Sunday Hustle or Sabbath?

Sunday hustle or sabbath? Are these mutually exclusive? It feels like it. Church leaders every Sunday (weekend) hustle hard to make your ministry excellent (or sometimes, just “covered”) and when the day is done, they can see the fruit of their work, but they never sniffed at having a sabbath.

I’ve been a proponent that if your Sunday is a work day that doesn’t allow you to prioritize the worship of God, and rest in Him, then you need to find another day or opportunity to do this. This may mean attending another church’s Saturday night worship or another gathering that takes place during the week.

Yet, I’m not convinced our “Sunday work” must be sabbath-free.

What would it look like for you to be faithful to your Sunday ministry work, but work in such a way that both internally and externally you are more at rest?

What would it look like to walk slowly through the commons area of your church space? To linger in a conversation even though the critical part of the conversation is done? To slip into the worship room for a moment, engage in worship, before returning to your important work down the hall?

I believe we can appropateily hustle for ministry’s sake on Sunday’s, adn still work in a way that reflects some sabbath practices. These can be good for our own soul, and also model “sabbath-ways” to those we lead. It can’t replace a more robust sabbath day for you, but these two can coexist in some ways.

Ways to achieve (partial) sabbath amidst the typical Sunday ministry work:

Get your work done during the work week. Many times, our Sunday hustle is not evidence of our hard work, it’s evidence of our lack of hard work during the week.

We’re having to squeeze in a whole bunch of conversations and copy machine work that could’ve been done during the week. We must work hard in our work week hours, so we can be present for the ministry work on Sunday.

Prioritize your time with God on Sundays (1:1 before you “work”). There may be a temptation to forego your 1:1 time with God knowing that you’re heading out the door to “do church.” But at least two things counter that: 1) you probably won’t’ have a lot of time to be still with God once you’re there, and 2) you have the opportunity to minister to people on Sunday like no other time during the week. And that opportunity requires us to be connected to God in a way that our ministry to others is an overflow of our connectedness to God.

Know what your “must do” Sunday tasks are and know everything else can be trumped to engage sabbath or ministry moments. I’ve written before about the importance of prioritizing what’s “must do” (required) tasks. You need to know what must be done and know that many other things can be dropped or at least delayed should a ministry moment present itself.  

Yes, we might have to stack all the chairs or lock up the building. But if we delay that five minutes so we can spend five minutes in meaningful conversation with someone, we’ll that’s sabbath behavior. Life doesn’t stop on Sundays. And it didn’t for Jesus, but He chose very carefully what took his attention on his sabbath.

Put to rest the desire for everything to go your way. Church leaders are committed. We plan pathways and outcomes we feel God will use. But sometimes our pathways will go awry. Or God may choose another divinely-created pathway. We must put to rest our controlling ways. Controlling everything is counter to a sabbath mentality.

Sundays are a work day for me. Yet, I believe I dishonor God and poorly model for those in my church when my work looks frenetic and absent a belief I trust a big God to do His work, His way. So, here’s to hustling sabbath-style.

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Me and The Syllabi Syndrome (too much too fast)

The Syllabi Syndrome is the overwhelming experience of being presented all your work in a short period of time. Maybe like me you experienced this in college. It’s the first week of classes and each professor provides you their class’s syllabus. But you take more than one class. So, over your first two days of classes, you have 5-6 syllabi (I learned the plural of syllabus is syllabi in college).

Bolded deadline dates from your five classes looks intimidating.  That overwhelmed feeling is Syllabi Syndrome. When experiencing said syndrome it doesn’t matter that all the work is not to be completed in a week but over a four-month period. Or you’ll learn to skim the two thousand pages of reading that’s required.

Instead, you see and feel the expectations of five professors all at once. And you think to yourself, “How I am ever going to get this done?”

The Syllabi Syndrome is not limited to the freshman college experience. It’s for all of us who have entered a new situation, and in that new situation, feel like there’s so much to be done. So many people to meet. So many details to follow-up on. So many expectations!

I’m suffering from Syllabi Syndrome now. I have a new job. New church. New home. New city. New state…you get the idea. So, to self soothe and perhaps provide some practical takeaways for some of my readers who are in a similar situation (or will be), I’d thought I give some thoughts about how to maneuver through it.

When you’re faced with a lot of “new” in short period of time and feel the need to find a pathway to performance…

  1. Take a deep breathe. Literally and figuratively. Literally, long deep breaths have many positive effects. You can read about those through smarter people than me. And figuratively, create some margin to back away from the tyranny of the urgent.
  2. Set simple systems. Don’t take it all on at once. Set short-term low goals. If you have two thousand pages to read, well, you have four months in your semester to read it. So, take 120 days divided into your 2,000 pages to be read, and you have your short term low goal of reading 16 pages per day.
  3. Get commitment clarity. Avoid committing to anything that’s not required. When people give you things to do, seek clarity. Am I required to this? If so, what’s the timeline? You may learn what you think is required or expected, was closer to a suggestion and really shouldn’t even be considered.
  4. Remind yourself you’re not indispensable. Particularly if you’re having the syndrome feelings in a new job. Remind yourself that you haven’t always been here, and in most cases, they were managing without you.
  5. Look for sympathy, better yet, empathy. Find people who have been in the same situation and get a little perspective from them. They’ve been there the previous semester. They’ve been the new guy or gal on staff. They know what it’s like to drink from a fire hydrant. And they also know the fire hydrant eventually runs out of pressure.

So, if you’re experiencing this made-up syndrome like I am, then join me in using these steps to get out of it.

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Next Steps

Step one was hard. It required faith muscles that had become atrophied in me. And as I wrote previously, step one could be described as an irrational step. Our next step will again be a faith step, but it’s one my wife and I felt God has given us clarity about.

Our family’s next step is actually closer to three million steps. Or, 1,684 miles west back to my wife and I’s home state of Arizona. We each loved growing up in Arizona and we love our extended family who lives there. Yet, we never really thought we would end up back there (our other two moves had us move 1,000 miles and 600 miles east away from Arizona each time). So a desire to “go home” was not the draw in this decision. Probably because our last two churches had become “home” because of the people who loved and cared for us there.

I’ll be joining the staff of Wellspring Church in the “West Valley” area of Phoenix, Arizona (meeting in the city of Goodyear). Wellspring Church was planted just over four years ago. Wellspring has already seen some pretty cool things happen in its short life, and we feel called to come alongside them and serve with them.

In most ways, the staff position will be pretty different from the position I’ve most recently had at Brentwood Baptist Church—maybe figuratively as different and as far as Nashville is from Phoenix. I will continue in many executive pastor roles but also have broader engagement in other parts of Wellspring.

In these recent months of determining what’s next, unbeknownst to us God was reconnecting and re-energizing relationships that began 22 years ago (when I joined the staff of North Phoenix Baptist Church). One of those relationships was with fellow staff member, Chris Stull. And now Chris is the Lead Pastor at Wellspring.

Through the year Chris and I have stay connected. And now what I can see were serendipitous moments, we’ve connected personally at important moments of my life. For reasons I can’t explain, I’ve gotten the privilege to serve great pastors (my dad, Stephen Hatfield, Mike Glenn), and now I’m excited to serve with Chris.

Wellspring has a strong staff and a lot of committed and called people in their congregation. People who have a commitment to have a church in the West Valley that reaches the lost (Phoenix is the 12th most “unchurched” city in the United States). Couple that with Phoenix being the fifth largest city in America and a lead pastor who is uber-gifted in faith and leadership; and I get excited for the challenge and to see what God may do in the West Valley of Phoenix.

(More personal note: There’s a lot of details to be worked out, including the selling of a home. But if the timing works as we’d like it to, we’d let the kids finish their semester here locally and make the move late this year. We’re grateful for prayers, especially for our kids.)

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