So Dad, what’s the benefit to us of you being a pastor?

img_0695This last weekend my 11 year old son, after a small disagreement regarding a trivial matter on a Sunday, asked a phenomenal question….  “Dad, what benefit is there for us now that you are a pastor”?  Ouch…. that hurt…..  While it sounded like a really selfish question for an 11 year old to ask, it was a great, honest, heartfelt question in the moment.  After a month of pushing hard to get many things done it was a good reminder of my priorities.

Before I dig deeper into that question and my response I need to paint some background.  Over the course of my career in healthcare I tried to carve out time during my busy schedule for my children.  This picture above is what “Work Days” normally looked like.  These were days that I would invite one of my boys to the office for an hour where we would hang out, eat ice cream from the hospital cafeteria and I would try to make them feel important.  I would introduce them to people I worked with, let them draw pictures on my white board and listen intently to them.  I still got work done during the time we spent together – as you can see in the picture I’m on my phone….but I intentionally carved time out of my busy schedule for them.  I would also take them to Notre Dame football games or special events and we would vacation together to fun places.

Now in ministry I find it more difficult for “work days”and financially challenging to take them to larger events like football games or fancy vacations.  My boys go to church on Sunday’s so they are at the place I work, but for a different purpose.  In ministry you also deal with your weekends being much different than they were when I was in the marketplace.  The day I’m off my children are in school or working and it can be challenging to find time to be meaningfully present.

Here are ways in which I try to connect with my children while in ministry, and I’m still working on these:

  • We try to eat together many evenings – this doesn’t happen every night, but we really try hard to do this regularly.
  • Intentional time – I drive my middle son to school almost every day.  It’s 20 minutes together and while we don’t have amazing discussions every day (imagine a 15 year old early in the morning – not the most talkative), it’s time we get together and we do connect.  Finding intentional time with each of my sons is important.
  • Special Events – These take on different meanings because they are likely less frequent in ministry just due to time and financial constraints.  Instead of Notre Dame games or destination vacations we go away and camp or to a state park.
  • Pray Together – Must do more of this!
  • Texting – With my oldest son who now has a full time job and attending a community college texting seems to be a lifeline to connection throughout the week.  From comical tidbits back and forth to serious questions texting is a must.

Today after an early morning meeting and leaving before my sons got up, I went back home to eat with my youngest son and we discussed some of the benefits of my job to the family.  We talked through his question yesterday and we talked about how our time together was important.  It was the highlight of my day.

While there is a delicate balance between your time in ministry serving others, are you serving your family and your children well?  Do they feel like they are important to you, or are you out of balance?  It took an 11 year old to ask an honest question for me to recalibrate after a busy month of activity….  I appreciated his honesty and I enjoyed my breakfast with him this morning.



Improving Communities – Start With Your Smallest Community

cuu6mjaumaqdsbdI had the opportunity recently to speak with a large health system in Northern Indiana.  They wanted me to speak about “Improving Communities” and left room for me to speak about whatever I felt might be important within that topic.  With such wide boundaries to work within it allowed me to think about the gigantic concept of “community improvement”  and I immediately thought about geographic regions like cities or large portions of populations. When you think about community improvement the natural tendency is to think big, isn’t it?  When you consider improving large populations of hundreds, thousands or millions of people you start to think about what programs to implement, funding decisions and key metrics and it is easy to of a mission to improvement communities to become largely disconnected from someones everyday work.

If you look at the mission statement of health systems around the country it frequently points to community improvement in some way.  When you ask their employee’s how their specific job, at a day to day level, helps to advance the mission (let alone do they know what their mission statement is), they frequently can’t make that link – it becomes an ethereal concept.  How does going to meetings everyday really improve our community?  How does cleaning this patient room improve our community?  If your mission statement isn’t directly linkable to someones everyday work in some way it is difficult to really advance your mission.

If you look at how Jesus dealt with community, he generally dealt with the smallest form of community – changing one person, or a small group of people which then infected the entire community, and the world around him.  It got me thinking….  What if we thought of community as every interaction that we have around us with other people?  Don’t you enter a community every time you enter a patient room – it’s the community of the family in front of you.  You enter a community every time you deliver a meal to a patient room, visit a person at home with a homecare visit, schedule a patient visit, clean a patient room, document a visit in the electronic medical record.  We enter a community when we have a meeting with our co-workers, we enter a community when we give a performance evaluation.  The reality is we are a collection of communities, small and large, and we interact with communities all day long.  If we thought of improving communities as improving the interactions we had every day with groups we work with the mission of “improving our communities” our mission would take a who new meaning.  It would make the ethereal concept of community and make it tangible for every person in the organization.

It is my belief that without the thought of improving communities at the every day interactions with small pop-up communities all around us, an organization will never be able to improve large community populations.

Here are 6 ways in which an organization can start improving communities at the day-to-day level that will more rapidly start to improve larger communities.  Using these you can tap into the potential of thousands of everyday interactions which cumulatively improve the geographic population you live in.   As you read through this list, think through the small communities (interactions) that you have every day.

You can improve community if you….

  1. Realize you are not the most important person/department/organization in the community
  2. Build the community up, don’t tear it apart
  3. Discover and encourage the gifts of other community members
  4. Unlock your own gifts and give your all
  5. Participate in your community with joy
  6. Leave your community better than you found it

These are great lessons from best management reference around….The Bible…. Specifically from Romans 12:3-8