A week in the life of the Parson

My friend and colleague, Clint Schnekloth, recently challenged his Lutheran pastor friends to share a summary of our experiences during the week. A chance for us to learn from one another, and for our non-clergy friends to get a peek into what a pastor's life looks like.

As a caveat: there is no such thing as a normal week in the life of a pastor. Every week has something unusual - a funeral, a wedding, a pastoral emergency, etc. So I this just happens to be the week immediately after Pastor Schnekloth invited us to share our experiences. (Ok, it wound up being an octave, not a week. But you get the idea).

Saturday, January 12
Wedding, and pre-Sunday. If there is a wedding, it pretty much takes all day (although the service itself is not terribly long). Over to church around noon to unlock and set the heat or air conditioning for the day. Into my office to fine tune my wedding sermon and service. Greet family and friends and make sure that everything is ready. Weddings can be frustrating for a pastor, but it is also a great joy and privilege to spend time with families as the celebrate.

Off to the reception, which I usually leave fairly early. By about 8:00pm on any given Saturday night, my mind turns to Sunday morning. There is something to the Jewish practice of beginning a day at sunset the night prior. I am thinking about my sermon, thinking about the liturgy, thinking about Sunday School. Not exactly the party guy. So I try to be home by 9:00pm on Saturdays -- it really is better for everyone.

Sunday, January 13
"Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!" The big show. Yes, the things I do all week long are important. But what happens on Sunday goes a long way toward shaping who we are on a community. I am usually at church between 5:30-6:00am. A practice I learned from my Dad. Tweak the sermon. Practice the sermon and the liturgy. Make sure that everything is where it needs to be. Spend some extra time in prayer, asking for God to speak to our community -- knowing that without God, all of my preparation is meaningless.

This particular Sunday, there is also our afternoon confirmation class with two other community churches. So after the service it is a quick bite to eat, and then time to go over my lesson. And then the confirmation students arrive, and we are off to the races.

By the time I am home at 6:30pm, I am done. For this introvert, that is a lot of time spent with large groups. Sundays are joyful and exciting, and also exhausting.

Monday, January 14
After an especially busy Sunday, a slow start to Monday. Responding to emails and phone calls (Did you ever notice that emails and phone calls seem to come like a tidal wave on Monday mornings?). After hearing at church that a friend and neighbor was sick, word came this morning that he died last night. I went to the family's house, and sat with his widow and family for a little while, offering prayer and my sympathies. Then back to the office, post a podcast from Christmas (catching up!) and to finish reports and paperwork for our first council meeting of the new year. I love our council meetings. I have the privilege of working with a great group of leaders, and this year is no exception. A great time at our first meeting.

Tuesday, January 15
A Presbyterian teaching elder, an Episcopal priest, a UCC pastor, and two Lutheran pastors walk into the room. No, really. Every Tuesday morning, we have a time to sit down and study the Scriptures for Sunday ahead. It is a wonderful time of study, support, and prayer. From there, I went off to the hospital to visit a member who had surgery. I spent some time visiting with him and his family. And then, a young women noticed my collar and asked me to come visit with her family. Her dad was being removed from life support today. So, with this family I had just met, we prayed together. We talked about God and about faith and about suffering. We cried together. It was a holy afternoon.

Back at the office, I finished up my written annual report so that the annual meeting materials could get mailed out to the congregation on Wednesday. On Tuesday evenings, I meet on twitter for a conversation about using technology and social media in ministry, which a community of which I am a part called Church Social Media (#chsocm). The hour spent in that conversation every week helps me to develop new skills and think about ministry in new ways.

Then it was family game night time!

Wednesday, January 16
Odds and ends. A little bit of this and a little bit of that.
A couple of pop-in visits at the nursing home to see how everyone was doing. A couple of phone calls to follow up on things. A chuck of time on ye olde sermon. Giving the final once over to the bulletin. Our monthly fellowship lunch with the men of the congregation.

And then evening meetings. Met with the volunteers who put together the powerpoint presentations for Sunday morning. It served as an orientation for new volunteers, as well as an introduction to our new laptop (Windows 8, yuck) for people who have served there for a while. From there, straight to another meeting about our building use with a group who is working up a proposal for a new activity center for the congregation. It is exciting to work on this sort of project, which is driven not by the pastor but by creative and forward thinking members.

Thursday, January 17
Funeral for the friend who died earlier in the week. A beautiful memorial for this well-known member of our community.

Then, getting ready for our annual Council retreat on Saturday. Every year, the Council devotes a day to a) learning about their responsibilities as council members and b) dreaming about the future of St. John. Most of Thursday was spent preparing my materials for that conversation, as well as picking up supplies and making handouts and all those other preparations.

Friday, January 18

Sabbath. A day of rest. Mostly. Yes, some time spent reading, and some time spent doing chores. But also some goofing off and some plain old enjoyment of this life that God has given us. Lots of time with my daughter and wife.

At some point in the last few years, I the listing of this day in our monthly calendar. It used to say "Pastor's Day Off" and now says "Pastor's Sabbath." As in, "Six days you shall work, but the seventh day shall be a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On that day, you shall do no work." Not God's suggestion to get a little rest. God's command. You shall rest.

Friday doesn't always work for my Sabbath. Other things come up that must be dealt with. But I try to be faithful to my responsibility to take a day of rest.

Saturday, January 19
Men's breakfast first thing in the morning, and then: Council retreat.
As I said, I have a great time with the leadership of St. John. I really think that church leadership should be joyful - and we live that out in our life together at St. John. So, we had a great day getting to know one another, laughing together, dreaming together, praying together, and doing business of the church together.

And then it starts all over again.