I am on a flight back from an event where I facilitated a table of TDs from local churches. It was an amazing time to connect with people who are in similar situations and have similar challenges. We spent a lot of time talking about what is working well, what isn’t, and there was a particular subject that kept coming up. Either these TDs were at a church where you were required to work at least 6 days a week, or a TD was at a church where they had 2 days off, but they rarely took them because there was too much work to get done.
This seems pretty normal in church production and it is one of the contributing factors to such widespread burnout and bitterness among TDs. What can we do to change this trend?
Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a week.
Someone at my table said that his senior pastor jokes with him that what he does is so mysterious that the TD doesn’t even really know what he does. The role of TD is like being an auto mechanic. We all need one, we don’t understand what they need to do to fix our car, but we just write the check. We need to be ruthless to quantify what we do for our bosses so that we aren’t just complaining that we work too much. Take a month and keep track of every hour that you spend editing videos, updating Planning Center, cleaning your storage closet, whatever. This exercise will help you get a handle on where all your time goes, as well as providing documentation for the people who lead you, to help them understand what is involved.
What can only you do?
Once you have all this data, sit down and figure out what you uniquely contribute and should be doing, and what things could you delegate to someone else. This is a good place to start trying to figure out what needs to be done and what you should stop doing.
What is mission-critical?
If your schedule is overfull, you will need to eliminate some things. Sit down with your boss and go through the list of things that you spend your time on. Get help to determine what you can stop doing and what is critical for church to continue to happen. This can be a difficult exercise since everything seems mission-critical or else you wouldn’t be killing yourself to get it all done. The other challenge will be that your boss might have a different set of priorities on what is critical and what isn’t.
It is important to come to an agreement on what will and what won’t get done. Mike Sessler, from Coast Hills Church, was at my table and he recommended Andy Stanley’s book “Choosing to Cheat“, as a great resource for figuring out how to step back from working too many hours.
For each of us to be in this for the long haul, we have to be ruthless with our time. The list will never go away. there will always be more to do than time to do it. The abundant life that Christ offers us requires us to let go of control of certain things. Are you willing to let go of some good things and hang onto only the most critical for you and your church?
There are times when long hours are necessary, but living with no margin to refresh, recharge and recenter yourself will ultimately only hurt you, your ministry and your church.