Pastors have an important ministry of interruptions. We should never be too busy with the important work of ministry to minimise contact with our flock.
Are You Too Busy for People?
Does anyone ever say to you, “I don’t want to bother you; I know you’re busy”? Sometimes, we can get so bogged down in doing what we perceive as the important work of ministry that we give off the sign that we cannot be interrupted by the pastoral needs of our people. I have to admit this is something I struggle with. There is always so much to do: sermon writing and delivery, leading worship, teaching Bible studies, praying, attending business meetings, administration and so on. Often my response to an interruption is too often impatience, defensiveness and even fear that I will run out of time.
Trying to be Productive
Productivity gurus will suggest we should try to eliminate interruptions. Deep work requires focus and interruptions destroy that focus. Research tells us it takes 25 minutes or more to recover from an interruption. Those the emphasise pastoral ministry might suggest it is wrong to try to eliminate interruptions, that it is a dereliction of pastoral duty to set appropriate boundaries around your time.
What’s Your Motivation?
I believe that for certain work, especially deep work like sermon and worship preparation, eliminating interruptions is a good thing. I try to do this work at home in my study if I can, to give me an opportunity to focus and concentrate. But if, like me, you agree interruptions can have a negative impact on your work, then you may be tempted to place boundaries around other kinds of work. The problem with that is that you end up being “too busy” for people. Is this a case of a rightful concern for your ministry as a whole, or simply a way to avoid people?
Embracing the Ministry of Interruptions
The important ministry of interruptions ensures that our own hearts are not captured by the “important” tasks of ministry at the cost of failing to lead like Jesus, who put into practice ordinary, unglamorous tasks like showing hospitality, washing feet, sharing meals and just talking with people.
My prayer is that God will guard my heart against my own sense of self-importance and help me to grow in love, compassion and hospitality. Help me not to react to interruptions with impatience and defensiveness, but to see the important ministry of interruptions in just stopping and listening and caring for people. Will you join me in this prayer?
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