These six words make a huge difference.
If you are curious about what post-pandemic work life might look like, check out the Fortune magazine article* about the U.K. branch of an insurance company called Zurich which found that adding six words to their job advertisements resulted in this:
“women made up a larger share of applicants for top jobs, and, ultimately, the 28 senior women it hired represented 50% of all senior hires, up from women’s 37.5% share the previous year.”
*You can read the Fortune article here but you’ll hit a paywall unless you subscribe.
The work of pastors has always been flexible in that we can take time away to attend a child’s soccer game at 4:00 pm on a random Tuesday knowing that we have a meeting at 7:00 pm. In fact it’s essential that pastors and other church leaders take time throughout each day to walk around the block, run an errand or go to a kid’s soccer match if your work hours exceed 50 each week. It’s a matter of sanity as well as general well-being.
One of the Big Shifts in 21st Century ministry has been the end of “office hours” for clergy. No longer can parishioners expect to drop in to a pastor’s office for an unscheduled conversation about last week’s sermon or an idea for the mission committee. Pastors cannot spend most of their time both sitting behind a desk and being out in the community. It’s not possible.
And a 21st Century Pastor needs to be in the community.
I would rather have a pastor (during non-COVID days) writing a sermon in a coffee shop and meeting with the Police Chief to discuss partnering together to address what breaks God’s heart in that neighborhood than a pastor who holds office hours from 9 to 2 each day working on emails and waiting for someone to drop in, and then heading to the hospital for visitation.
The eternal issue regarding clergy people and our schedules is that there is absolutely no one – No. One. – who knows exactly what we do everyday. And they can’t. On any given day, people don’t see us talking on the phone with Parishioner A about the scary mass recently discovered behind their left eye or stopping by to visit the regular church visitor whose husband recently died. We can’t tell people about serving as a character witness in a divorce proceeding or the conversation we had with the nurse after a hospital visit about her own marriage. No one watches us exegete a Bible passage or meet with the angry choir member or have lunch with the neighboring priest or review curriculum or plan the officer training retreat or prepare for a meeting.
Actually it’s the fruits of our labors that matter. If it’s clear that we are not visiting anyone – or arranging for other church leaders to visit – or if it’s clear that we spent only 10 minutes preparing for that sermon or if it’s clear that we have no idea what’s going on in the preschool – and those things are part of our responsibilities, then there’s a problem.
But if we can do our ministry and fulfill our responsibilities the best we can while also driving a child to the dentist or sitting at a computer in our dining rooms while dinner is in the crockpot, then let’s do that.
Working from home for many of us (most fortunate) pastors, educators, researchers, lawyers, and therapists has shown us that flexibility is not only important; it’s expected in both a pandemic and post-pandemic world.
So . . . if you are on a Pastor Nominating Committee or a Church Personnel Committee or a Church Board of any kind, please bless your current or future staff members with the options to be flexible. Everyone will be happier and you might find that the ministry/work load becomes more fruitful.
It’s not in the Biblical Proverbs, but it should be:
Happy is the servant whose days are spent in a variety of tasks for the sake of all that’s good and faithful.
And if you – in your non-church work – need to be flexible, let somebody know how much you value that option.