Who is the laziest person in your extended family? The word “lazy” might be a little judgmental. Put differently, who is the person who most knows how to have a good time and is the least compulsive about work?
Many church leaders are hard-working, serious about their work, and sometimes have trouble setting boundaries between work and leisure. There’s no doubt that ministry is hard work. But overfunctioning leaders, those who take too much responsibility for others at church (and often, in the family), do themselves and others no favors.
You might have something to learn from the person in your family who is more carefree (perhaps someone everyone else thinks is irresponsible), who tends to underfunction. Often, though not always, it’s a younger child in the family, whether it’s a sibling or a younger cousin.
This may seem counterintuitive. Here’s one way to think about it: We are more effective in ministry if we are spiritually free. This means in part we understand the work is not all up to us, that we can say no as well as yes, and that we take time for sabbath rest. We have more choices. I believe one way to develop more options in our functioning as leaders is to be in touch with our extended family, especially the ones who seem to be different from us.
Learning to be a more relaxed leader at church
Here are a few ideas to explore this learning:
- Simply reach out to someone in your family you think of as “lazy.” Call, email or text them, or connect via social media. (You might not hear back right away, remember.)
- Ask a fun-loving sibling for ideas on what to do on your day off.
- If the “lazy” person is one of your parents, ask them for advice on working less hard. If they give you an idea, try it out a little even if you don’t like it.
- Get together with one of these family members. If they live far away, see if you can piggyback a day onto another trip. Don’t organize it, and manage your internal chatter about the way it isn’t the way you would do it. Just try to have as much fun as possible.
Why bother to do any of these? We learn how to relate to the world (and our work) in the family we grew up in. In your own learning, you found a role in the family. For most clergy and other church leaders, it was a highly responsible role. Over time, that can wear you out. Connecting with those who learned a different, less responsible role, can help you find ways to avoid burnout and sustain yourself. That’s a gift not only to yourself but to those you serve.
And here’s an article for church leaders on doing nothing as spiritual practice.