I like planning and having a sense of where things are going. I generally have a three month plan for preaching; a plan for Bible study that includes not just the present topic but also the next topic; a ever developing and changing plan for the next few weeks’ work in the churches and a less than successful plan for how to get caught up on all the things I am behind on. I also like to have a longer sense of direction for the church, a plan that I work on with the church at regular intervals.
One set of churches will be meeting soon and we will discuss plans for next year after we start back up once the winter break is over. I have a few ideas, some of the church people have a few ideas and as we talk together, we will likely come up with a few other ideas. For us, that is long term planning–knowing now what we want to accomplish next July is pretty good.
But recently, I have been thinking about my position as the 80th pastor of this gathering of people and realized that I am also making plans for the 81st pastor, plans that may or may not help him/her. I have always sort of known that. As a long time part-time pastor, I have had the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with other, newer part-time pastors and one of the things I tell them is to think of the next person coming along.
If the church and I agree that I will be paid to work 16 hours a week, it is tempting for me to “volunteer” more time than that because I have the time and the work needs to be done. But in doing that, I have planted a very large and dangerous land-mine in the path of the next pastor, who may not be able to go beyond the agreed upon hours. But as things don’t get done the way they were before, my “volunteer” hours explode and that ministry runs into trouble.
So, as number 80, I need to look ahead to number 81 or 93 or, if things don’t change drastically, number 180. How to do that gets a little fuzzy at times because some of my best stuff may not be the best for the next person.
Our Bible study, for example, owes a significant amount of its vitality to the fact that I am an avid collector of facts, figures, interpretations, and so on that I am able to access, correlate and present in the heat of our often chaotic Bible study. Questions and comments and unrelated thoughts take us in paths that churn up a significant amount of my accumulated knowledge. If number 81 is a relatively new pastor who prefers order and structure, I may have unwittingly thrown a wooden shoe into the machinery (that is the actual origin of the word “sabotage”).
Somewhere along the line before I leave, I will have to help the Bible Study group develop an approach that isn’t totally dependent on my particular gifts and abilities. What we are doing now is working and it is helping the church and we need to do it–but as number 80, I do need to look ahead further than next year and think about number 81, who will show up at some time and will need the freedom to make full use of the God given gifts that are the reason for 81 replacing 80.
So, I minister with an eye to the future. Someday, I will leave this church. Neither I nor the congregation really want to think much about that right now. But I actually need to keep it in my mind. I need to evaluate what I/we plan and do now so that as much as possible, I avoid planting land-mines. Some things that we do because of my gifts and abilities are important and valuable and I am called by God to do them. But some of them are based completely on my stuff. Before I leave, I need to help the church see that as important as some of this was now, it will need to change so that 81 has the same opportunity to follow God’s leading as I had–otherwise 81 ends up spending a lot of time getting frustrated by 80, something I really don’t want.
May the peace of God be with you.