As I write this, we’re preparing for our 17th Sunday of NOT meeting together for a weekend worship service. Most of our people understand and appreciate the caution. A few are trying to understand and be gracious and patient even if they disagree.
And I. Miss. My. People!
I love my church. A LOT! I love being a pastor. I love preaching to fellow humans and interacting with the crowd. I love greeting people in the lobby. I love singing. I love all the church gathering things.
But with each week that passes, the emotional roller coaster ride of trying to maintain a sense of community gets a little wilder. I’ve spent 23 years being a busy, productive Pastor with multiple teaching or speaking opportunities each week, meetings with staff and leaders, and coffees with guys here and there. And even though I’m an introvert by nature, I love all of that.
Where I live, coffee shop tables aren’t open yet, and if they were, I’d be too cautious to sit at one. We don’t have offices at our church building (we work remotely), and if we did, I’d be too cautious to spend a day there in close quarters with others.
So I work from home, like most pastors I talk to these days. I study and read more. I’m on social media more (ministry happens there now more than ever). And since it’s summer, I see a lot more of my kids (sometimes, every few minutes for help with a major crisis or question about snacks). My wife is an incredibly bright spot and lifts my spirits daily. But some days, I get down, like you probably do.
I put together a somewhat fictitious schedule of what life looks like on the worst days. Perhaps you can identify?
8:23 am –
Roll out of bed, read the Bible, have quiet time.
8:51 am –
See the latest headlines.
8:58 am –
Panic, then remember the Bible reading and calm down.
9:06 am –
Check social media.
11:18 am –
Delete that post.
Backspace over those comments.
Make a vague and passive-aggressive post.
11:23 am –
Decide to leave Facebook.
11:39 am –
12:09 pm –
Eat first lunch.
1:14 pm –
Brainstorm about how to be productive.
1:17 pm –
Check social media, including Facebook.
2:26 pm –
Delete the post from this morning.
2:28 pm –
Check the headlines to see what ELSE has happened.
3:14 pm –
3:32 pm –
4:48 pm –
Wake up in a panic that I over-napped.
Do something productive.
5:21 pm –
Check headlines one last time.
And in the evening…
Go pretty much nowhere.
Watch no sports.
Don’t watch the news.
Hang with the family!
Let the kids finally pass out at 11:07 pm on the couch.
Binge watch something.
Crash by 1:44 am.
Actually, I still try to get up by 6 am and do a lot of reading and writing. I’m still preaching weekly but it’s scheduled each week to be recorded and then broadcast live on Sundays. I still get to prepare sermons and I get to minister to people via email, social media, and texting. Our staff meets every Wednesday (via Zoom) and then I host a Facebook live gathering every Wednesday night.
So there’s a lot to do and I stay busy, like most pastors I get to talk to. But it’s harder than usual to stay focused. It’s easier to get distracted. It’s easy to get buried in any number of controversies erupting around us. I’m slowly learning how to get more productive and I wanted to shoot from the hip with some personal recommendations for anyone else who might be struggling.
My Top Tips for Staying Productive in a Pandemic
- Start with prayer and the Word, not the news, email, or social media. Technically, I start with making coffee, but then it’s into the Word.
- Just start writing and creating. Even if you don’t know where you’re going with it. Get 300 words on paper about something.
- Stay in a rhythm. Impose deadlines on yourself for various projects.
- Enjoy the extra family time. Hopefully, you’ll only live through a season like this once in your life, so look back on it as a bonding time.
- Work on your marriage. Have intentionally deep conversations with your spouse about the things you haven’t had time to talk about in a while.
- Be balanced in your viewpoints. In an age of radical extremism in every direction, be a beacon of hope and stability.
- Get outside. I’m most productive on days when I get out and refuse to sit behind a computer all day.
That’s all I’ve got. I’ve never been a productivity expert and I think we should give ourselves a bit of grace in this season.
You’re not going to get everything right.
You’re not going to get everything done.
You’re not going to make everyone happy.
So just live for an audience of One and bask in the sweetness of the knowledge that you matter, that you are loved, and that God wants to use you in the middle of the mess. Keep loving Jesus. Keep loving people. And be that rare bright spot in someone’s day.