We jump through hoop after hoop, stepping-stone after stepping-stone, sacrificing everything just to get to that finish line. But once we get there, we realize our thinking was flawed.
Now we’re unhappy again and need to set another goal.
We just spent however many hours, days, or years, sacrificing our health, our happiness, our every-single-day, to reach some goal – only to realize that it was the hours, days, months and years we skipped that actually was our life.”
How many ministers, deacons, church related community workers, youth workers and children’s workers do you know who work for a church or denomination and are quite simply knackered? They are burnt out, stressed, worried, anxious and deflated.
How many people in churches do you know who are the same?
We, the western church, have fallen into the busyness trap. We have bought into a ‘success narrative’ hook, line and sinker. We believe that being busy, doing stuff, being productive is what we should be about.
I get paid to work for a denomination and they are entitled to have expectations of what I will do in return for that salary.
This isn’t a complaint. I think goals and plans can be helpful, but I have the same feeling as the person who wrote the quote at the start of this post. In fact I have a bigger question:
Does busyness build the kingdom?
I think we use busyness as a way of hiding from what being church is really about, relationship and service. We get caught up in meetings, programmes, committees, initiatives, fund raising, groups, work parties and even worship.
We never take time to sit, talk, eat, relax, enjoy… to get to know each other, to share our hopes and dreams, our questions and worries.
We talk endlessly about prayer, meditation, retreat and relationship. These are all those helpful, non-busy practices and then model the absolute opposite. We justify ourselves by how much we do, how many hours over our contract we work, how many meetings we have been at this week.
Why? Where in the Bible does Jesus tell us that we will get eternal life if we only work hard enough?
If the church is going to be a place that is helpful and healthy then we really need to break this destructive narrative of busyness. Busyness leads to stress, anxiety and depression. We know it does, and yet we still plough on… even though Jesus says ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’
Recovery is about regaining balance. Taking time to do the things which keep you well, which provide support and about creating a narrative of realistic expectations.
It’s not about settling for less, for an easy life, for never taking risks or pushing yourself, but it is about applying your energy in the right direction to the right things.
The next committee meeting you have, take some cakes and coffee, scrap the agenda and talk about why people are still here in the church.
Ask them their hopes and dreams.
Then meet again and talk some more.
The last thing we should be doing is creating communities that people feel stressed and anxious in. And busyness doesn’t work.
Beth Keith’s report ‘Authentic Faith: Fresh expressions of church among young adults’ give some very helpful insight into what does work…