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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: Transitional Insanity

Welcome to our new Thursday evening feature! First--a note on protocols. Many of you have concerns with privacy, and I've erred on the side of caution. When you send a question, let us know how you would prefer to sign your question--or whether you would prefer not to.

Second, send your questions to Ask The Matriarch.

This week's question comes to us via Sleepless in the Suburbs:
I am in my very first senior pastor position. And, amazingly, this is the very first time that I have climbed up a rung in the career of my choice in quite some time. So, now I am somewhat sleepless trying to manage all the new responsibilities.

What day-to-day practices can you suggest to keep the transitional insanity to a minimum? What practical and spiritual disciplines have assisted you in such a transition?

Well, first of all—congratulations! Two of our matriarchs, Susan of Sense and Nonsense and Rev Abi know just the chaos of which you speak.

Wakers, Sleep
Susan writes: " You mention sleeplessness. The first thing you can put on your list is: SLEEP. That's right--get a nap, take a snooze, doze, rest! Think of Jesus catching z's in the boat in the midst of the storm. The disciples are in a panic, 'We're all gonna DIE!!' They say to Jesus, 'Do you not care?'

"During his ministry, Jesus gives us a good model for appropriate pastoral self care," she continues. "He's not constantly available to the disciples or to his followers. He takes time away for his own personal and spiritual needs. He spends time with friends."

Quiet Time
Rev Abi is also transitioning to a bigger church with staff to manage, more responsibilities, more needs. She writes: "You have asked a very good question as to how to handle this transition in a practical way and then with spiritual disciplines. The number one thing I do is: PRAY. Pray all day long. Pray whenever I can. But most of all, I have found that if I come to the office early, it is quiet, and I can quieten my mind, my heart and my soul to focus on God, and then be able to listen. I'm not always able to do this consistently, but it really helps."

Go on Walkabout
"I also WALK," writes Rev Abi. "I walk through the sanctuary up and down the pews, maybe pausing where I feel led to, and pray for the members, the visitors, our worship team, the ones who missed, the ones with needs, the ones who work so hard in the church. I will stop at the altar for a long time. Sometimes I sit down or kneel, and pray, confess, and seek God's direction. I walk through the rooms and pray for all those who use those rooms, the Christian life Center, the teachers, leaders, the students."

For that matter, take it up as a deliberate exercise program. Rev Abi wears a pedometer and aims for 10,000 steps a day. "My walk is a walk with God, and my physical health helps my spiritual health," she says.

Keep It Holy
Don't forget your Sabbath. "Yes," writes Rev Abi, "It's a day away from work, the office, the church, the people. A day to be with God, rejoice, worship, rest, play. I heard that is was a good idea to plan a second day for doing those family household chores, etc and to keep that separate from the day of Sabbath."

Susan agrees: "I think it's also important to distinguish between a 'day off' and a true sabbath day. Your sabbath day is not the day you mow the lawn or do the laundry or pay the bills. It's a day of intentional rest and spiritual renewal."

Use the Buddy System
Rev Abi notes that she has trouble being disciplined and intentional, so she has a spiritual director to help her stay on the path, to keep her focused and diciplined in my Spiritual growth, nurture and love of God. "He has me using a specific book by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben Job: A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants."

Spiritual friends are also important, she adds. "Someone who will support me, listen to me pray with me. Someone to be accountable to."

Required Reading
Rev Abi recommends the following books:
  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
  • Making a Good Move by Michael J. Coyner
  • Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation by Lawrence W. Farris

Another book that many matriarchs recommend is David Allen's Getting Things Done. It's a good book on organization, task management and detail orientation. There are several blogs out there that focus on how to use the book in your work and life:
David Allen has his own website for "Getting Things Done" also.

The most important thing you can remember during all of this is that there is a system that will work for you, and all you have to do is discover it. That will take a little experimentation, a bit of practice, and a lot of patience, grace and time.

All our best!
The Matriarchs


  1. Ooooh. I like this new feature!

  2. Well done Galley Cat, and Susan.
    I didn't take the Psychological side of it, nor did I mention, that the systems theory helps to be able to descern the health of the church, and your part in it.
    But Susan is right rest is VIP. Sleep is important it can really effect one's ability to think, and feel good about themselves.

  3. I have the David Allen book. Thanks for the related links.

  4. This is a really beautiful piece. Applicable in all kinds of situations of overwork.

    Thank you, RevAbi for the beautiful, vivid images of ways to be in prayer throughout the day.

  5. thanks for these words of wisdom- time and rest are so easily lost...

  6. Wow. Well done.

    I too have the Allen book and will be checking those links.

    Good question too.

  7. This is a great feature! Thank you so much for the reminders and the suggestions. They apply for us all, not just those in transition.

  8. I like this feature! Well done!

  9. Oh, this ROCKS! I have tears in my eyes and I am not even a rev-type.

    What good advice for all of us who seek to serve God in our daily lives and work.

    Off to find a tissue. :)

  10. Mary Beth, if I can aim to bring both laughter and tears to everyone in this feature, I will consider myself a talented editor indeed.

    i think this may be my favorite-est lay ministry ever. :D

    But folks, keep the questions coming. Thursday will be back before you know it!

  11. Yay! This feature is oh-so-cool. ANd, I just started the David Allen book this week! How serendipitous!

  12. Gallycat, you are doing GREAT!

    And I agree that participation in RGBP is very much a ministry, even/especially for lay persons.


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