Lessons in lockdown 2: Busyness and effective, hard work are not the same

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I will put my hand up and say that I am one of those people who found a lot of lockdown beneficial. I’m not saying that I wanted to be in lockdown or that I would repeat it. Nor am I denying that it was simply awful with no redeeming features for many.

However, following on from a period of sick leave last year, there were aspects of the lockdown that probably came at just the right time for me. I have also heard other church leaders say that it came at just the right time for them and their churches.  Part of the reason for them saying this is that they were just hitting saturation point in terms of busyness in church life. Members felt that whilst there had been numerical growth, that there was still only a small core that were doing all the work. They were telling elders that they needed a break from rotas and teams, that they could not cope.   WE had become “crazy busy”[1]

In November, I had time out of ministry due to depression and one possible cause of that was an element of burnout. I was exhausted and I wasn’t finding ways to replenish and refresh. One of the things I did that month was sleep a lot. I had already begun to re-calibrate how I went back to work.  Lockdown has provided a further recalibration for me.

What lockdown has not provided has been time off or rest. This hasn’t been a holiday or sabbatical. I have still been doing a lot.  In fact, in many respects I have been able to do more. You can be in contact with more people in the week by having video and phone chats than you can through traditional visits. Similarly, our Facebook live sessions have provided more opportunities for small group discipleship. There are draw backs of course to losing face to face contact. However, it has confirmed something to me that I suspected. Give me an open Bible and say “teach from it” and I could do that all day. I don’t mean that I want to retreat into my study with books and read or be academic but I love pastoring with God’s Word open. 

I have been better able to do this because a lot of the busyness in church life has been stripped away. We are not rushing around to set up and clear down for different programmes. Nor are we handling a lot of the questions and queries we normally do. Ona Sunday morning I’m not busy making sure chairs are out, rats are not and that the p/a and projector are working. I just switch on the computer and we are ready to go.

I suspect this is true for a lot of people in a range of jobs. I often hear people say that they do more work for their employers when they work from home. There are probably some negative pressures involved in that. However, one reason is that we are less busy, less rushed, less stressed in other ways. For example we haven’t had to navigate the rush hour and that enables us to be more effective.

Soon many of us will be back to commuting to offices and factories, church buildings will open again and on one level we will return to normality. However, we do not want the old normal to come back. It would be good to reflect on the benefits from this time and think about how we can help one another work hard without becoming over busy again.

[1] To borrow a phrase from the title of one of Kevin DeYoung’s books.

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