Friday, December 31, 2010

The shape of the first few weeks

Pastor's typically don't have typical work schedules. I'm still praying over how mine will shape out, because I know how I make use of my time as a pastor will be incredibly influential on the direction of our congregation and ELCA ministry in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As we come to the end of 2010, instead of posting a set of new year's resolutions, I'm simply going to do a sort of examen, drawing to prayerful attention how I am spending the days given to me by our Lord.

I have been at Good Shepherd a half week already, and was blessed with the opportunity for many initial conversations with staff and parishioners who stopped in the office to say hi, bring donuts, and juggle with me, among other pleasantries. Went to a men's basketball game at the university. I unpacked about 20 boxes, plenty still to go, and started settling into and decorating the office. There were also the typical rehearsals for Sunday worship and bulletin preparation. Today, Friday, I'm hiding out at a coffee shop during nap time working on the Book of Faith study for Augsburg Fortress for Advent 2011, and obviously also blogging.

Analyze next week's schedule with me. How does it signify mission priorities? What's missing that should be there? What's surprising, positive, odd?

The plan currently is to be in the office Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon unless otherwise noted. Some afternoons next week will also be devoted to unpacking the rest of the boxes.

Sunday- Worship leadership and preaching at 8 a.m. 10 a.m., and 11:15 a.m. 

Monday- 9-11 a.m. nursing home visits
7 p.m. Desert and coffee at a member home with small group of families
Tuesday- 9-noon First staff meeting, including worship and visioning and meet and greet
               2-4  p.m. nursing home visits
Wednesday- 11 a.m. meeting with senior pastor of Episcopal church in Fayetteville
                     noon Fayetteville ministerial association meeting
6 p.m. Pre-baptismal class
Thursday- 9-noon Northwest Arkansas pastors meeting at Peace in Rogers; mission conversation coordinated by the synod office
Friday- Sabbath and family day
Saturday- 9-noon coffee conversation concerning mission development of campus ministry at UArk; invitees include parishioners, faculty, university students, and high schoolers anticipating attending UArk, plus a mission developer with the ELCA considering a call to this synod

Although this first week doesn't include it, subsequent weeks will always include a Tuesday evening and Wednesday noon bible study led by the pastor, as well as LOGOS, supper, and choirs on Wednesday evenings. I have invited the congregation to start forming small group events so I can visit with them at their home, work, or favorite "Third Places." By and large, when I'm not at these events, or in the office, I'm spending time with the family, and weaving in time for sermon preparation, various forms of communication, theological study, and freelance writing projects. I rarely set aside large blocks of time for sermon preparation. Instead, I weave that into my daily routine, including meditation while running, evenings spent reading the text and doing translation work, etc. And of course, an unknown for any given week would be special concerns that may come up for parishioners or the congregation.

Also, already on the agenda for the second week are preparations for a baptism, service of installation, an acolyte training, coffee with the mayor of Fayetteville, coaching conversation with a pastor from Coachnet, and plenty of walking the neighborhood around the church and our house meeting the neighbors.

Prayer is woven in throughout the day, typically in the morning and evening and at meals. I love this work, and wouldn't trade it for anything.


  1. PC-
    I'm thrilled to know that you are meeting with two very influential leaders in Fayetteville during your first and second weeks on the job. I'm sorry that I will miss the meeting on mission development at the U of A. I work with over 150 non-traditional students each year through my work at SPSF NWA. Many of those attend the U of A. I look forward to learning what develops from that meeting.

    God's blessings to you and your family and your ministry at GSLC.

  2. You're welcome to attend if you're free. 9 a.m. at Jammin Java next Saturday morning. :)

  3. I'm curious about how you have already issued an invitation to start forming small groups. It looks like you've already got at least one going. Was that already in place, or is that one of your early priorities? I ask because I'm a graduating senior at Wartburg Sem and I think that small group ministry is an important part of congregational life, but I often wonder at how it gets started.

  4. Hi Ted. Great observation and question. I don't think small groups are easy to start in any context unless they were native from the very beginning. Perhaps you can do some technological change and form some, but making a deep adaptive change that makes it part of the DNA of a congregation is difficult.

    That being said, it is one of my early priorities, and I'm making use of my arrival and goal of meeting people to hopefully jumpstart the formation of small groups in the congregation in a kind of organic fashion.

    Do you participate in a small group already? What are you envisioning in a congregation you serve as pastor?

  5. Curt Rom11:40 PM

    Thoughtful reflection on a a first week. Congratulations and good work on just taking the time to think about how a week would form itself.

    As you note, it will be the routine for you to be in your office 8am-noon. I encourage you to have some regular "office hours" that you could hold as "study time" but as importantly a known time that parishoners or others would know they could contact you - either come by for counsel, call or email....but a time that the likelihood of catching you would increase.

    I also encourage you to think of how you can "study" on our congregation and our community(s). It is a sad reality that our congregation has no printed or recorded history to give you a vision or our past as that may provide insight for the future. But, it may just take some time for you to gather that oral history - and getting that may be worth some effort.

    Lastly, as you conclude your week, please take time to think about what you accomplish each know the difference you make. And, so that you can account for your time and how it was used.

    It is exciting to be starting a new position. I wish you the best of fortune and my best wishes.

    Curt Rom

  6. I don't currently participate in a small group, but I have in the past - both in campus ministry, and also in the congregation I attended prior to seminary. I also have friends in Madison who attend a Lutheran church where small groups are an important part of their outreach to young adults.

    What I envision for my first call really depends upon where I get called, and I'm open to different contexts. I'm hoping that if small groups are appropriate and aren't already happening, I can work as a sort of catalyst - a lot like what you're trying to do.

    Technology is an interesting question for all of this, of course. But you're right - it's a DNA problem at its heart.

  7. Ted, by technological change I mean "surface" change, not necessary technology as in computers, etc. Should have been more clear.

    Curt, you can probably guess that I'm thrilled that a member of the congregation would remind me to study! The regular office hours gig will be different for me from the previous call I was in, because there getting out into the community was a big part of my work, especially visitation. I can already tell that GSLC lots of folks just stop in or meet there.

    As for a history of the congregation, there's a great event Alban institute suggests in one of their books (can't remember the title right now) where you invite the congregation to an event where you map the chronology history and development of the congregation by decades on a big piece of butcher paper on the wall. Sound like something that could be fun and helpful for us as we vision?

  8. I should also mention that my last call serving as pastor of the oldest Norwegian Lutheran church in North America drew my attention to the role of pastor as memory keeper and historian. Reflection on this topic is going to require another blog post.

  9. Curt Rom10:54 AM

    PC - It is my thought that it would be a healthy exercise for our Congregation (maybe just me) to recollect our history timeline as we embark on a significant new chapter with you. In the GSLC history, your arrival is notable.

    Regarding time for study; In many ways, the life of a pastor/theologian are not too different. Study, thought, and reflection must be part of the routine. As I look back on my career, the greatest mistake I make is not allowing - or scheduling - more time for studying and thinking. I put it on the margins of my day and schedule - and therefore thoughts are often fragmented. Our congregation will benefit from your study, introspection, and reflection. (further - this is the dissertation director in me - you need to complete your writing!)