Yesterday afternoon, I was discussing with a few guys on Twitter how and where we spend our time working. When I came to Grace nearly three years ago, there was no “office” space for me at the church building, which meant that I was to do the majority of my work either at home or somewhere in the community. For me, this was a huge win because I’ve always struggled with the idea that a pastor’s ministry is to be confined to an enclosed office space. That’s not to say it is entirely wrong; it’s just not who I am and how I try to function.
Over the past three years, I have gone back and forth try to determine where is the best place to work for accomplishing certain tasks. With two young boys (3 and 1), my home office is not the ideal place to work, so I have ended up as a patron at various coffee shops and eventually landed at a local Panera Bread where I spend most of my “office” time.
I’ve ministered in churches which have a rather strict policy for where and when a pastor works (“office hours”). Needless to say, the confinement approach was less than appealing and effective, and fortunately for me I have the privilege of working on a pastoral team with a high level of flexibility and trust. In any case, I thought I’d post what my typical work week looks like, including the places, times, and purposes of each.
First, here’s the breakdown of times and places of my work:
Panera Bread (or various coffee shops) – 25 hours
Home Office – 20 hours
Church Office – 10 hours
Public Library – 5 hours
Second, here’s the purposes of each workplace:
Panera Bread – administration, discipleship, counseling, coaching, communication, planning
Home Office – reading, writing, studying
Church Office – staff meeting, elders meeting, membership interviews, counseling, service planning
Public Library – sermon prep and teaching prep
Thirdly, the daily breakdown usually unfolds like this:
Panera Bread – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8-5
Home Office – Nightly 9-12
Church Office – Tuesday 9-5; Wednesday night 6-9
Public Library – Saturday morning 8-1PM
You may be wondering why I choose to work the majority of my time at Panera. Here’s a few reasons:
1. I want to live as a missionary. As I work, I want to be mindful that people around me are lost and need the gospel. I structure my work at Panera to encourage interruptions for everyday conversations and hear the stories of the employees. I learn my community by hearing their questions and find myself able to stay somewhat connected to the 94% of my neighbors who are unchurched and unbelieving. If I am exhorting our members to live evangelistically or missionally, then I should seek to live exemplary in that manner as well.
2. I want to be considered a pastor of third places. I have come to know the stories of most of the employees at Panera. J.J. is a young man who two months ago lost his brother in a tragic accident. As far as I know, there was no other Christian to minister to him. I was able to encourage him and pray for him during this time, which has in turn created an openness in him to the gospel. Audrey is a lady whose husband is like me–Assyrian and Iranian, both of whom are believers. Kyle is a mystic and seeker, being brought up with a New Age spirituality and almost weekly wants to engage in gospel conversations. Then there are the other regular patrons, many of whom like me are looking to connect with folks in the community for various reasons. I want to be on the frontline of pastoral ministry for the unchurched, and that means these people knowing that I care for them, living among them, and desire to minister to them (and not just be a drive-by Christian).
3. I want to maximize time management. Usually, a pastor will burn 1-2 hours in transit from home to church office to lunch appointments or other meetings. I take care of that all in one place. I have a four-seater table where I spread out when I need to work and pack up when I need to meet with others. Not having to drive to multiple locations allows me to utilize that time with greater efficiency. It’s my office, counseling area, lunch table, and planning center.
4. There are several other practical benefits. I get free refills on fountain drinks (including sweet tea!). I have free wireless internet. The ladies are always bringing me food they would ordinarily have to throw away, so I’m amply supplied. 🙂 I can counsel people in an environment that is both private and yet public (I don’t want anything I do to be unnecessarily hidden, so who I am and what I do is in full view). My wife and boys join me for lunch on occasion, too.
Now, I am not as open in the public library. In fact, I’m rather tunnel vision as I am there only to work in solitude to bring my teaching or sermon preparation to completion. It is more focused and disciplined, recognizing the nature of the work requiring my full attention. As you can see, the goal and functioning is completely different.
At home, I work in the evening time when my wife and kids have gone to bed, usually for 3-4 hours. This is the best time for me to read and write in the comforts of my own home and study without distraction.
That pretty much sums up the way I work. How do you work? If you are a pastor or church planter, how and where do you spend your time? I’d love to get your thoughts and experiences on this and how perhaps I might tweak the structure of my week with the wisdom you provide.