I believe, deep in my bones, that it is possible to do excellent ministry and keep a sane pace. But it takes intention and awareness, and the ability to notice where we are focusing our efforts and time. At Mass. Council of Churches where I serve as the Executive Director, 2018 was a huge year of changes to our physical space, personnel, bylaws, and context for ministry, but most of the labor to manage these massive changes didn’t show up in our staff reports. Moreover, we knew, but weren’t really accounting for, the personal changes in our lives- changes in other jobs, in our “outside” responsibilities, in caregiving, and in our homes. So this past week, our staff meeting focused on the changes we each have managed.
Inspired by ministry colleagues at The Riverside Church, we created a “change index.” On one half of the paper, we each wrote “personal changes in 2018” and on the other half, we wrote “professional changes in 2018.” We each developed our own list, and then shared aloud with one another. We reflected on themes we heard repeated, and marveled at the sheer volume of change we had individually and collectively experienced. We felt proud of what we had accomplished. We could finally see all the labor and energy that we gave to learning and living with these changes. After, we wrote out what changes we anticipate in 2019. Already, we can see more changes on the horizon.
I had two insights about this experiment in organizational management. First, too many places of employment I know of only look at the “professional changes” side of the page, and pretend that we aren’t full and complex humans with caregiving responsibilities or economic constraints. I am convinced that to nurture vocation in myself and my colleagues, we need to account for the whole page, for our personal and professional selves, and not simply for the work tasks that are in front of us.
Second, I think often the role of pastoral and prophetic leadership is to make visible that which may be invisible- make visible God’s love, make visible people’s suffering, make visible structural injustice that God longs for us to overturn. The Massachusetts Council of Churches exists to “make the vibrant Church visible.” This exercise helped us make visible all the change that we staff have experienced in the last year. Maybe this much change is the new normal for ministry. If so, we’re going to need more practices and management patterns like this of naming and accounting for the labor, skill and artistry it takes to do our work in the midst of constant change.