by Tim Scheidler
You know what? Road trip. That’s what.
Over the summer I was itching for a road trip. It had been a long time since I had traveled further than the 1.8 miles it took me to get to work or the 3.2 miles it took to drop my son off at nursery school. I wanted to get out of Dodge for a while, see the sights, take my best friends with me and have an adventure. I wanted this to be something special, not just a simple drive-somewhere-camp-and-drive-home-again kind of trip. I wanted it to be a little bit more… adventurous.
There were one or two obstacles to get over before I could have my adventure: my wife would need to agree, my buddies would need to get the time off and we would need something to get us there. For the most part, my friends and I are all single car families. Generally, my wife drives the car with the kids and I nip back and forth from work on a scooter.
With the wife’s consent and the buddies on board, I began my search for a car. Not just any car, I wanted an adventure-mobile! Something that could do more than get the job done, it needed to be ridiculously cheap and “somewhat reliable.” I did not want anything nice, nothing too worry-free, I wanted the ‘getting there’ part of the trip to remain squarely in the realm of the uncertain. The reason behind why I wanted to literally get stranded out in the middle of nowhere and whether or not I succeeded in my endeavor will have to wait for another article. For now, I want to talk about the magnificent piece of engineering that became our “warrior.”
At one point the “warrior” was a known as a 1992 Isuzu Trooper LS. I am fairly certain that in the prime of its life the “LS” stood for: “Luxurious… Sort of.” Also in the prime of its life it featured: heat and air conditioning, stereo with AM and FM, cassette AND CD player (luxurious, no?), four-wheel drive, fog-lamps, cruise control, retractable wing mirrors, lavish brown cloth upholstery and, of course, the 3.2 liter, 192 Horsepower, dual overhead cam engine that separated the LS from the lesser versions of the Trooper. Superb.
What did the “warrior” have when I was first acquainted with it? Well that is an entirely different kind of luxury. At this point in the trooper’s life the heat and air conditioning were mostly for show, the speedometer was broken, the odometer was broken, the stereo was broken (though it remained installed in the car), the cruise control did not work (because the speedometer was broken), three of the four power windows worked, two of the five power door locks worked, etc, etc, etc. You get the idea. There was a lot wrong with the ol’ girl. Half of this list was not discovered until after I had handed over payment and begun to drive around town.
To give you an idea of scale of the problem I kept a bucket in the car at all times that contained: motor oil, power steering fluid, coolant, jumper cables, gloves, various funnels, a “GO FOR HELP” sign and a rope. Unlike the air conditioning, the bucket is not for show. I used these things all the time. Except for the “GO FOR HELP” sign, surprisingly enough. Clearly, the “warrior” was more of a “lemon,” but I did not care. I was convinced there was GREATNESS lying just below the surface. I believed it JUST needed some fluids and a little love and the trooper would be the greatest car of all time.
Time and experience would soon show me that this car did not JUST need a little love. It needed MAJOR repairs. For example, the steering rack was cracked quite badly and if I wanted to maintain the ability to control the car’s direction, without having to continually refill the power steering fluid, that part would need to be replaced: $300 just for parts. If I wanted to know how fast I was going I would need a new speed sensor: $225 just for parts. If I wanted to know how far I had traveled I would need a new instrument panel: $ a lot, just for the part. If I did not want to not melt into the lavish brown cloth seats on a mildly warm spring day, the air conditioning pump and thermostat would have to go: $ cha-ching. Once again, I think you get the idea. The odd thing is, without all these repairs the car could still get me from point a to point b, albeit in a cacophony of noise, screeching and heat but I would arrive nonetheless and so I ignored the repairs and kept patching things as I went.
So what does a beat up, old car have to do with ministering to families? I am so glad you asked.
For many of us, the role we are handed is kind of like that car. It is a twenty year-old, tired but familiar, heap of a role that needs to keep going until… well, how about until Christ calls us home?
The difference between the car and our roles as ministers is that, unlike the car, there is beauty in what we do, there is greatness, the Kingdom is there and we are passionate about it. We do it because we love it. We love the kids, we love families, we are convinced (rightfully so) that children and families are precious and extremely valuable and they ought to be taken care of, supported and ministered to. We are under-resourced and overworked yet we soldier on. We patch ourselves back together week after week and create a schedule that will keep things going. We are experts at keeping a bucket full of quick-fixes to help us squeak by: cell phones, email, little time off, an understanding spouse, not a lot of or no personal worship and even a sign that says: “GO FOR HELP.”
At a certain point the patches catch up to us and we are spent. Our life is being sucked away and we are tired of continually reaching into the bucket of quick fixes. We look at what we have cobbled together and think to ourselves: “If I could JUST take a little time off,” or “If I could JUST make it to worship once this month,” or “If I could JUST spend an entire day with my family without getting called away.” If I could JUST get a little ‘x’, then I would not feel so ‘y’ and I would be happier doing ‘z.’
We “JUST” ourselves into thinking that what we really need is a quick break, an easy fix, a taste of worship and not a healthy balance between work and rest and family, or making worship a priority. We convince ourselves that we do not need the stitches, we JUST need a band-aid and we can keep things rolling forever! Right?
This is the slippery slope of “JUST.” If we do not take care of the deeper issues, we will not be able to keep things rolling. One way or another, without major repairs, the trooper will no longer be able to function for the purpose it was intended. The same goes for you, without the sometimes painful discipline of keeping your work life in a healthy balance, the love of serving kids and families will not be enough to keep you going. You will burn out and it will take a lot more painful work to get you back into condition to serve than it will take to prevent it.
What are the little tricks and cheats, the band-aids you use to limp from Sunday to Sunday? Is it covering all the shifts by skipping worship? Is it taking your cell phone with you on a retreat? Checking email when you are home with your family? You know, just in case? Everyone has their own special ways of cheating themselves out of health. Here is the challenge: ditch the band-aids and go for the stitches. Here are some general ways to get things in order:
Before you do anything, decide to do it. Make the choice to minister from a place of health, not because you think you should but because you want to. Do not just consider the possibility of what could be different, decide to do things differently and set to work.
First of all, decide to be in worship every week and then worship every week. Make this a priority. Empower who you need to, delegate what you can, it is not a luxury to worship God, it is a necessity. Your Senior Pastor will get it, your staff will support you, your family wants you to and so does God.
Next, plan out your life in chunks. Create rhythms for your day, your week, your month, six-weeks, six-months and your year. Plan on a day away (no phone, no email, just you and God) every six weeks (if not once a month). Plan on missing a weekend about once a quarter. Plan on missing more than a weekend at least once a year. Pick the dates early and remind people (and yourself) well in advance. Do not let last minute meetings or hiccups preempt family time, or vacations. Remember: when you are gone, be gone.
Have a hobby. Something you can lose yourself in and truly enjoy, something that can successfully take your mind away from work for a while. Automotive repair perhaps?
Finally, adopt this as a team. Walk through this process with your whole team. Do not tell your team that you have now decided to serve from a healthy place and they need to pick up the slack. Figure out how everyone can worship, everyone can retreat and everyone can ditch the band-aids in favor of the stitches. It will feel weird at first, but the weirdness will turn into a healthy pace and your families and your team will appreciate the example your setting.
You are exceptional, talented and loving people. The church needs you for a long time to come. Your family needs you whole, healthy and happy. Bumps will come your way, as they always do, ministering from a place of health will ensure that you are able to deal with these bumps without grinding your gears or losing your passion.
As I mentioned in my last article: Ministering to the families at your church is not a problem that can be solved. As surely as the sun rises in the morning so too will Sunday morning come after Saturday night and on that Sunday we will need to be ready to minister to our families. The wheel of ministry will keep turning and I want to be sure you do not fall off.
In the meantime, does anyone want to buy a used 1992 Isuzu Trooper LS?
Tim has been involved in ministry for thirteen years and is currently the Pastor of Elementary Ministries at Lake Avenue Church. Tim oversees a ministry for 200 kids, leads a volunteer staff of sixty and created the bible cartoons The Sticks.