Last week I wrote about six reasons pastors should work a month in advance. In the comments, Rodney Holloman asked, "How did you ever go from week to week to a month ahead without cloning?" Great question Rodney! In this post I share four of the ways I've made the transition this summer.
I really wanted it. This idea of working a month out wasn't new to me. I had thought about the advantages of being ahead for the last couple of years. Two months ago I made the commitment that this summer would be the transition quarter. I told my leadership team and those whom would benefit from the decision. In other words, I put myself out on that proverbial limb from which I could not retreat without embarrassment. Also inside of me I was ready for the change. I was tired of the pressures that came from the week to week treadmill. For both my own sense of well being and for my church, I really wanted those six advantages I wrote about last week.
I extended my work week. I decided that if I was going to go from one week out to four weeks out, then I was going to have to work more this summer. Yeah, I know. This isn't exactly rocket science stuff. My summer hours in past years have been more relaxed. Worship attendance in the summer season usually wanes and I admit that in response, my efforts matched the falling church interest of my parishioners. This summer I have worked a solid six days a week, sometimes with 10+ hour days. (Pastors, this is nothing more than what many of our church members have been accustomed to for years!) Here's an interesting plus: our attendance this summer hasn't dropped as much as in the past. Hmmm...
I planned for seclusion. Those hours of alone time, thinking and writing, are golden for a pastor. In seminary I dreamed about what pastoral life would be like, imagining many hours of walking with God and writing down those precious nuggets of truth He shared with me. I discovered that in real-life pastoral ministry, my dream was just that - a dream! My real-life schedule as a small church pastor tended to be more like a couple hours of study time squeezed in between appointments. I would just get going good when I'd have to quit. This summer I have scheduled entire days of seclusion by bunching appointments - as much as possible - on other days. By actually having these seclusion days scheduled in my calendar, I could honestly respond to people wanting to see me that my time was already committed for that particular day. I haven't missed a single opportunity to meet with people. Every person was willing to meet on a different day!
I learned the value of partials. By this I mean that I put away my need to complete the task in any particular work session. When I was working week to week, the job had to be done. Sunday's a comin'! When I'm working a month in advance I can quit a project when my work time is ended. (Translate that last sentence as my good wife, Mary Kay, strongly suggesting from the top of the basement stairs that my work time has ended. "Mark Pierce, you get up here and grill those chicken breasts like you promised!") Here's something I learned about the value of partials. The next time I opened my laptop, my work was right there where I left off. I learned it was easier - took less time - to get back into the work flow when my previous work session stopped in mid-sentence.
As I wrote to Rodney yesterday, I don't pretend to have all this figured out. I'm still in process. As of this post, I have three full weeks worked out. I'm working on the fourth week out and this may take me several weeks to accomplish. I know I'm not the first to do this and I'll not be the last. Others have accomplished this by dipping into their archives, reworking other pastors' sermons, and/or inviting other preachers to fill their pulpits. I'd love to hear what has worked for you in the comments below. Bottom line for me - I feel really good about where I am and where God is leading me, four weeks in advance!