What did the pastor do all year?

There’s an old joke that the pastor has the easiest job on the planet because he only has to work 1 hour a week!

Of course, none of you believe that. But there’s truth to the idea that looking upon leadership is like looking upon an iceberg. You only see a bit of what the pastor does, but, like an iceberg, most is unseen and under the surface.

In this brief report, I’ll let you know my priorities and what I spent my time doing in 2015.

  • I worked on average of 50 hours a week.
  • I went on 76 visits.
  • I attended 122 meetings (some of these are things like elder meetings, but many are one-on-one with someone about a ministry or program).
  • I attended 69 church-related events. It’s hard to describe this category; but it’s basically things I attend that don’t fit into the categories above.
  • I led 54 worship services.
  • I spent hours and hours in prayer and study…

That may seem like a lot. And it is. But compared to last year it’s a 17% decrease in meetings, and a 24% decrease in visits. This is a good thing. And it was part of the plan. As the church grows it’s increasingly important that I try not to do all the things I did before.

Compared with 2014, I had a 32% increase in church-related events. That number is a bit unpredictable year-to-year so it’s just good to keep an eye on.

One of the unique elements of 2015 was that I started writing a new daily devotional called “Up!” (You can sign up in 13 seconds here.) I did this because it helps keep us focused on God on a day-to-day basis.

The devotional is also a part of a wider trend with me: Writing.

I write blogs (usually one every two weeks) which are also published online by presbyterianrecord.ca, and some articles for These Days magazine and The Presbyterian Record magazineOne article is forthcoming in a Korean publication. All of my writing directly benefits Westminster because it keeps me:

  • focused on Scripture
  • engaged in the wider world of ideas
  • growing as a communicator

All of that work flows into and enriches Sunday services, blogs for the church to help us in our faith, studies I lead, and the leadership I provide. Nothing is wasted.

Another one of the things that was different in 2015 was that I served as the chaplain at Camp Cairn in Muskoka during Teen Week. It’s a Presbyterian-church sponsored camp and I had some really rich experiences with some of the young people who shared their questions with me.

I also serve on the national Church Doctrine committee for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Right now the biggest work before us is better understanding human sexuality and homosexuality. We are preparing a report for wider church that will hopefully help the church discern the mind of Christ in this area.

It’s also significant that I’ve struggled with back problems for the past 6 months. That has caused me to pull back a bit. And it’s reminded me that I’m getting older! 🙂

My main priorities continue to be study and prayer; leading worship and preaching; providing leadership for the church in a general sense as we continue to evolve as a family-friendly church who loves Jesus; writing; and providing critical pastoral care. I also coordinate church communications online and offline.

One of the things that happens as a church grows, is that people will physically see the pastor less. He is not as available to visit people as regularly (unless there is a pressing concern or illness), because he needs to be more focused on the things that only he should be doing.

When I came to Westminster fewer than 100 people called it their church home. Now that number is about 250. I could literally be on the phone and answering emails all day.  So as leadership expert John Maxwell says, it’s important for me to remember that “You are most valuable where you add the most value.”

Therefore, the best thing for Westminster is for me to be spending my time on the things I do best—on the things I think the Lord wants me to focus on.

On a weekly basis I schedule time to pray; to read the Bible; to exercise; to study other books, articles and blogs; to prepare for worship and Sunday messages; and oversee the running of the church. This flexibility also lets me respond to critical pastoral care concerns as they arise.

It’s also important for you to know that I feel well supported at Westminster. We have a human resources team who is proactive about ensuring my wellness. I also have healthy relationships with leaders like our clerk, Don Hickey, our Youth Coordinator, Julie Cunha, and our Music Director, Jenn Harris. We have a great time together.

I’ve also asked Caitlin Leahey, a member at Westminster who now lives in Massachusetts, to help with some technical things behind-the-scenes. And in the office, Susie Sellers and Belinda Muzyka have been a big help.

Some people ask how I stay healthy and “on top of it all.” I do it with God’s grace (seriously, I’m not just saying that), and by being very disciplined in how I use my time.

Plus, I have the best wife on the planet. Laura’s faith, sincerity, spirit and character are a sun that is always rising. She is living, walking, breathing proof of God’s generosity in my life.

And how can I not be encouraged when I look at all of you? One of the unique things about my perspective is that I get to see so many of the ways God is working. While I was preparing a message recently I had this thought: “When you serve God you see God.” And I see him in (and working through) many of you.

(To see the 2015 Year-In-Review for Westminster click here.)

One of my main goals is to always be growing. After all, how can I ask you to grow if I’m not doing it myself? And the growing process is fun. We’re being faithful to Jesus, we’re relying on the Holy Spirit, we’re honoring the past, we’re trying new things, and we’re trusting in God’s promises for the future. What a joy!

So, there you go.

Let me just end by saying this. I grew a lot in my Christian faith over the past year. As you grow in leadership you gain a wider perspective. You see how life is complicated and difficult; you see the temptations to not stand up for the right thing and instead fall for anything; and you see how rich life can be when you let God take control and get in the back seat.

2015 was a year of leaps and bounds. God. Is. Good.

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