Earlier in the year my Senior Pastor went on paternity leave for three weeks.
I was technically ‘Acting Senior Pastor’ during that time. There were extra responsibilities. This is what I learned.
1. The amount and variety of decisions required to be made is enormous.
This is the main difference between what my role is normally and what I stepped up to.
It took me nearly two weeks to realise the main difference in roles was that of decision-making.
Each day there were new queries, new decisions to make, new things to have conversations about and then make follow up decisions to enable progress. Upon reflection, I realised that the decision-making required is at a new level, a level you just don’t get at the associate pastor level.
At first I was tempted to put this down to not being used to making these decisions, but after further reflection I don’t think it’s just that. I need to make many decisions in the associate role, some I’ve been used to making for many years. But in the senior role there are a greater variety and range of questions asked of you, leading to a greater variety and range of decisions required.
2. The regular preaching is a joy and privilege.
I expected to be weighed down because of the extra preaching load. Rather than preach once a month or so I had to preach five out of six weeks.
Maybe it was the series we covered, an expositional series on the book of Ruth, but I was enthusiastic and excited about teaching and preaching each week. It was great to prepare for it as a series and to then present the material through the preached Word each week.
3. The one-on-ones became more reactive than active.
In reality the extra load did mean there were some things I didn’t do that I normally would’ve. One of those things is actively searching out young adults and others for one-on-one catch-ups during the week. Instead of being active is sourcing these meetups those I did have were usually reactive. That is, people would call and want to meet, or people popped by the church office and sat in with me for a while. Both are important of course, but I do prefer being active rather than reactive.
4. The phone becomes more important than ever.
The invention of the phone has got to be the greatest thing in the ministry kit bag. I was on the phone a lot more, particularly through phone calls, than I usually am. Part of this is the greater number of people who want to talk to me, or share something, or who I needed to follow up. But, the phone became a great resource for me to have pastoral conversations and show care to those in the congregation.
5. The true day off, mentally and physically, is nearly impossible.
I am usually pretty good at switching off and making sure I’m not available. But, I also find myself thinking about youth ministry a lot because I am passionate about it. I like to reflect, write, and think through it.
In the senior position I found myself thinking about the church, its people, and the ministry more often than I would normally. People didn’t know when my days off were and so I would get calls on every day of the week. This led me to then take the call or return the call on the same day because of the context I am in. And so, a full day off of nothing was something that became harder to implement, even though my intentions were to do so.
There’s a lesson in self-care here somewhere.