastor I know this balance all too well. There have been plenty of times when my over-zealous, eager attitude to convert my friends has taken over as I make my stand for what I believe (or in most cases, what I stand against). In an effort to make my first impression strong – I have turned people away.
I remember one instance where I was so “out-loud” with my faith that I pushed my friend away only to hear her final words of, “I hope your god is happy with the way you live… you certainly know how to hurt people”.
To make matters worse, I couldn’t even see it until a mentor came to me and asked me a question about how I was treating people. I think he considered locking me up in a basement, but he cared enough to confront me. “Do you really believe that your passion for your faith is worth beating people up”? This trusted friend encouraged me to take a few days to have a personal encounter with God prayerfully consider how I handle the people in my life. His caring approach and questions led me to a revised view of interpersonal relationships.
Peter Mead wrote, “just because we feel strongly about our faith message doesn’t mean we should strong-arm our listeners, friends, or co-workers”. I was certainly doing that – and worse – I didn’t care.
From my prayer journal I recall these 3 questions that came as a result of my time with God that day. Take this simple quiz to see if your faith message is toxic in your relationships:
1. When you share your faith are you aggressive and offending? How you are coming across will send your listeners closer or send them running. Carefully consider your words and your tone. Prayerfully ask questions with intent to listen. As you post on social media, be sensitive to what others might feel. Maybe you and I can be bolder about what we believe instead of what we are so strongly against.
2. When you are with others, do you become loud and obnoxious? It’s so tempting for some personalities to raise their voice when they encounter enthusiasm. Becoming full of conviction is not wrong just as long as we don’t become “shouty” in the process. Peter Mead says, “being known as the shouting preacher won’t help you on several levels”. As you work among other faiths, non-faith folks, and all kinds of people different than you, take the golden rule into effect: treat people with respect and genuine care.
3. Are you focused on your faith or is your faith focused? You might think these are one in the same but they are not. Focused on your faith is a presentation. This “putting on a show” attitude could be hurtful on several levels, especially in the work place where people around you may or may not know your whole personality. Are you faith focused? This is where faith drives a person to be quick to listen, slow to speak. Faith focused people first engage God to seek guidance on how to live their life. It is the mentality of “Lord, where do I go… send me” attitude.
After my mentor encouraged me to seek God about my relationships, I was changed. I felt as if I were a pain to be around; distracting people with my intensity, and not being loving and respectful. I felt specifically impressed to meet with each of my team members, neighbors, and friends to seek forgiveness in how I was treating them. I apologized with transparency and genuine care for the way I had made my faith seem over-zealous.
It would be great if everything turned out, but it didn’t. Sure, there were folks who were accepting and forgiving. But I lost a few connections too. My faith mismanagement created enemies and people who have kept me at a distance. I’m saddened by this and prayerfully hopeful for reconciliation at some point. It also makes me mindful of the principle of initial engagements: you only have one chance to make a good impression.
To get more resources on this topic, pick up a copy of my book “At a Loss” today.
“Dear Steve, it’s a good thing you’re reading this because you’re one of the most incompetent and inconsiderate people I know. I’ve known eight year olds that do a better job than you do and seven year olds who are more responsible. (which only makes sense, because most of the time you act like you’re six!) Do you really think that maturity is optional? Do you think it’s cool to be disorganized? No one likes you. I can barely stand you, and…”
Enduring criticism is about as much fun as sticking your tongue in a light socket. No sane person enjoys it but it seems to go with every territory I know. If you are in sales, marketing, service, or simply answer the phone, you will get a good dose of criticism whether you like it or not. And no well intentioned person should tolerate it – right?
Criticism may be not far off in the fun category of a root canal but it doesn’t mean that we should avoid it. Did you know that there are 3 different types of criticism? First there is valid category. This is the good stuff and often the most difficult to handle because it forces us to admit our failures. Secondly, unjustified criticism is the bad of the three. It often surfaces because of someone’s unspoken expectations- which is their fault not yours. The third type of criticism is the ugly vague kind. This is simply a warning that someone doesn’t like you.
The challenge lies in how we deal with these words… or how we don’t. Let me make a few suggestions on how we can value criticism (without becoming a doormat for every cheap shot stomped on our heads).
1 – Expect criticism: Let’s just admit it, we make mistakes, miscalculations, and mishaps… who doesn’t. But that should not keep us sitting like a duck waiting to be shot. Know this, if you do something, you will be criticized. If you expect to be criticized, you will find that it hurts less and helps more. Expect it when the honey moon is over, when you have done something stupid, when everything is going poorly, and when things are going well.
2 – Assume criticism is valid until proven otherwise: It doesn’t matter where it comes from, assume that it’s valid. Rather than appointing yourself as the defense attorney, get in the business of accepting that maybe you can learn something from the person.
3 – Delay your response to criticism: The Bible says that “a gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up wrath”. If we as people in the public eye will learn this, I believe we would avoid all kinds of messes.
Few of us relish criticism- giving it or receiving it. But we all need it. And a healthy environment for sharing concerns, confrontations, and feedback (a good team environment) can start with you- if you are willing to let others take a hard look.
A few years back, my buddy and I attended an Eagles Concert. You know the band from Southern California I am sure. Their lyrics were the script of our life and their music became iconic themes during pivotal moments . It’s hard not to sing along to favorites such as Hotel California, Desperado, and Life in the Fast Lane. Our record players played them a lot. Radio was never the same.
On opening night of their second leg of the tour, my friend Mark and I were surrounded with thousands of fans at the Kansas City, MO Sprint Center when co-founder Glenn Frey started off his song “Take it easy” with these words: “maybe we all take it easy”. The guitar strum took it from there. The crowd went wild and sang along.
“Go to work, don’t live there.”
Maybe he is right. Maybe in order to stay in the game of life- hospice life- we need to take it easy- on ourselves.
I’ve served as a hospice spiritual care leader and/or chaplain and now as a presenter and facilitator in grief and bereavement work for almost 10 years. By far- the most neglected trait of hospice workers is self-care. Don’t we know that without proper care to ourselves- we may not have much to give? Isn’t it important to remember that if we are not fueled up, we won’t be able to “make it”? Isnt it true that if we don’t get filled up, we won’t be able to pour out anything?
There has been times when I ignored the fine line of balance in work, demands, expectations, stress, family, physical stamina, emotional pulls, and spiritual stability- and regretted it immensely. I wish I could say I learned my lesson after one miss- but it’s not been the case. I’ve had to have several reminders. We’ve all been there haven’t we?
Please allow this offering of encouragement to spark your imagination and purposely direct you to “take it easy” on yourself. (Enter guitar riff of your choice here)
1 – Get focused on your mission. Some of us walk into hospice work casually and do not understand the schedule; high organizational skills needed, we might have unresolved issues from our previous employers, etc. Others think that “anyone could do this”. Most of us spend a lot of time trying to find out about life and very little time enjoying our life. I encourage you to stop and discover what your life is designed for, how to live a great life, and purposely drive forward in it. This focused life will be more beneficial than anything else on this list.
2 – Surround yourself with positive and encouraging friends. My kids will tell you that I have sounded like a broken record (playing over and over again) when I tell them that “bad company corrupts good character”. Its true. Case in point: remember that one relationship that you are glad you exited? Think of that moment and what your life was becoming as you were coming to terms with relating to them… I know you can see it now. Hospice workers are no different.
Seek out carefully those you sit around. Consider who you associate with – making sure that you are not being drawn into a web of negativity, debate, becoming lazy and apathetic. Take special care of who you allow into your life- they speak louder than you might imagine. I urge you to gravitate towards those who will lift you up, see you as a major contributor, and want to see you succeed.
3 – Retreat. Vacation. Staycation. Getaway. Ask any teacher, building inspector, plumber, or secretary and they will all tell you “going to work is part of this life but I really enjoy my days off”. We enjoy being away from our job because we like to be with our family, loved ones, do the things our heart strings are pulled for, etc. May I suggest that this retreating is part of our work. Whenever we can break from routines to rejuvenate our life is a really good thing. Go ahead… look at your company’s policy on taking time off and schedule it into action.
4 – VIP: You go to work… you don’t live there! One of the biggest compliments a hospice worker receives is “you have always been there for me” or “thank you for always being available”. While this seems nice and encouraging – it should be a red flag! It’s actually dangerous. When you and I inform specifically or give an impression that we will personally respond to every call, text, email, etc. we open ourselves up to failure. We cannot be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You might be thinking that it has to be this way because “no one can do the kind of job I can do”.
Hear this hospice warrior: we are replaceable. Go to work, don’t live there. Take up boundaries for yourself. Set up limitations for you to leave work at the end of your shift. Be careful about taking work home or agree to take too many extra shifts. You work hard as a hospice employee so try to power off from work related electronic devices too. Take your well-deserved time off and celebrate your life.
5 – Eat well. My friends always tell me that I am planning my week around my lunch. Although this is not true, I do enjoy eating. My family is like this too. Here is my point, taking time to eat and to eat healthy is incredibly important to our work as hospice heroes. Yes we are on the road. Yes we have patients to see that need to be seen during lunch hours. Yes we have emergencies that need our attention. Yes there are days when we don’t have time to stop and catch our breath. But eating out of a sack every day is dangerous.
Taking care of yourself means eating right. Bring a salad from home (save money too). Grab a Subway and stop at a park or near an outdoor water fountain and enjoy your lunch. Enjoy a cup of chili at a favorite dine in place. You’ll be in and out in 30 minutes- just in time to take care of the work load. Most importantly, you’ll be refreshed and refueled.
6 – Exercise. Whenever I am walking, biking, running, going to the gym, etc., I always feel more apt to take on the world. I feel better when I am active. As hospice workers seeing patients, we are on our feet all day long. We are active but we are not the kind of active I am talking about here. I am suggesting that we become whole body active. When you have nothing in your hands, no shoulder strap with a 20 lb nursing bag or briefcase we are able to walk naturally and burn more calories. With this freedom, we work on important muscle groups that don’t get worked on at work. This activity as well as putting in our favorite music or just listening to the silence while we walk, swim, bike, yoga, or whatever… really does make us more effective. Try it. You’ll like the way you feel.
7 – Sign up to enhance your career. A few years ago I made up my mind to become a life-long learner. I began looking at classes that I might enjoy so that I could become more effective and efficient as a chaplain. Without seemingly to be arrogant, I felt like I was at the front of my class. When we learn and put into practice our learning, it brings out a sense of accomplishment. No pride here- just pure know how. Developing your skills has benefits too: a possible raise or promotion, becoming an expert with certain kinds of disease processes, grief and bereavement support, family meetings, and/or public policy. And that’s just the tip of the ice berg Suggestion: invest in a 3 session series of a life coach. (it may be part of your Employee Assistance Program)
8 – Initiate yourself in or with a committee at work. Using your talents and skills as a hospice worker to better peoples comfort is wonderful. Go one step further by enhancing the company program and you’ll have more impact. I once knew a nurse who had an excellent bedside manner and began to train first time hospice nurses that same technique using the agencies apprentice model.
What this nurse did for the company was increase their response time, secure better quality ratings while attending deaths, and more efficient time management skills. It was a game changer for the hospice and the nurse felt a sense of accomplishment in her work. The new nurses felt more equipped to perform. Everyone wins. Join a committee today.
9 – Treat yourself to something special. I love to encourage others to spend their money and time wisely. Paying bills, living within their means, securing security in retirement is very important. But I also say to those same individuals to spend a little on yourself. The small reward for a good job can go along way. Do you need suggestions? A nursing bag with cool and nifty pockets, a backpack that costs a little bit more but handles the job and doesn’t look like a high school gym bag, a new stethoscope that has your favorite color, a pair of really comfy shoes, a holiday scrubs outfit, an electronic device or app that is “perfect” for staying organized.
10 – Ask for an evaluation. This may not sound very encouraging but it should. Seeking out feedback from our supervisors is really a good thing. Find out if there is a plan in place to help you schedule these- and put it on your calendar. Gain insights from these supervisory meetings by asking questions about what the job expectations are and how they might have changed since your hire date.
Find out how to increase your productivity with quality being a standard of excellence. Ask if you would be able to shadow someone in your field of hospice work. Look for an opportunity to meet with the owners of the agency to discover how they started and what core values are in place to rise to leadership or in the field. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
Taking it easy on ourselves and becoming balanced, whole, and enriched with these types of qualities can really bring about a sense of value to you as a hospice worker. Go ahead, “take it easy”.
Thank you for doing what you: loving people at the end of their lives. Thank you for sharing your heart, skills, and life with those who are struggling to make sense of it all. Thank you for working together as a team to insure that all their needs are being met. Thank you for paying close attention to the details of their medicine, support, family dynamics, and overall values of their life. Thank you for advocating for them and not necessarily your own agenda. Thank you for documenting correctly, being on time at visits, and working together with other entities to take care of patients and their families. You are making a difference. Thank you!
Be encouraged today! You are a hero! You are a warrior! You are a Hospice Worker!
Today, more than ever before, pastors are leaving the ministry. (Taken from The Barnabas Project: What Pastors Face Today, and Statistics and Trends Concerning Pastors & Reflections from Tony Cooke)
Astonishing isn’t it? As I say in my church plant coaching, “if you can do anything else- do it” (referring to pastoring a church).
They were having more and more dinners without me. Their dad who loved them was becoming more and more consumed by the pressures of the people than submitting to being a good and Godly example.
I didn’t leave for burn-out reasons. I didn’t leave for un-fulfilled expectations. I didn’t quit because there were setbacks, problems with the building or the people. I left pastoring behind to consider my wife and kids–over the church.
Let’s face it, when we begin the pastorate vocation we have dreams and a vision from The Lord. We have a sense of duty and there is an “all for one, one for all” mentality. We pull up our sleeves and work towards accomplishing the goal of winning souls for Christ, discipling, baptizing, empowering not yet believers, and encouraging the downtrodden. When challenges come we “keep calm and pray on.” The battle anthem is Onward Christian Soldier. The mission: to fill the church for the sake of the Gospel. Ain’t nobody got time for nothing else!
But somewhere in all of this, people get tired, weary, and don’t pay attention to the ones they belong to first, and begin to be tricked into making decisions rooted out of personal pursuit rather than “what would Jesus do.” May I introduce to you, exhibit A –my family.
“Men and women of the jury,” (I would say to my made up courtroom of justification). “I have to go to this meeting. I need to give Brother Jones a ride to the next town. I have to study for the Bible Study that I said I would do in addition to the 3 I already do. I have to counsel this couple who came in to my office late in the evening.” And the list goes on and on. What I didn’t realize was while I was doing all those noble things, my wife and kids were getting pushed away.
They were having more and more dinners without me. Their dad who loved them was becoming more and more consumed by the pressures of the people than submitting to being a good and Godly example. My quiet times were quick. My sermons were dry. I was making steps to a failed marriage, misplaced values in parenting, and over all –jumping from “Lord, without you I must fail” to “I have so much to do, I have to stay late every night to make it work.” My motto became “in the name of Christ I will be busy.”
I can’t find that anywhere in the Bible. Nowhere. I looked several times. It was depressing.
When it became time to do an evaluation of the church, not only was I failing in my relationships with the closest people near me, I was falling further away from the very mission of my call. That’s when my wife said the words that I never wish to hear again: “I don’t want to go to church.” And she meant it. So I quit.
2 Corinthians 12:9 sets me free from listening to the cries of my old ways. Jesus says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Don’t feel as if I have shamed you. Those of you who might be in the trenches of pastoring a church and trying to balance a family life, I would offer 5 simple principles as you proceed through the gates of your calling:
Talk. Talk. Talk! More than anything else going on between you and your spouse, there needs to be a line of open communication. You can do a lot without talking to one another but you can only accomplish the right things, the right ways, for the right reasons when you express an open heart within each other. Set up time for this. Make it non-negotiable to miss. Create a date night of talking about all things.
Give each other space. Perhaps a missing ingredient in your marriage is the ability to allow feelings of grief, suffering, and challenge without trying to fix them. Support each other with openness, a no mind-games attitude, and without shame or unrealistic expectations. Demanding, being critical, and having unreasonable expectations will only lead to misaligned trust.
Pray together (and alone in your closet). Praying together with your spouse sets an unprecedented call to worship. I have always encouraged couples to pray together –especially when it’s challenging and there is friction. It’s in these times on our knees, crying out before the Lord, causing us to be united with Christ that sets a tone for the rest of the adventure. Don’t neglect your own quiet times of devotion and prayer as well. God has things to share with you when it’s just you and Him.
Seek out accountability and counsel. In each one of my assignments from God I have purposely inserted 2-4 Godly people to guide me and prod me along the ways of discipleship, a closer walk with Christ –in order for my life to be the kind of vessel God can use. These people have speaking rights. They have the ability to say hard things. They are in the trenches with me. They will give their right arm for me. And they will take me out for pizza.
Take a sabbatical. There once was a pastor who needed a break. His friends encouraged him to take a sabbatical. He didn’t want to because he was afraid of the church falling apart without him. He was concerned about a lot of things. He told the leaders with the help of his friends that he needed a break to recalibrate with the Lord. The leaders embraced the notion and blessed him and his family. He returned refreshed, revitalized, and restored. Moral of the story: you might be a candidate for a sabbatical. Pray, seek wise counsel and pray again. Go for it!
I am an ex-pastor. I am taking a break from the role of pastor to a congregation. I am learning about submission, forgiveness, and being faithful to those first on my list.
My story did end well. I did resign. The church received its next pastor. My wife and I are in a place of receiving healing and restoration. And I sense God leading in new directions and adventures.
What’s next for me? Taking my oldest son out for ice cream at our favorite place before he goes back to his college homework.
I have good memories of my family getting together when I was younger. It was me, my cousins, and all the adults. It seemed fun at the time to sit for long periods of time, listening to each other at the dinner table, playing games, laughing at our dumb jokes, and making fun of the silliest things.
But at some point we grow up. Somewhere between 23- and 45 we think we know it all and don’t have time to reconnect with the people we love. Maybe its intentional – a way to distance ourselves from the “crazies”. Maybe our discontent rises out of hurt and suffering from a hard situation that occurred. Maybe, just maybe, the thought of spending time in the same room with the most annoying people on the planet makes you cringe. These are real feelings and you own them.
It’s also possible that the disconnect is entirely distance, cost, and timing. “It’s just so hard to get together like we used to” is what one young man in his 30’s told me at Starbucks this morning. Due to the rising expense of travel, meals, etc. people don’t have the freedom they used to have.
Whichever place on the “togetherness spectrum” you find yourself, getting together with our kin helps us with reminders of where we come from:
No doubt about it, someone is bound to come up to me and say how identical my kids are to me when I was growing up. Old people love showing old photographs of me when I was in the bathtub or running naked on the lawn as child… saying how much my kids remind them of me. All I have to say in return is that I don’t let my kids run around naked in the yard – I’m not interested in getting arrested!
But the fact of the matter is that they are right – our kids come from our identities and our values. And nothing works better when examining your life than to look in the mirror right in front of you – your kids. UGH!
Forgive me for stepping on your toes for a minute, but we do what’s important to us. If having coffee in the morning as you wake up, reading the paper, or enjoying your Facebook profile posts is something you enjoy doing – then you’ll do just that. Your day goes smoother and happier when you’re doing what’s important to you. If you desire snow boarding in the winter in Utah you will make time and provision for it. We cultivate what we want. Good or bad. Like it or not.
Showing up or not showing up to the Family Reunion says what’s important to us. Beyond the occasional “I can’t make it this year due to my new job or its our year to join in with the in-laws in Vermont (doesn’t that sound better than in Texas?) is acceptable to the family. But if year after year, day in and day out you are having to justify why you wont be at the gathering, perhaps – just maybe – you don’t value them. And that’s okay too.
The fact that so many of us suffer from hardships in our families, makes getting together challenging. I’m fairly certain that as I look around me today from my Starbucks table I can interview people who want nothing to do with their upbringing simply because it’s not what they want to remember or who they want to be now. And that’s okay.
I have a thankful heart as I look back into yesteryear. Just the other day I was able to reconnect with my cousin who has been off the radar for a while. We reconnected easily and now when I’m going to be speaking in a neighboring area, we make a point to see each other. I love these times of the joining up of our hearts. My heart becomes full.
The roads I’ve been on and that you’ve been on do shape us. Family Reunions and get togethers can create a space for us to look back at what has occurred. They create a space for us to look ahead.