Is Your Ministry Cheating Your Employer?

focusOne of the problems that we often face as volunteers in children’s ministry is maintaining focus in our “day jobs.”  When you are passionate about something, it is hard not to focus on it and hard not to get sidetracked about it.  Think back to the first time you really fell in love.  How much time did you spend thinking about your new love?  How much of your day was consumed dreaming about what the future might hold?  If you are parent, do you remember the first days back to work after your child was born?  How often did you stare at their picture wishing you were home?  How much of your time was spent contemplating/worrying about their future?  How many times did you call home just to see how they were doing?  This tendency towards distraction is consistent in anything that we are passionate about.

When I am not very intentional about it, it is very easy for me to let my passion for children’s ministry distract me when I should be focusing on my day job.  Since I spend a chunk of my day working with computers, it would be quite easy to allow my mind to wander, to dream about children’s ministry, to think about the lesson for the coming weekend and more.  On a more concrete level, things like e-mail, conferences, online research and more can easily interfere with your “day job.”  Instead, I must be very intentional about focusing on what I should be doing at that particular moment.

When our passion does not align with our responsibilities, there is clearly a tendency to get distracted from our responsibilities.  Here are some of the things I do to help me maintain my focus:

  1. Meditate on scripture.  Specifically, memorize Colossians 3:24-24 which says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” When we are doing ministry, we are clearly doing it for God, but the Bible tells us that God has put us where he wants us in terms of our day job.  We should work for him there just as hard as we should in ministry.
  2. Pray.  Pray that God would give you focus and perseverance to focus on your day job while you are there.
  3. Plan ahead.  Set aside specific nights and weekend hours and days for dreaming, strategizing and planning for ministry.  When you manage your time effectively and plan ahead, you won’t feel the need to focus on it while you should be working.
  4. Keep a list.  If an idea pops into your head during the day, write it down and come back to it later.  The simple process of writing it down, so you know you can come back to later, will help to keep you from letting your mind wander.
  5. Get help.  If you’re spending time when you should be working actually completing physical tasks for ministry (like getting crafts ready, printing handouts, etc.), find someone who can help you.  Spread the load as much as possible.
  6. Flag your e-mail and come back to it later.  Nothing says you have to respond to all e-mail immediately.  Mark the ones you need to respond to and get to them in the evening or on the weekend when you have some time.
  7. Network.  Talk to other volunteers and bi-vocational children’s ministers in similar positions.  Find out what they do.  Other people in similar position can offer support, encouragement and ideas.
  8. Don’t cheat.  Don’t cheat your employer.  If you know that you allowed your mind to wander or you got sidetracked during the day, make up that time to your employer.
  9. Remember that you are God’s light to a lost world.  You may justify your actions in your head by convincing yourself that you are working for God.  To your employer though, you are wasting their time and money doing something else.  In their eyes you are likely no different than the guy in the next cube who spends the whole afternoon surfing the internet.  What kind of witness is that?

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