My first year in ministry was also my first year in law school. I arrived at work as a campus minister each morning around 6, then after a couple of hours in the office, trekked down the road to my law classes, spent the early afternoon in the law library, and then spent the last hours of the business day back in the campus ministry office before grabbing dinner with my wife and returning for meetings and committee sessions in the evening.
The source of stress in that arrangement was not the raw amount of time that the two roles demanded. It was rather the changing of gears that I had to go through during the five minute walk between the campus ministry office and the law school. I developed a routine to adjust to the different demands of the two roles: talking myself through the cases I had read the night before while hiking to class, and then trying to recall nuggets of experience and class lessons on pastoral theology as I walked back up the hill to the campus ministry offices. I was enthralled with the experience of law school, and I found my ministry work to be life-giving. But those daily gear changes drained my energy in dramatic ways.
While the issue may have been more intense due to my dual calling, it is present for almost every church leader. Any gathering of clergy is likely to include some discussion of the ways running the church impinges on the ability to preach, teach, and offer care effectively. But the problem is not just the time required for administrative tasks.
Essayist and computer programmer Paul Graham writes of the conflict between a "maker's schedule" and a "manager's schedule" (Thanks to my colleague Ahmed Taha for that source). People in management and administrative roles tend to approach the day in hour-long units, but creative people ("makers") need long blocks of time--at least half-days--in order to reach full productivity.
Preaching, writing, and sharing the stories of those with whom we minister are "making" tasks, and they take large chunks of time: just getting settled at the desk and sorting out ideas may take the first 30 minutes of any working session. Listening to feedback from congregation members, making a decision about an artistic component of a worship service, or attending a committee meeting are all "manager" tasks. They are important, and they draw on the professional skills that we have honed through education and experience, but they also chop up the day into pieces that are difficult to use for our creative, pastoral roles.
How do we give attention to critical administrative issues while also reserving appropriate blocks of time for creative work? I know some teachers and ministers who artificially block their schedules all morning or a couple of days a week for "working time" when they can have uninterrupted stretches for creative opportunity. Others have arranged staff structures to minimize their exposure to administrative work at any time. The former can be perceived as rigid or even pretentious, and the latter risks malpractice. Administrative tasks require our professional attention too.
In that first year of ministry and law school, the biggest problems I experienced resulted from an ironic failure. Despite being a law student, I was hardly ever as objective and analytical as I would have liked in my ministry role. And even though I was active as a minister, I was not as compassionate and emotionally engaged as I should have been in law school. My dual training and involvement should have paid dividends in both parts of my life, but my bifurcated way of coping stood in the way of any synergy.
The good news is that the right approach to this problem can provide enough security with regard to the creative tasks to make the administrative tasks less of a drain and enough satisfaction to improve performance on the full range of duties.
How do you handle the potential conflict between being both a maker and a manager?