Monday, September 04, 2006

Choosing to Cheat

We're two weeks past Leadership Summit, and I've enjoyed reading some of the buzz out there about Andy's talk at the Summit.

In case you missed out, Willow Creek sponsors a huge leadership training event each August in South Barrington, IL. Hundreds of churches around the world pick it up on satellite, and something like 70,000 people watch it live. This year, Andy chose to share his 'best leadership decision ever', also detailed in his book, "Choosing to Cheat."

It's a message desperately needed in our culture today. He essentially says that we're trading in our families for work, and that includes pastors. Some time ago he and Sandra settled on a 45-hour work week, and devotes the rest to family.

Now, I come from a really great, really healthy church. But, this was not the culture there! Our senior pastor worked 70+ hours a week, and the bar was clearly set for the rest of us. Everyone on ministry staff was expected to work 52-60 hours, and take only one day off each week. The idea there was that we never wanted to be "slackers"—our kingdom work was just as important as any business, and we would prove (by time in the office?) to be just as dedicated as anyone in the marketplace was to their job.

The problem with that mindset is that we were playing catch-up. We were always trying to "prove" that we were working hard, in fact harder than those in the marketplace. Andy's approach is pretty much the opposite. Andy figures that as church leaders we should be setting the standard, not following someone else's standard. As pastors, we should be spending adequate time shepherding our families, and challenging those in our church to do the same.

Besides the text messages coming from my former colleagues in Ohio, we at North Point have heard from lots of folks around the country that can't believe this is really true. "Does Andy really live this?" they want to know. Well, I'm a newbie at North Point, but in my five weeks here I have repeatedly seen Andy head out the door at 4pm. The whole staff takes two days off each week. Astonishing.

You ought to pick up a copy of the book, especially if you're struggling with balancing work and family. I'll tell you perhaps the most important way it fleshes out at North Point: as a pastor, you have to decide if the success of the church is dependent upon your effort or God's. Now, certainly God wants us to work hard, but he hasn't called us to love the church, but to love our wives. And He hasn't called us to build the church—that's his job. I really think this decision is yet another of Andy's that springs from his humility. Andy Stanley really believes that the success of North Point is because of something God has done, not because of what Andy has done.

What do you guys think? Is it okay for a pastor to work only 45 hours? Is it okay to "cheat" the congregation in order to spend more time with family?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually come from a church where our pastor is bi-vocational and spends a pretty equal amount of time between work and church. I have always been concerned about how little time is left for his family. Of course, irons to the fire for the rest of us because the pastor is always there you feel like you have to be also. Mainly out of obligation and guilt. A while back our family decided to "cheat" and we have pulled back to have more time with our family. Our spiritual growth has increased as well as our energy and desire to serve and it is actually a joy to be serving instead of a burden. So, YES! I totally agree that it is fine for a pastor to "cheat" his congregation for the sake of family. Maybe if more pastors would lead by this example more families would be encouraged to stay together. It also allows pastors to be able to avoid the burn out that so often happens in ministry and there by be better shepherds to their sheep. It's a win win for the the family and the church!! Thanks be to God for the awakening that is happening in the church and God bless you all at North Point who are leading by example. Can't wait for you to get to Jacksonville. We are ready!!!

September 5, 2006 8:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zack Siler said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 5, 2006 2:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone has read the book E-Myth, you will probably understand where I'M coming from on this issue. Why can't pastors (and business people alike) develop processes and positions in order to alleviate the 70 hour work weeks? Companies die because they center around ONE person. If that person gets burned out or takes a week of vacation, the whole company takes off! This is poor leadership and corporate structure. Should you not get the right positions together and get the right people in those positions in order to alleviate ONE person from performing ALL of the tasks? That's not at all cheating anyone AND, there is no need to cheat anyone! I believe that one of the main problems with "organizations" (churches, businesses, schools, etc) today is that there is ONE person doing 90% of the work. In churches you have a "senior" pastor teaching, leading small groups, visiting the sick, counseling, paying bills, etc. etc. etc. Why?

My argument is that the church shouldn't be cheated by ONE person trying to do ALL of that stuff. That is cheating the church more than anything else! If one person is doing all that stuff, and they don’t work 70 hours a week, then they are totally cheating the church. The solution shouldn’t be to “Cheat” the church and force yourself to work only 40 hours a week. The solution should be to force yourself to give up some of the responsibilities and allow others with those gifts to help out.

Now, I haven't read that book that you are referring to, maybe that's the point of the book?

Just my opinion!


September 5, 2006 2:42:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not read either of the books mentioned. But I have seen the above scenario played out in full color. (It is not pretty.) I agree with Ben that if we have the right people in the right places then nobody gets "cheated." Lets continue to pray for the leadership of NP-Jax. That God would give them the wisdom they need to place the right people in the right places so no one gets "cheated" especially GOD!!!

September 5, 2006 5:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kevin said...


I think that you have hit exactly what Andy was saying. I was able to hear his message and it seemed to me that his thoughts were I can do this much and that's it.

He made the point that we get stuck in the mentality of "If I don't do x, then y won't happen." This is where we get sunk. We forget many times that we're part of a team, especially in a church. It's easy to get stuck in your little world and forget about those around you. We must continue to set boundaries and realize that there might even be some weeks where little things that could (not should) be done get pushed back - that OK. If we're truly depending on God for the Church to function, then He'll figure out all the little details.

Just my two little cents.

September 5, 2006 9:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Polly said...

Just this morning I read this statement by Greg Ogden: "We want pastors who CAN do it all so that they WILL do it all. The desire for "perfect" pastors creates a passivity in the congregation. People live out their Christian lives vicariously through "Mr. or Ms. Wonderful" as if his or her faith and abilities were theirs. The church members' role is to pay their dues so that the doors can be kept open and create a context for pastors to do their work. If the pastor is a superstar, the church is an audience, not a body."
Seems to me that the pastor must make his decisions not based on whether the congregation will think he is "cheating" them, but based on how to best model how a committed Christian should live out his/her faith and priorities!

Break the mold, Jacksonville church and Rich! You're so on the right track. Makes me wish I were close enough to do it with you. (Denver is a bit too far of a commute...)

September 7, 2006 12:52:00 PM EDT  

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