To me, the philosophy your senior pastor espouses (or the extreme to which it has been taken) sounds like a prescription for disaster. I’m the first to want to honor and provide sensitive pastoral care. Like many, I believe God is in the details. To be sure, to hold tightly to one’s own agenda in the face of the unforeseen would be insensitive and pastorally irresponsible. Certainly, stuff happens, needs arises and crises occur, but I’m a little leery of declaring “the distractions ARE the ministry” for ANY need. I would be the first to say that there are times when one’s attention has to be given to an unforeseen need or emergency, but it’s not good stewardship of one’s own time, much less all the others affected by tending to an emergency.
I think your final paragraph says it all: if I were always to drop everything to be present in the moment for every person in need, then I would never get things done that need to get done, and I would end up hurting either the broader ministries of the church or my own home and family life. Change the pronouns to first person plural and you’ve just described the mess in which your staff and congregation find yourselves. I’d suggest an intervention: maybe you need to talk with your senior pastor and suggest that the staff have a little tea and cookies over what “the distractions are the ministry” really means. Perhaps it’s time to reinterpret this mantra and allow the pendulum to swing back from its extreme to something more moderate and that which reflects good stewardship of everybody’s time.
The Vicar of Hogsmeade writes:
Short answer: Distractions and interruptions are not *always* the ministry.
Longer answer: In my experience, it is a very very very (did I say very?!) rare ministry moment that cannot be postponed for 2 hours or longer. All of the things you mentioned are "interruptions" can almost always be scheduled around previous commitments. I probably sound heartless too, but the beauty of carrying cell phones is not only that we clergy are so available, but that we can be available selectively, intentionally and wisely. We clergy can turn off our phones, or at least screen our calls, for the couple of hours that comprise most meetings and groups and kids' softball games.
Relevant cute expression: "I'm not going to let your urgency become my emergency!"
Possible approach: Your last question can become an invitation: "I want to take seriously this idea that distractions are the ministry. I need to let you know that a lot of distractions are affecting our ministry. When you (have been unable to attend 3 out of the last 4 staff meetings), the result is (we didn't know ... I had to ...) and that meant that (name the burden placed on you or what fell through the crack)." Ask your colleague how *we* can balance the urgent and the important in *our* ministry.
Discussion resource: Check out Stephen Covey's "time management matrix" for possible staff discussion. I also googled "urgent important matrix" and found this (surprise!) "Urgent/Important Matrix" that has your situation written all over it!
And Muthah+ writes: