Thursday, 19 September 2013

I know you're busy...




A long, long, time ago, when I was training for ministry, an older minister advised us that we should never let folk know how busy we are. His concern was that if folk perceived us as being very busy, they wouldn't want to bother us with important pastoral issues and our relationship with our communities would be diminished. He maintained that we should be worried if folk approached us, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." That seemed like sound advice and I have tried always to play down the volume and scale of my work. But still, folk approach me saying"I know you're busy..."
And, all this time later, I have come to be suspicious of that advice. Firstly, because it never seems to stop folk lobbing more work my way, no matter how busy or otherwise they perceive me to be. Secondly, because it is more often than not, simply a turn of phrase that folk use as a means of respectful approach. And, thirdly, because it just is. I am busy. Bigger workloads are being placed on fewer people. That's the way it is. Me pretending that it is otherwise serves no good purpose. And I believe that folk often discern that there can be a competence in busyness (though not always). Of course, there is always the danger of becoming too busy. But the fact that others see that we are busy does not diminish our ability to offer effective pastoral support when invited to do so. Nor, in my experience, does it dissuade them form requesting the support that they desire.
So I am going to stop feeling bad when folk approach me, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." Their perception does not make me a bad pastor!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


6 comments:

David Denniston said...

Liz, I SO agree with you!

I think that most of the time when folks say 'I know you are busy...' they mean to indicate - in a craing kond of way - that they are aware of how hard we work. I generally take it that way.

The only reservation I have is that some people say to others 'Och, I didn't want to bother the minister about this (their major operation for instance) as I know he/she is so busy... that DOES bother me, although I suspect there are other things going on in these cases.

David Denniston said...

Right... I guess you know that I meant to say 'in a caring kind of way' and not 'a craing kond of way'! Getting used to new laptop!

liz said...

David, thanks for your comments. Hope you're not too busy to get to grips with your new laptop!

AnneDroid said...

I like this and think it's a topic worth exploring. I'm not a parish minister and so can only comment as the wife of one, the daughter of one, the niece of one, the great-niece of one and the great-great-niece of one. ;) I know very well from a lifetime's observation how busy you guys are and importantly that it's not just a matter of hours worked in the day but 24/7 on-callness and responsibility-bearing. On the other hand many members of congregations are under great pressure too - long hours, childcare, elderly relative care, high levels of responsibility, etc.. Many of them are labouring for their congregations too -only they're doing it unpaid and fitting it round everything else in their lives. I wonder if there are ways in which all of us who're borderline-overwhelmed (and with four kids and a full time job I include myself) could meaningfully support each other with prayer and understanding.

liz said...

Anne - what makes you think you're qualified to respond? Joking of course!!! The point you make about everyone being busy is so true. So that advice from years ago may not be offered now. To be busy is OK - and is normal! I've just decided to stop feeling bad about juggling, however badly at times. Why should working in the church differ in that respect from other caring professions?

Danny said...

With both you and Anne on this one, the killer for me was when caring for elderly relatives was added into the mix of ministry and busy family life, that was my tipping point. And I had to ask for help from colleagues and understanding from my congregation to get through. My parents are both ok now, as ok as people in their late 70s can be and I am very aware that caring for them (maybe more long term) will soon cycle round again. So busyness needs to be managed and we need to have that prayerful support in place that Anne talks about. As ministers we are good at giving it to others, but maybe not so good at asking for it ourselves.

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